Holiday Foods to Avoid When You’re Trying to Lose Weight

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Tis the season… to stick with your fitness and weight loss goals! We’re here to point out which holiday foods to avoid and make it easier to make good choices.

Notoriously the holidays are a time for indulgence and it can be tempting to put your goals on pause and live a little (or a lot.) If you find yourself wanting to throw caution to the wind and buy a six-pack of Reese’s peanut butter trees before they disappear for another year, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

But you’ve worked hard this year, and you owe it to yourself to stay focused. In this blog, we will highlight the worst holiday food suspects AND introduce you to lighter versions that still feel indulgent.

Let’s dig in.

The danger lurking in festive foods

The worst thing about festive foods are the additives.

Rich ingredients like butter, salt, sugar, corn syrup, and toppings can easily double and triple the calorie count and sugar intake of a single dish!

As a good rule of thumb, the simpler the recipe the better it is for you. The same goes for processed food products in the center aisles of the grocery store: the fewer the ingredients on the label and the more ingredients you can actually pronounce, the more healthful that product will be (there are exceptions, of course, which we talk about here.)

The worst suspects – holiday foods to avoid

Now that you’re reading labels and paying attention to additives, let’s explore some of the worst suspects you’re likely to run into this holiday season. Don’t worry – it’s not all bad news! We’ve got you covered with healther alternatives.


Sugar, eggs, whipped cream, and bourbon—there is certainly no Skinny Girl version of this (we checked.) The homemade version of this rich, creamy drink is loaded with sugar, and the store-bought version typically adds high fructose corn syrup too. The average recipe yields between 300-400 calories and over 7 grams of fat per 8-ounce serving, with booze added.  If you’re looking for a lighter version, we love this recipe from SkinnyTaste: 106 calories and 2.5 grams of fat per serving. Now we’re talking.


It’s got fruit, and fruit is normally healthy… when there isn’t a cake around it that has been soaked in booze. This deceiving little cake averages 139+ calories per 1.5-ounce serving, for the smallest version, and packs a surprising amount of sodium. On top of that, it has little-to-no nutritional value in either store-bought or most homemade versions. Thank goodness Nourish Everyday as come to the rescue with a healthier fruitcake recipe.

Pecan pie

With copious amounts of butter, sugar, and corn syrup, it comes as no surprise to find this popular dessert on our list. A single slice of this pie packs over 500 calories, 37 grams of fat, 26 grams of sugar—shut the front door! Amazingly, we found a clean pecan pie recipe that is only 171 calories and 13 grams of sugar per slice. The Gracious Pantry deserves a round of applause for this truly difficult feat. And, for our paleo friends, a recipe for you too.

Candied yams

Yams, and their close relative the sweet potato, are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. But, as holiday recipes tend to do, we often go and ruin a good thing by smothering it in sugary, cinnamon goodness. Big sigh. The serving size for candied yams is usually 0.5 cups and averages 100 calories, without the marshmallows. Repeat, without the marshmallows! And yes, you’re visualizing that correctly; half a cup serving is not very much. Thankfully, Weight Watchers has a super simple recipe that will satisfy your craving.

Canned cranberry sauce

Emphasis on “canned”, this processed cranberry sauce averages 105 grams of sugar! It’s criminal, considering the overwhelming nutritional benefits of cranberries, like vitamin E, K, C, and dietary fiber. You’re much better off making your cranberry sauce at home, with fresh cranberries and sweetened with natural sugars, courtesy of If you’re looking for something sugar-free and low-carb, try this recipe from

Green bean casserole

As our favorite holiday recipe, by far, this one hurts a little bit … but we can’t say we’re suprised. With butter, heavy cream, cheese, and salt, this holiday classic is a nutritional disaster. Let’s start with the good news: Great source of Vitamins A and C. Now, for the bad news: 8 grams of fat, a whopping 431 grams of sodium, AND the serving size is a measly .75 cups (We know, we know. Show us someone who only eats 1 serving!) Eating Well saves the day with this lighter green bean casserole recipe that has us breathing a sigh of relief: 188 calories, 348 grams of sodium per one-cup serving.

Starbucks peppermint white chocolate mocha

This one may generate some hate mail, but I call them like I see them. A grande peppermint white chocolate mocha contains 510 calories and 72 grams of sugar, and that’s with 2% milk. The worst part: It’s straight liquid calories and zero sustenance. In general, the average adult would have to participate in moderate to heavy exercise for 45 minutes to an hour to burn off this one drink. Insanity! Even the skinny grande is 160 calories and 13 grams of sugar, and the sugar-free syrups are loaded with ingredients you cannot pronounce. For a significantly less expensive and calorie-laden version, try this 35-calorie peppermint mocha recipe from Amy’s Healthy Baking.

The sparkly good news

The good news is that you don’t have to deprive yourself in order to stay on track this holiday season. Think ahead about which holidays foods to avoid and have an alternate plan. With a little preparation, you’ll be ready with delicious and fun food and drink options that will keep you feeling festive. And every once in awhile, treat yourself.  Just remember, everything in moderation. Which recipe will you try first??

Do you have a favorite healthy holiday recipe? Share it with us in the comments or drop us a line. We would love to feature it on our blog!