BistroMD Health Library

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Seasonal Diet Tips

Explore our expert knowledge on topics such as healthy eating during the holidays, and how to live into a happier and healthier you in the New Year. Discover tips and tricks on how to avoid weight gain at holiday parties and while on vacation.

Food Fight! Which Holiday Desserts You Should Avoid?

If hosting or attending a holiday party, should you bake gingerbread cookies or reach for the sugar cookies instead? What about a traditional pumpkin pie or chocolate mousse recipe? With assistance from some of the bistroMD dietitians, see which traditional holiday desserts are healthier and which you may want to avoid in these food fights for holiday supremacy!


Round 1: Pumpkin Pie vs. Chocolate Mousse Pie

One of these favorites has more calories and fat than the other, which can take a huge toll on your health goals this holiday without being careful... Chocolate mousse is overflowing with calories, related to its use of ingredients such as whipping cream, with some variations supplying well over 450 calories and 30 grams of fat! And even trying to reason the use of real antioxidant-rich cocoa, the benefits are overshadowed by large sugar and fat volumes. So for all those lovers of fall's staple, pumpkin pie is simply the better option, as it contains more nutritious ingredients, including pumpkin, eggs, and rich spices. Without the addition of a whipped topping, pumpkin pie is the clear winner of this food fight with an average of about 280 calories and 12 grams of fat. And to keep calories and portions in tighter control, without sacrificing the flavor of pumpkin pie, prepare these pumpkin pie tartlets this holiday season, clocking in at a mere 150 calories and 12 grams of NET carbs per serving!

Round 2: The Gingerbread Man vs. the Sugar Cookie

It is about the time again... Getting the mixer out to prepare those infamous holiday cookies, with sugar and gingerbread cookies making their anticipated appearance. But, if trying to be smarter and wiser about the sweets you eat this holiday, sugar cookies can blame its name... While they may taste appealing, sugar cookies are nothing more than sugar, butter, and refined flour, and may contain twice as many calories as a spiced gingerbread cookie. And even though the sharp dressed man may have won this food fight, he does often contain molasses and sugar, so eat with caution or opt for bistroMD's healthier alternative.

Round 3: Candy Canes vs. Andes Mints

Side-by-side, the caloric value of both candy canes and Andes Mints are almost matched at 50 calories per serving (one candy cane, two Andes mints). Move further down the nutritional label and you will start noticing disparities, as a candy cane is denser in sugar, while Andes Mints supply fat that red and white striped candy lacks. But what truly sets apart this battle is not necessarily the sub-par ingredients that comprise them, but just how a single (half serving) Andes Mint can conquer that chocolate craving, without the need of a large candy bar, for a miniscule 25 calories. And although candy canes certainly can be enjoyed during the holiday season, their greatest charm may be left hung on the Christmas tree.

Round 4: Fruit Cake vs. Cheesecake

The battle of the cakes! Though birthday candles are not included, one cake may blow the other out of the water when it comes to their nutritional values. And sorry for the letdown, but having "fruit" in the name does not necessitate the cake as healthy. Most of the fruits are candied and dried, which are more concentrated in sugar compared to fresh fruits. And not to mention, the laundry list of other ingredients, including refined flour, butter, and white and brown sugars, that are all soaked in alcohol... Clocking a typical slice of this old-time classic at 400 calories or more! Okay, so what about cheesecake? Although also dependent on the recipe, most use simple and minimal ingredients, cheesecake certainly reigns supremacy on this food fight. And for a delicious and nutritious cheesecake recipe this holiday season, look no further than this creamy and guilt-free recipe!

Round 5: Peanut Brittle vs. Pecan Pie

It is well-known both peanuts and pecans are suppliers of healthy fats, though their incorporation in desserts can transform their nutritional value entirely. (And not necessarily for the better...) While pie may have won the previous battle, it may be best to stay away from the pecan variety and let pumpkin reign. One slice of pecan pie can pack around 540 calories, 33 grams of sugar and 22 grams of fat, while one-ounce serving of peanut brittle supplies an approximate 138 calories. But when it comes down to it, sticking to the mixed nut bowl can offer the benefits of healthy fat without piling on added sugar from either sources.

Written By Christy Zagarella, MS, RDN. Published on November 07, 2012. Updated on May 13, 2019.


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