Holiday Eating Dos and Don'ts

Amber Nason • Dec 08, 2016

It’s that time of year when we start making all those special holiday treats. From cookies and pies to turkey and cranberry sauce, we all have our favourites. But, are they good for us? Depending on the ingredients used or what we top them with, some are better than others.

Here is a list of five foods to be careful of this holiday season, and five healthy alternatives:


Cranberry sauce is a holiday staple; no holiday table seems complete without those bright red berries in a sauce ready to garnish your serving of turkey. But watch out, one cup of canned, sweetened cranberry sauce has 105 grams of sugar and over 400 calories.

Cranberries themselves are low in calories and rich in fibre, potassium and vitamins E and C. They also contain disease-fighting antioxidants and may help prevent urinary tract infections. But, they are low in sugar and tart tasting, so recipes often call for lots of added sweetener. A healthier alternative to the traditional cranberry sauce from a can is to make your own; that way you can better control the ingredients, or try making a cranberry relish instead.


As a rich decadent dessert, pecan pie is hard to beat. A single slice contains more than 500 calories, 27 grams of fat, and 26 grams of sugar. Top it with a scoop (1/2 cup) of vanilla ice cream, and that count increases to 650 calories and 35 grams of fat.

On their own pecans are a great source of vitamin E and magnesium, which helps keep your blood pressure normal and your bones strong. Plus, they're packed with protein and fibre. If you have a craving for pecans, they can be a tasty addition as a topping for salads, mixed with stuffing, or on their own as a quick snack.


Potatoes aren’t inherently unhealthy, but mashed potatoes often contain added milk, butter, and salt which add calories, cholesterol, and fat. One cup of mashed potatoes can contain 237 calories with 9 grams of fat and 666 milligrams of sodium. This doesn't include toppings like bacon bits, butter, or sour cream.

For an alternative, try sweet potatoes. Full of fibre, potassium, beta-carotene and vitamin C, sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest vegetables. In fact, beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant which helps stimulate the immune system, prevent cancer and reduce inflammation. Sweet potatoes also taste good without the need for additions like milk and butter. Their “sweet” flavour comes from an enzyme that converts much of their starch to sugars as they mature, and this sweetness intensifies during storage or cooking. Sweet potatoes are easy to mash and very filling, which reduces the temptation to overindulge.


Creamy holiday dips, like the popular spinach dip, can be hard to resist. And, you may think you are only eating a little because you are just “dipping” it, but ingredients like mayonnaise, sour cream, and cream cheese add calories, fat and salt. For example, the Knorr Spinach Dip (with water chestnuts, sour cream and mayonnaise) contains 225 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 280 milligrams of sodium per four tablespoons of dip. When you include the crackers or chips you dip with, it really starts to add up.

Vegetables make excellent “dippers” and are full of water and nutrients. They are a healthier choice than chips or crackers, and they are tasty when dipped in hummus, which contains healthy fats and fibre.


It’s a holiday favourite, but eggnog may not be the best choice in festive beverages. With ingredients like sugar, eggs, whipping cream, and bourbon, one cup of eggnog has over 340 calories, 19 grams of fat, and 150 milligrams of cholesterol.

If you are looking for a beverage full of holiday flavour, try tea. Low in caffine and full of flavonoids that are good for the heart and may reduce cancer, tea is a healthy choice that comes in a variety of holiday combinations. In fact, Indigo offers an Eggnog Black Loose Leaf tea, featuring cinnamon, ginger and cloves. As a bonus, popular flavours like nutmeg and cinnamon can help lower your cholesterol and maintain insulin levels. Not to mention the benefits of a warm cup of tea on a cold evening!

So, this holiday season keep healthy by choosing these yummy alternatives. Or, if you have to have your holiday favourite, keep it small and enjoy a taste in moderation!


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Canadian Cancer Society (2016) Nutrition and Fitness: Eating Well. Taken November 21, from

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Orenstein, B.W and Marcellin, L. (2016) 11 Health Holiday Food Swaps. Taken November 21, from

Ward, E. M. (2016) Naughty and Nice Holiday Foods. Taken November 21, from

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