Skip to main content

Healthier Holiday Eating

When it comes to serving a holiday feast or dishing up your plate, there are many choices to be made. Below are some helpful tips for making your holiday delectably healthier while enjoying those traditional family dishes.


Turkey skin is high in saturated fat and calories. Additionally, dark meat turkey contains more fat and calories that white meat. Therefore, when given the option, choose white meat, skinless poultry as a healthy protein source.


Stuffing is typically loaded with butter and high-fat meats, such as sausage. A single serving may have up to 500 calories.  If making your own stuffing, try replacing the butter with low-sodium chicken broth, and refrain from adding additional meats. This is a dish that is best enjoyed in moderation.

Mashed Potatoes

Potatoes surprisingly have more potassium than bananas. However, this comfort food is typically loaded with milk, butter, and salt. A cup of homemade mashed potatoes made with whole milk and butter can contain around 240 calories (not including the gravy). When making this family favorite at home try using low-fat milk, low-sodium chicken stock or low-fat sour cream to save on calories without sacrificing taste.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins A and C and contain healthy doses of potassium. However, when these nutritional powerhouses are coupled with marshmallows, butter, and lots of sugar their nutritional benefit is nullified. Try cutting back on the butter, reducing the sugar, adding some orange zest/juice (to boost the flavor) and topping the casserole with some roasted pecans.

Check out this sweet potato casserole recipe for a healthier version of this favorite dish!


Pecan Pie

Although pecans are packed with healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, pecan pie is loaded with sugar and calories. A typical slice of pecan pie made with corn syrup, butter and sugar has more than 500 calories. Instead, try reaching for a slice of pumpkin pie (which can save you up to 300 calories) and ditch the crust (for an additional 100 calories).

Potato Pancakes (latkes)

Potato pancakes or latkes are a favorite during Hanukkah. Traditionally latkes are fried in oil and topped with sour cream, making a single latke about 250 calories. If you are doing the cooking, use just a small amount of oil (or cooking spray) and try topping them with unsweetened applesauce.

Green Bean Casserole

The traditional recipe made with full-fat creamy soup and French fried onions makes this dish high in calories and fat.  Instead, cut and steam fresh green beans, add a pat of butter and sprinkle them with slivered almonds before serving.

Egg Nog

The alcohol, heavy cream, eggs, and sugar all adds up quickly in this holiday drink. A single cup (8oz) of eggnog contains about 380 calories and 18 grams of fat, so remember portion control on this one.

If you are making eggnog at home make a healthier version with skim milk and egg substitutes, while easing up on the sweetener to taste.

Common Holiday Foods & Their Approximate Calorie Content

  • 3.5oz* dark meat turkey with skin | 230 calories
  • 3.5 oz* white meat turkey without skin | 160 calories
  • 1 cup stuffing | 350 calories
  • ¼ cup turkey gravy | 95 calories
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes | 240 calories
  • 1 cup sweet potato casserole | 300 calories
  • 1 cup green bean casserole | 160 calories
  • ½ cup cranberry sauce | 210 calories
  • 1 small roll with butter | 180 calories
  • 1/2 cup Eggnog | 190 calories
  • 1 slice pumpkin pie (1/8 of a 9″ diameter pie) | 315 calories
  • 1 slice pecan pie (1/8 of a 9″ diameter pie) | 500 calories
  • Chocolate truffle | 70 calories

*3.5 oz of meat is equivalent to the size of a deck of cards. 


About WakeMed Corporate & Community Health

The Corporate and Community Health division of WakeMed provides worksite wellness and health promotion services to numerous corporate and community clients throughout Wake County. The department is made up of a multi-disciplinary team who perform preventative health screenings, education and coaching upon request. The department assists thousands of people each year on their wellness journey.