After devoting an entire day to sheer gluttony in the form of a Thanksgiving Day feast, you would think that most people would be quick to get back on track with their dieting and exercise.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. There are multiple reasons for holiday weight gain, which can easily be attributed to Thanksgiving festivities coupled with the Christmas delicacies that soon follow. Want to know what these naughty Christmas foods are? Well, here are 10 for starters (in no particular order):
Fruitcake is a classic staple of the holiday season, and while its moniker may lead one to think it is a healthier option for dessert, it definitely isn’t. First of all, the only fruits found in fruitcake are candied fruits, meaning they are made in sugar syrup. Top that with rich butter and the optional, though commonly used, ingredient of alcohol, and you’ve got yourself something that’s far from healthy.
One piece of fruitcake will run you about 366 calories. That’s the same as a light lunch, for many people.
2. Gingerbread Houses
There is a reason why a house made of gingerbread, frosting and candy should only exist in a fairytale – it’s because it’s a house made from gingerbread, frosting and candy! While this classic, holiday tradition is a favorite amongst the kiddies, it’s probably not the healthiest snack option. If you and your kids can’t bear the thought of missing out on the gumdrop roof top and the candy cane fence this holiday season, then the least you can do is look for healthier ingredients like trail mix and dried fruit.
A gingerbread man, alone, at a popular chain lunch spot is 290 calories, with 90 calories from fat. This could replace a light lunch for many individuals.
3. Christmas Cookies
Most people are familiar with the Christmas cookies in the shape of Christmas trees, reindeer and other fun, holiday objects. What they’re not familiar with is the calories, sugar and fat loaded into those buttery, frosting-coated snacks. Oh, and those Danish butter cookies that everyone is so familiar with also belong in this category as well, so no cheating.
In fact, just four of those teeny, tiny, wafer-thin Danish buggers will cost you about 180 calories.
4. Giant Popcorn Bins
While many people aren’t exactly sure when and why the giant popcorn bin became a Christmas tradition, they’re definitely used to seeing it around the holidays. The classic tri-flavors of cheddar, caramel and butter coated popcorn all lodged into a bin large enough to hold several basketballs equates to excess calories from snacking. And the crazy thing is, no matter how much popcorn you send tumbling down your gullet, the bin never seems to go empty. Is some kind of Christmas elf circulating people’s pantries overnight to refill these things, or what!?
If anyone could eat just one serving (¾ cup) of caramel corn, the calories would come in at about 120.
5. Candy Canes
They’re solid sticks of sugar, food coloring and peppermint in the shape of a cane. Aside from acting as a giant breath mint, they carry no other significant health benefits. Fortunately, they are relatively low in calories, so indulging in a few over the holiday season isn’t that bad. Note that the keyword there is season, meaning not in one sitting.
It’s pure sugar, but at least there is no fat or sodium, so a single candy cane only costs about 40 calories.
6. Christmas Ham
One of the healthy aspects of Thanksgiving (yes, Thanksgiving can be healthy) is the main dish – turkey. It’s a giant bird that can feed many where the desirable portion (the white meat) is actually the healthier portion as well. While it’s perfectly acceptable to serve up another turkey for a big Christmas dinner, people looking to change things up often lean towards the traditional Christmas ham. And this ham isn’t just any ham. It’s a ham that is almost always cured in salt and glazed in sugar. That is why it’s so naughty. If it was just a regular ham, it would be perfectly fine, in moderation of course.
3 oz is 210 calories, but 6 oz is 420, and so on.
7. Chocolate Gift Boxes
Buying someone a 5-pound box of chocolate is definitely a sweet gift. It is also a bit excessive, and not the healthiest option for someone who is trying to lose weight or suffering from diabetes. Actually, when you think about it, who would ever need 5 pounds of chocolate!? Okay, maybe that isn’t a fair question.
3 normal sized pieces is about 220 calories. Many frozen lunch entrees are about 300 calories.
For some reason, the holidays are one of those times of the year where you can almost always expect to see a fondue fountain at an office party or gathering of friends and family. Yes it’s a warm, delicious and comforting treat for all. But…you’re dipping perfectly good, and usually nutritious, foods in a fountain of cheese or chocolate. Just, stop it!
3 oz of cheese fondue is about 236 calories. Add a glass of white wine that's on the full side, and you have nearly 400 calories.
9. Yule Log
A Yule log is a big chunk of wood that is burned in a hearth or fireplace, and is a part of a well-known Christmas tradition originating from Europe. Keeping up with this tradition, the Yule log has appeared as a dessert dish on platters for Christmas parties and dinners. What makes this Christmas food so naughty is that it is usually a sponge cake with several layers of chocolate and fudge to give it that wood-like appearance like an actual log.
Just one serving of a naughty Yule log can do you in for 387 calories.
10. Christmas Cake
It’s a variation of the fruitcake, but covered in frosting. For the record, adding frosting to something that is already considered unhealthy does not make it healthier.
One 60-gram slice is about the same as a serving of that Christmas ham, or 219 calories.
Take the Next Steps
Enjoy the holidays, but do it on your own terms. Decide what your plan will be this Christmas. To avoid putting on weight, it’s a good idea to be deliberate and cautious about how much celebrating you do with food and drink, as opposed to other activities.
Eat healthy meals. The more healthy foods you find that you love, the easier it is to say no to the naughty. And when you choose to be naughty, do it with style, but do it in a small way: first, know what’s in there (exhibit A, items 1 - 10, above), and try to ration yourself -- for instance, limit the portion of the naughty and don’t eat as big of a dinner or add to your exercise routine, to make up for your intake of high-energy holiday foods.
If you mess up and eat a whole gingerbread house at one sitting, everyone is human, and this could have been your moment of humanity. But you might also ask yourself if it could be a sign of something larger you need to work on. Are you out of control in other areas of your life? Maybe you need to watch the alcohol consumption, or maybe you just need jot down your foods (or other habits or pleasures) on a piece of paper or log them on a smartphone for a few days to help you keep track of things, so that you can get back into a healthy rhythm.