Cocoa vs. Candy Canes: The Healthy Party Food Guide


A red mug of hot chocolate

You’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

Both are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. But when
forced to choose the lesser of two evils, nutritionists agree that
quiche has more redeeming qualities?including some calcium from the
cheese, high-quality protein from the eggs, and perhaps some extra
nutrients from any vegetables that are mixed in. “The piggy option is a
highly processed meat packed with additives,” says registered dietitian
Mary Ryan, “and the ‘blanket’ is a refined carbohydrate often made with
trans fats.”

Choose: Roast Beef Over Ham

Roast beef is less processed, contains about half as much saturated
fat, and has three times as much iron. It’s also rich in B vitamins.
Both meats are great sources of protein, but the ham has almost three
times as much sodium.

Remember that the American Medical Association has linked too much
red-meat consumption with an increased risk of colon cancer. So eat

Choose: A Gingerbread Cookie Over A Sugar Cookie

Both are empty calorie options, but the average sugar cookie has
about twice as many calories as a gingerbread cookie, thanks to large
amounts of butter. “Anything that tastes buttery and has that nice,
delicate texture is going to be really high in calories,” says Ryan.
Sugar cookies are also twice as high in saturated fat.

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Choose: Cocoa Over Eggnog

Eggnog and cocoa that are both made with real milk both have lots of calcium, about 300 milligrams in eight ounces. But eggnog, as the name implies, also contains eggs and sometimes heavy cream and brandy, which translates into about 300 calories and 12 grams of fat in a five-ounce serving. “Cocoa, even when it’s made with whole milk, has only half the calories of eggnog,” says registered dietitian Kristine Clark. Cocoa also contains potent antioxidants called flavonoids that help prevent arteries from clogging and keep blood platelets from sticking together.

6 Easy Ways To Prep For That Party!

african american woman in black party dress

Simplify your life! Get glamorous in a hurry for your New Year’s Eve party with these fast and easy tricks for party-perfect skin, hair, and makeup.

Show Off Those Legs

Tights are ideal for the office, but not for a sexy night out. When it’s best to go bare, slather on a shimmering body oil. The shimmer helps conceal imperfections, and the reflective quality of the oil helps bounce light off skin, resulting in a healthy glow.

Refresh Your Hairstyle

Just in case you weren’t able to make that last-minute salon appointment, try one of these other quick, stylish solutions:

• Secure a clip. Silver, sapphires, sparkles – oh my!
• Slide on a headband. Position it one inch behind your hairline, not across the middle of your head.
• Tie on an elastic or thin scarf. Choose an elastic band encrusted with jewels or stones. Avoid securing it at the crown, and tie it low at the nape for a sophisticated look. If opting for a scarf, use one that’s thin enough to still show your hair. Tie it an inch behind your hairline, and just let the loose strands flow.

Fake a Good Night’s Sleep

Not enough pillow time?  Hide it with these steps:

• Give yourself an instant glow. Mix a dime-sized drop of exfoliator with your cleanser. Pat skin dry and immediately apply moisturizer. Finally, swipe a dewy cream blush on the apples of cheeks (the fullest areas, near your nostrils), where skin naturally flushes.
• Brighten your eyes. Nix tired, bloodshot eyes with anti-red eye drops.
• Cover. Dot some concealer on upper lids, where blood vessels swell. Then dab a thin layer from inner corners to just under the iris.
• Do like the pros do. Make eyes look their brightest with this pro secret: Run a flesh-toned pencil like on lower lid rims.
• Curl your lashes. Achieve an instantly energized effect by squeezing your lashes with a curler from roots to tips. Pinch three times along the way.

Get the Perfect Pout

One swipe of a rich, red lip color is your ticket to looking party-ready pronto. Here are a few secrets to beautiful:

• Target your tone. Pick a color that complements your complexion, and let your blush and eyeshadow colors be your guide. If you usually go for plums, berries, or mauve tones, or other shades with blue undertones, then choose a similarly toned ruby or brick red. If, however, you gravitate toward bronzy, gold, or peach tones, apply an orange or coral-toned red to lips.
• Test like a pro. When shopping for a shade, narrow your search to three reds, then put each to the test. When possible, apply directly to your lips. But, if you’re in a hurry (or a new, sterile sample isn’t available), use the back of your hand; the skin color there most resembles that of lips.

Tone Your Arms in 20 Minutes

So you’re going sleeveless and the only thing you’ve lifted lately is a few shopping bags? No worries. “A quick pre-party workout will send blood to your arm and shoulder muscles, giving them a temporary swelling and sculpting effect that can last close to an hour,” says Michele Olson, PhD, a professor of exercise science at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama.

The speedy secret? Doing four sets of the following sequence:

• 15 push-ups. Do as many as you can in the traditional pose; then, if necessary, switch to the modified version.
• 15 triceps dips. Pumping up in the office or at home? Use a stationary chair as a makeshift workout bench.
• 15 isometric contractions. Press your palms together in front of you; hold for 10 seconds, then release.
• 15 biceps lifts. Reach under a desk, table or counter, palms against the underside, and pretend you’re lifting it off the floor. Hold for 10 counts.

Extra tip: applying a little bronzer to your shoulders and arms also helps to add an instantly toned look.