Weekly Column_120 / August 16, 2012

Picky Holiday Eating

By Charles Platkin, PhD

CHOCOLATE MARTINI VERSUS EGGNOG VERSUS CHAMPAGNE VERSUS HOT BUTTERED RUM
The hands-down winner is champagne. A 4-ounce glass contains about 85 calories. A chocolate martini, made with vodka, chocolate liqueur, cream and dark creme de cacao, has about 440 calories. Eggnog has 340 to 460 calories per 8-ounce glass, depending on the ingredients used (typically egg, heavy cream and cognac). You can, however, make your eggnog lower in calories by using nonfat milk, egg whites and artificial sweetener, which would drop it down to about 100 to 110 calories per 8 ounces. Oh, and if you think hot-buttered rum is much better — think again. It’s made with butter (just 1 tablespoon has 100 calories) and sugar, and it weighs in at about 220 calories per 8 ounces.

CANDY CANE VERSUS CHOCOLATE-COVERED MARSHMALLOW SANTA VERSUS HOLLOW MILK CHOCOLATE SANTA
The candy cane wins at 55 calories (for a half-ounce cane). What surprised me is that the chocolate-covered marshmallow Santa (180 calories for 1.5 ounces) by Russell Stover has fewer calories than the hollow milk chocolate Santa (280 calories for 1.75 ounces). The main reason: Although it contains sugar, the marshmallow is fat free, and fat has more calories per gram than sugar (9 calories per gram for fat versus 4 for sugar). However, if you’re looking to save even more calories, Russell Stover has a sugar-free Santa that’s only 90 calories, but it’s only 1 ounce. Yes, it’s smaller, but it will probably satisfy you — that’s the beauty of portion control.

MIXED NUTS VERSUS SUGAR-COATED PECANS
Nuts may have health benefits, but they also have a whole lot of calories. Even so, the mixed nuts have fewer than the pecans. Mixed nuts have 170 calories per ounce while the pecans, which are coated with egg whites and sugar, have 220 calories per ounce. Here are a few other stomach stuffers: a handful of honey-roasted peanuts: 152 calories; 10 veggie sticks and a bit of dip: 76 calories; one handful of potato chips: 198 calories.

DUMPLINGS VERSUS MINI EGG ROLLS VERSUS MINI PIZZAS
Waiters are roaming the room, passing out delicious appetizers — which ones should you choose? Don’t let those mini pizzas go by — they might be your best bet among these three: about 35 to 55 calories each. Whether the dumplings are filled with pork, vegetables, chicken or beef, the calories still add up. You’re looking at about 50 to 200 calories for each dumpling, depending on the size and the ingredients, whereas one mini egg roll has about 40 to 50 calories. Some other appetizers to keep in mind: four mozzarella sticks: 431 calories; six Buffalo wings with blue cheese dressing: 316 calories; four chicken fingers: 634 calories.

STUFFED BRIE VERSUS PORT WINE CHEDDAR LOG
Stuffed brie is by far the worse choice here at about 420 calories per 3 ounces. It’s made with butter, brie, phyllo dough (puff pastry) and often stuffed with some type of chutney or filling. A cheddar log, believe it or not, is a much better deal. For instance, Hickory Farms Cheese Celebration (a port and cheddar log covered in fresh nuts) has 240 calories for 3 ounces.

BAKED COUNTRY HAM VERSUS TURKEY VERSUS PRIME RIB
You’re at the carving station of the buffet at your holiday party (or the dinner table at your friend’s or relative’s house) and you want to make the best choice. If you guessed the turkey is the best deal, you’re right — white meat turkey without the skin has about 193 calories for 5 ounces. A country ham is made with brown sugar, apple cider and red wine vinegar and has about 340 calories for 5 ounces. Forget the prime rib — it’s the worst of the three at 450 calories for a 5-ounce portion.

ROASTED POTATOES VERSUS ASPARAGUS WITH PARMESAN CHEESE
Three pieces of roasted potatoes (half a medium potato) have about 80 calories. Compare that to five medium asparagus spears cooked with oil or butter and topped with grated Parmesan cheese at about 105 to 120 calories (depending on how much cheese). The potatoes look like the winner here in terms of calories — assuming you don’t eat more than three pieces. But both have vitamins and minerals that make them nutrient-dense foods.

CHRISTMAS COOKIES VERSUS TRADITIONAL FRUITCAKE VERSUS GINGERBREAD COOKIES
At 325 calories for a 3.5-ounce slice, traditional fruitcake made with walnuts, cherries, raisins, pineapple and molasses and spiced with cinnamon and cloves might be your best bet because you’ll probably stop at just one slice. Holiday cookies vary in size and shape, but what with the butter or shortening, sugar, frosting and sprinkles, you can expect the calories for a typical sugar cookie to be in the range of 50 to 120. And a gingerbread cookie, which is also made with butter or shortening with the addition of molasses, is even worse at about 75 to 190 calories. Be honest with yourself — can you really stop at just one?






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