Balance Your Holiday Calories

Posted: December 16, 2016

Learn to balance your holiday calories to avoid future bulges by offering great food favorites and physical activity with a game plan in mind.
Frozen Greek Yogurt Bark with Pomegranate and Dark Chocolate

Frozen Greek Yogurt Bark with Pomegranate and Dark Chocolate

Don’t we all love this time of year? Holiday parties and festive food! However, to avoid the January bulges, think about your snack, meal and physical activity options before diving into the next holiday or big game day spread. Here are some calorie saving and burning ideas to balance any future weight gain.

Appetizers are hot

Many get-togethers are featuring appetizers and soups and/or salads instead of full course meals. Since non-starchy vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrition, use them as your base. Stuffed mushrooms with low-fat goat cheese and herbs, spicy bean dips and carrots, radishes, and whole grain pita wedges are always a hit. A variety of nuts, cheese cubes with grapes on toothpicks, and apple wedges and peanut butter dip will fill your trays.

Portion control counts

Whether you are cooking for a crowd, or just a few friends, don’t overspend (money and calories) and serve too much. Plan for ¼-1/2 (with bone) pound of meat or poultry per person, or try healthy fish or shellfish for a different taste. Starches such as potatoes, pasta, and rice portions are ½ to 1 cup per person. Load up half the plate with your favorite fruits and vegetables, such as fruit salads, hot endive, roasted sweet potatoes and savory squash.

We eat with our eyes

Research shows if you vary the colors, textures, shapes and sizes of your foods, we will consume more. Make this concept work for you by planning your parties and meals with this in mind, but choose less energy dense foods like non-starchy vegetables, cooked whole grains, soups, and whipped fruit desserts.

Balance food, mood with exercise

Sounds easy to do, but with the colder weather, it’s often more difficult to exercise outside. However, research shows our moods are improved by spending a half hour or more a day outside. Even without the sun, we still benefit. So plan a 30-60 minute walk, hike, bike ride, cross-county skiing, ice-skating, touch football or basketball game before or after your get-together, and daily to avoid weight gain.

Sweet treats

Make your family favorite Christmas cookies, but only enough that will be eaten within a few days. It’s ok to use real butter if that’s what it needs for the taste, since it is a once a year treat. Share or freeze the rest. Try this beautiful, flavorful, lower-calorie treat with your next gathering (see recipe below). The pomegranate seeds look like gorgeous red gems!

So while you are planning your next event, don’t forget the physical activity along with the food. For more ideas, go to our website for upcoming classes, short Learn Now videos, and yummy recipes.


Frozen Greek Yogurt Bark with Pomegranate and Dark Chocolate


  • 2 cups of Greek Yogurt (plain or vanilla)
  • 1 Tbsp. of Sugar (if using plain yogurt)
  • ½ cup of Pomegranate Seeds
  • ½ cup of Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
  • 2 Tbsp. of Shredded Coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)


  1. First, use a paring knife to remove the core of the pomegranate. Make 6-8 slices halfway down the pomegranate, then pull the sliced edges apart but do not break them off. Turn the pomegranate upside in a bowl and tap the top with a wooden spoon to release the seeds into the bowl.
  2. Into the yogurt, mix about half of the pomegranate and chocolate.
  3. Pour onto a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet, spreading it out to be about ¼ inch thick.
  4. Sprinkle with remaining pomegranate, chocolate, and the shredded coconut.
  5. Freeze for a few hours, until hard.
  6. Using a knife or hard spatula, break the bark into chunks. Transfer to an airtight container and store in freezer.

Makes 8 Servings.
Nutrient Information:
Serving Size: 2 tablespoons, Calories: 83, Fat: 5 g, Carbohydrates: 8 g, Sodium: 38 mg, Protein: 2.5 g

Contact Information

Lynn James, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.
  • Nutrition, Food Safety & Health Senior Educator
Phone: 570-556-4744