Cocoa vs. Candy Canes: The Healthy Party Food Guide

    A cup of hot cocoa with a candy cane in itYou’ve probably already been to a holiday party or two, so you know selections can vary from delicious to deliciously dangerous. So how do you know what tasty treats to choose?

    Choose: Olives Over Nuts

    Like olive oil, olives are high in monounsaturated fats, which help lower cholesterol. They’re also low in calories. Each olive has only about five calories and less than a gram of fat, while one pecan, for example, has almost 14 calories and nearly two grams of fat. And though you can toss back numerous nuts almost too easily, olives often require a little more work. And when you’re left with a plateful of pits, you’ll know exactly how many you’ve put away.

    One little note about nuts…they’re high in monounsaturated fats, and they’re a good source of fiber and arginine, an amino acid that helps keep blood vessels relaxed and open. So, maybe a small handful won’t hurt you.

    Choose: Soft Cheese Over Hard Cheese

    Brie is hardly a health food, but some soft cheeses (like Brie and goat) are slightly lower in calories than hard cheeses (like Cheddar and Gruyère). A one-ounce serving of Brie?about the amount you’d put on two crackers?contains 94 calories; one ounce of Gruyère has 117 calories. While all cheese is high in fat?most of it the artery-clogging, saturated kind?soft cheeses have a tiny bit less fat than hard (eight grams in an ounce of Brie, nine in an ounce of Cheddar)…though hard cheeses do tend to have slightly more calcium than the softer varieties.

    Choose: Veggies & Dip Over Cheese & Crackers

    A platter of nutrient-rich vegetables wins over a saturated fat-filled cheese board. But even here some offerings are better than others. “Favor colorful vegetables, like red peppers, carrots, and broccoli,” suggests Kristine Clark, a registered dietitian and the director of sports nutrition at Penn State University, in State College, Pennsylvania. But remember that dips can contain higher fat sour cream or mayo, so use caution. But in general, filling your plate with a veggie mix guarantees that you’re eating a wide variety of vitamins and antioxidants.

    Choose: Mini Quiches Over Pigs-In-A-Blanket

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