Popcorn and Other Treats for the Holidays

eating popcorn

Holidays don't have to be a dreaded time of gaining weight or not enjoying small amounts of our favorite holiday foods. Whether you are hosting a party or bringing a treat to share, here are a few healthier and lower-calorie ideas.

Popcorn is an excellent high-fiber snack. Mix low-fat microwave or hot air popcorn (yes they still sell hot air poppers) with some flavored or kettle-cooked popcorn to get lots of flavor for about half the calories. Consider putting out popcorn instead of highly salted Chex Mix or nuts. Popcorn also can be mixed with dry cereal, pretzels, dried fruit and nuts or mini chocolate pieces to make your own trail mix. Fill snack-size containers with your own trail mix and put them in the car for a quick snack between work and other activities or during the shopping marathon.

Are chips and sour cream-based dips your downfall? Consider making no-fat chips by toasting corn or flour tortillas and serve with salsa or low-fat salad dressing. If you make your own dip, try using fat-free sour cream or plain yogurt for reduced fat and calorie content.

Is the dessert table your temptation? Serve lower-fat pumpkin pie instead of pecan pie or make mini pecan tarts to have a taste of the sweet treat. Gingerbread is a lower-calorie option for chocolate cake. Selecting a sugar cookie with a sprinkle of tinted sugar instead of decorated frosting will save many calories and grams of trans fats. Consider frozen fruit and yogurt parfait for a festive low-fat treat.

Don't forget to monitor the calories of some of your favorite beverages. Consider sipping on diet soda, sparkling water or wine instead of other beverages. Purchase low-fat or fat-free eggnog, skip the additional alcohol and serve in tiny glasses. Warm apple cider is another low-fat option that smells as good as it tastes. Make your own hot chocolate with milk and cocoa powder and use a small candy cane to add flavor instead of whipped cream and marshmallows.

If you follow some of these suggestions from the middle of November until the middle of January, you can still enjoy small amounts of your favorite holiday foods and avoid the dreaded pounds that stay well into the New Year.

Shirley Poole, RD, CSP, LDN, is a dietician at SwedishAmerican.