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Holiday Treat Comparison: How Does Your Favorite Stack Up?

Fitday Editor
Holiday Candies.jpg

A young lady with a major weakness for holiday treats recently approached me to ask which of her favorite goodies was the "least bad" to eat. And although even the appearance of approving any refined sweets is not my intention, I decided to oblige her, as her sweet tooth was causing her obvious anguish.

I analyzed the four common holiday treats she requested - chocolate chip cookies, fudge, chocolate cake, a candy cane and a few other holiday favorites, to find out which was the least damaging to consume. Here is what I came up with. All serving sizes listed here are small, about one ounce (28 grams):

Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie, 1

  • Calories: 135
  • Fat: 7 g
  • Sugar: 10 g
Martha White Fudge, 1 small piece
  • Calories: 70-100
  • Fat: 2 g
  • Sugar: 15 g
Chocolate Cake, 1 oz.
  • Calories: 103
  • Fat: 5 g
  • Sugar 15 g
Candy Cane, 1 oz.
  • Calories: 122
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Sugar: 28 g
Creamy Spinach Dip, 1 oz
  • Calories 75-100 (depending on what type of base is used, such as sour cream vs. cream cheese, etc.)
  • Fat: 5-10 g
Cheddar Cheese Cubes, 1 oz.
  • Calories: 113
  • Fat: 9 g

Glass of wine
  • Red Zinfandel, 4 oz.
  • Calories: 100-120
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Sugar: 0 g
Mixed Drink
  • Dry Vermouth and Gin, twist of lemon (Martini), 4 oz.
  • Calories: 160
  • Fat: 0
  • Sugar: 0
Apple Cider, Langers, 4 oz.
  • Calories: 60
  • Fat: 0
  • Sugar: 3 g
My analysis of these holiday edibles show that the legendary chocolate chip cookie was the "worst of the evils" as far as calories and fat content go, to derail your weight maintenance efforts. In second place, I would say was the candy cane, which although had no fat, still was 122 calories and had a high amount of sugar - 28 grams. In third place would be the fudge at 70-120 calories, followed tightly by the winner "least of the four evils" - the chocolate cake, at around 100 calories.

Another thing to consider is that while all the treats were listed with the same portion size (28 grams/one ounce), most people eat more than one ounce of cake or one ounce of chocolate chip cookie. Be prepared to double or even triple the calories you see above, but of course if you can keep to just one ounce, or skip the treat altogether, more power to you!

Of course various recipes and their ingredients can affect this side-by-side analysis. Adding less fat or sugar to a recipe can greatly improve its nutrition profile. In general, homemade is usually healthier than store bought, as store bought desserts and treats sometimes harbor preservatives and stabilizers and other additives, and homemade confections usually do not.

As for the drinks, alcohol has a lot of empty calories, even more so than cider, affects and slows metabolism and has many other negative effects. I'd stick to sparkling water or a modest amount of cider or tea.

To get the most nutrition out of your holiday party, eat only what you really have to have and skip everything else, skip or go very easy on the alcohol, and make friends with the fruit tray!

Catherine S. Hains, MS RD has been interested in health and nutrition since she was a young child. Growing up in Fort Worth, TX, she earned a Bachelor's Degree in Broadcast Journalism from Texas Christian University and wrote for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for 12 years. Her life-long interest in nutrition and disease prevention never waned, and she went on to earn her Master's Degree in Nutrition from Eastern Michigan University. Cathy, now a Registered Dietitian, owns Lighthouse Nutrition and Wellness in Gig Harbor, WA where she enjoys inspiring people of all ages to make losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle easy, fun and permanent. She enjoys good food, cooking and food preparation, and showing others how healthy this can be. Her other pastimes include traveling, art, music and family life. She also likes staying fit with tennis, bicycling walking and jogging, researching nutrition and helping clients be at their best. For more information on Cathy, visit or write to Catherine at

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