6 Tips to Survive the Holiday Party Season

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Holiday cocktail parties can result in taking in more calories than most dieters assume, but that doesn’t mean you need to skip them altogether. With a little calorie control, you can get through the holiday party season without blowing your diet.

Holiday party season is the dieter’s perfect storm. The combination of free cocktails and delicious rich foods also brings a deluge of calories—before you’re even aware of how much damage you’ve actually done. While you enjoy celebrating with friends and family, the alcohol might start to loosen your determination to keep your calories in check. Then there are the snacks, plentiful and readily available, and often salty enough to fire up your thirst, which is then quenched with yet another drink.

How to Control Your Calories at Holiday Parties

There’s no such thing as just one holiday party. Many businesses and families host their events and parties at restaurants and bars, which are often extended to a sumptuous dinner. So, by the time you sit down for your meal, those cocktails and appetizers could already have set you back by 1,000 calories or more.

It’s easy to lose track of how many calories you’re taking in at a party. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid socializing with business associates, friends and family, but it does help to have a strategy for handling the holiday season. Here are some tips to help you.

Snack before you go.
With so much inexpensive, high-calorie food that’s often served up at holiday parties, the last thing you want to do is to arrive with an empty stomach. Have a high protein snack late in the afternoon to tide you over until dinner.

Choose appetizers wisely.
The snacks and appetizers that are typically offered at holiday parties tend to be greasy, salty and high-calorie. And since appetizers aren’t “plated up” like a meal, it makes it more difficult to keep track of how much you’ve eaten and how many calories you’ve put away. Get acquainted with the calorie counts of typical party appetizers (see the list below). If you want to dig into the snacks, it’s best to ask your server for a small plate and portion out a few items for yourself. When your plate is empty, you’re done.

Know the calories in your drinks.
If you’re planning to drink alcohol, your lowest calorie choices are beer and wine. A bottle of light beer or glass of wine has around 100 calories—far and away a better choice than many mixed drinks (see calorie chart below). That’s because hard alcohol has over 100 calories per shot, and the mixers and add-ins (sodas, fruit juices, syrups and cream) can drive the calories sky high.

Establish a limit before you go.
Know the amount of calories you have to spend, and how you plan to spend them on your cocktails and appetizers.

Alternate your drinks.
Once you’ve had one alcoholic beverage, switch to something that’s calorie-free, like some sparkling water, iced tea or a diet soda with a twist. Some people feel that having a drink in hand makes them appear more sociable—but that doesn’t mean that the drink has to have alcohol or calories.

Focus on the fun.
If your holiday party is mainly focused on food and cocktails, it’s time to shift your attention to the quality time you’re having with your friends. Being sociable doesn’t require that you have a cocktail in your hand or a plateful of snacks in front of you.

Calories in Typical Holiday Party Food

Serving sizes and preparation techniques will vary, of course, so it’s difficult to place an exact calorie count on the items you might find at a holiday party. I used online information from several restaurant chains to come up with a range of calories—per order—for these typical appetizers.

Stuffed Mushrooms:
4 stuffed mushrooms = 550-700 calories

Gingerbread Cookies:
2 cookies = 300-400 calories

Swedish Meatballs:
4 meatballs = 300-400 calories

Spinach Dip with Tortilla or Pita chips:
8 sticks with sauce = 800–1,100 calories

Fried Calamari with Cocktail Sauce:
1 average order = 750-900 calories

Fried Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara Sauce:
8 sticks with sauce = 800-1,00 calories

Fried Zucchini:
8–12 pieces = 400–600 calories

Sliders (mini hamburgers):
2 sliders = 600 –1,000 calories

Calories in Beer, Wine and Hard Liquor
Beer: 12 oz (24 0ml) = 150 calories
Light Beer: 12 oz (240 ml) = 110 calories
Dark Beer: 12 oz (240 ml) = 170 calories
Wine (red, white): 6 oz (180 ml) = 120 calories
Hard Liquor – 80 proof: 1 shot (1.5 oz, 45 ml) = 100 calories
Hard Liquor – 100 proof: 1 shot (1.5 oz, 45 ml) = 125 calories

Calories in Mixers
Cranberry juice: 8 oz (240 ml) = 160 calories
Cream: 2 tbsp (30 ml) = 75 calories
Coffee, club soda, plain seltzer, diet soda: any amount = 0 calories
Orange juice: 8 oz (240 ml) = 120 calories
Soda (cola, ginger ale, tonic, etc.): 8 oz (240 ml) = 100 calories
Tomato juice: 8 oz (240 ml) = 60 calories

Calories in Mixed Drinks
Not all bars and restaurants pour the same size cocktail or use the exact same ingredients, but these calorie values represent typical drinks.

Bloody Mary: 10 oz (300 ml) = 180 calories
Cosmopolitan: 4 oz (120 ml) = 215 calories
Gin and tonic: 8 oz (240 ml) = 215 calories
Long Island Iced Tea: 8 oz (240 ml) = 800 calories
Mai tai: 8 oz (240 ml) = 600 calories
Manhattan: 3 oz (90 ml) = 200 calories
Margarita: 8 oz (240 ml) = 700 calories
Martini: 3 oz (90 ml) = 180 calories
Mojito: 6 oz (180 ml) = 160 calories
Mudslide: 12 oz (360 ml) = 820 calories
Piña Colada: 6 oz (180 ml) = 600 calories
White Russian: 5 oz (150 ml) = 425 calories

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