Here in the real world, most of us are zipping up our most forgiving pants and hiding our post T-Day tummies under bright red reindeer sweaters. According to a study out of Tufts University, weight gained between Thanksgiving and Christmas makes up 51 percent of our annual weight gain and may be a contributor to rising obesity rates. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!
But what if a few simple swaps could help you drop some holiday cheer on every party in town without ending the year looking like you're smuggling an elf under your blouse? With a little knowledge and a party game plan in place, you can end 2013 in even better shape than you started.
|BEAT IT: Spinach Artichoke Dip|
A genius bit of marketing by food manufacturers looking for new ways to sell off their overstock of cream cheese, sour cream and mayo dip, the green stuff is merely an afterthought in this creamy concoction. Two spoonfuls are 220 calories -- that's more than six pats of butter -- and don't forget to add the tortilla chips at about 15 calories each.
|EAT IT: Hummus|
Two Tablespoons of this chickpea-based dip is around 50 calories, and chocked full of protein and fiber, which will help fill you up before you even have time to look at the Brie.
Approximate Calorie Savings From Spinach Artichoke Dip to Hummus Swap: 170
|BEAT IT: Pigs in a Blanket|
Although actual pigs in blankets are kind of adorable, their edible counterpart will leave you feeling slightly less cute at a calorie count of 70 a pop, 45 of which are pure fat. Since the average person eats four little nuggets of hot-doggy goodness, that's 280 calories, and 20 grams of fat! (You could eat 8 slices of Christmas ham and still get less fat than that!)
|EAT IT: Shrimp Cocktail|
After greeting your host, your first party priority is to find the shrimp and stand your ground. Twelve medium shrimp (about 3oz) is 90 calories, 1.5 grams of fat and 17 grams of protein.
Approximate Calorie Savings From Pigs in a Blanket to Shrimp Cocktail Swap: 190
|BEAT IT: The Cheese Platter|
A party isn't a party without a million little slices of cheese and assorted crackers. Too bad five little slabs or wedges of the blue, gooey, or smoked stuff with matching crackers will set you back around 600 calories.
Cheese Board Breakdown:
Blue cheese: 100 calories per ounce, 8 grams of fat, and 395 mg of sodium
Brie: 95 calories per ounce, 8 grams of fat, and178 mg of sodium
Gouda: 101 calories per ounce, 7.8 grams of fat, and 232 mg of sodium
|EAT IT: Brochette|
Fresh tomatoes, herbs, olive oil fit right into a healthy lifestyle, and because the pieces of bread are small, so is their dietary damage. An average appetizer-sized serving of brochette is approximately 80 calories.
Approximate Calorie Savings From Cheese Platter to Brochette Swap: 520 calories
|BEAT IT: Holiday Cocktails|
By far the biggest holiday offender comes in the form of free drinks. Holiday cocktail classics like eggnog are 400 calories, hot buttered rum is 316, and flavored martinis can be as many as 440 calories.
|DRINK IT: Wine or Vodka Soda|
Arrive prepared to drink something low in calories: vodka, gin or rum with club soda are all 65 calories, while wine is only 80. Avoid temptation by asking a friend to do the ordering for you (while you stand guard over the shrimp), that way you won't be tempted to try a specialty cocktail.
Approximate Calorie Savings From Swapping Eggnog for a Glass of Wine: 320
|Total Party Savings|
Total Party Savings: 1,200 Calories
While holiday menus may vary, there's nothing wrong with creating your own plan of action by casually asking your host what kind of foods will be served. While you're at it ask if you can bring something (healthy)...because you're super nice like that.
David Zinczenko is ABC News Nutrition and Wellness Editor and the author of "Eat It to Beat It!" To discover more hidden sources of sugar, and how to lose weight by skipping other ingredients in our everyday food, check out "Eat It to Beat It!" here.