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Avoid These Popular Holiday Sides For Optimal Weight Loss

By Kevin DiDonato MS, CSCS, CES

The holidays are filled with cookies, pies, and calorie-laden treats, which may put a damper on your weight loss.

A typical holiday meal can supply a day’s worth of calories - all in ONE sitting!

In some cases, the average holiday meal can top 2,000 calories or more, depending on what choices you make.

This can really side track your weight loss goals!

But holiday meals do not have to be a weight loss nightmare.

Limiting or avoiding high-calorie sides and treats, can keep your weight loss on track.

Here is a list of the WORST holiday sides or toppings which may increase calories, leading to weight gain.

1. Stuffing

Traditional stuffing is made from white bread and sometimes “stuffed” into the turkey.

White bread is absent of the good qualities found in whole wheat bread or sprouted breads, due to the processing of the wheat into flour.

Stuffing can also include different items, such as giblets or sausage, which may increase your calorie intake.

Stuffing the bird and cooking it, allows for juices and fat to run into the stuffing, filling it with EVEN MORE calories.

Healthy tip: If you can’t resist the temptation of having stuffing, opt for a smaller portion. 

A smaller portion will keep your calories in check, helping you keep your weight in check.

2. Candied Yams

This might be a great tasting side dish, but it is FULL of unwanted calories.

Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, which are then made sweeter by unhealthy doses of brown sugar and marshmallows.

The brown sugar and marshmallows lead to unwanted calories.

And those unwanted calories may lead to increased fat stores.

Healthy tip: Opt for the naked sweet potato.  Sweet potatoes are loaded with plenty of fat burning vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which help keep extra weight off your thighs and butt!

3. Mashed Potatoes

Potatoes can be a great holiday meal option.

Potatoes are filled with vitamins and minerals, which may help support and enhance your health.

The problem with mashed potatoes is the “stuff” that goes into them!

People add many different ingredients to mashed potatoes which increase the calorie content. 

LOADS of butter and heavy doses of milk can make mashed potatoes taste better, but can also pack a lot of extra calories.

Healthy tip: Stick with the regular potato, or spice it up with a sweet potato.   

Keep the condiments like butter and gravy on the side, which allows more control over what goes on your food.

4. Gravy

Nothing tastes better on turkey, stuffing, or potatoes than gravy.

Gravy can either be homemade by using the natural juices and dripping from the turkey as it cooks, or you have the easier way by purchasing it in a can or a powdered packet.

Whatever the way gravy is prepared, you may find higher calories and fat content.

Healthy Tip: Keep gravy on the side and dip your turkey, potatoes, or other things into it.  This saves on calories, preventing extra fat and calories from entering your body.

You might also try low calorie toppings which may bring out added flavor to meats and other side dishes.

5. White vs. Dark

The age old debate: Which is the better option, white or dark meat?

Historically, white meat always wins the battle, because it is LOWER in CALORIES and FAT.

Dark meat can pack up to 220 calories and 11 grams of fat in a one cup serving!

Not good if you are looking to lose weight.

Dark meat is not all that bad for you!  With high amounts of iron, dark meat can be a good option if you are looking to increase your iron.

Healthy Tip: Opt for the white meat.   White meat contains less calories and fat than dark meat.

Try to limit the skin as well.   Depending on how it is prepared, the skin can be loaded with extra calories and sodium.

If you LOVE the skin and can’t live without it, have it, but try not to go overboard.  You can still enjoy the skin in HEALTHY and MODERATE amounts.

6. Cranberry Sauce

One of my all time favorite holiday side dishes!

But it’s SO bad for weight loss!


Canned cranberry sauce is full of sugar and preservatives, possibly leading to weight gain.

Healthy Tip: Make your own cranberry sauce with low calorie sweeteners, fresh cranberries, and fruits and nuts providing you with healthy calories and plenty of essential fatty acids, protein, and fiber.

Enjoy Yourself

The holidays do not have to be a train wreck for your weight loss goals.

Making smarter choices at the dinner table can reduce your calories, preventing the extra calories being stored as fat.

Limiting or avoiding these high calorie sides and toppings, may help you monitor the calorie intake and save you from gaining extra weight.

Another important key for the holidays: Stay away from seconds and thirds. 

Going back for more can guarantee you increased calorie intake, possibly resulting in weight gain.

Try a quick and easy workout the morning of, which will help burn extra calories and get your body ready for the meal to come.

Also, eat breakfast in the morning.

A small, healthy breakfast with high quality protein and some carbohydrates may help prevent you from overeating when you get to the dinner table.

Here's to keeping your fat burning going throughout the holiday season!