Holiday Snack Attack and the Activities Required To Burn Them Off

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Diet Detective’s Snack Attack and the Activities Required To Burn Them Off

Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes = 2 hours and 23 minutes standing in line to see Santa Claus with your 3-year-old
Yeah, that’s right, just one of those cakes will take a long time to burn up at 200 per cake. And what about those Entenmann’s Gourmet Holiday Cookies? Just two cookies (120 calories) would cost you 1 hour and 25 minutes waiting to sit on Santa’s lap.

Ghirardelli Holiday Chocolate Assortment Squares = 21.5 minutes of setting up and decorating your family Christmas tree
Setting up the Christmas tree can be hard work, but it’s fun — so you really don’t even feel it — or at least that’s the idea. Why not try making all exercise fun? Have you ever received a gift box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates? They have that creamy hazelnut taste throughout. They’re a real holiday tradition, but get this — just one of those candies (73 calories) would mean about 27 minutes of setting up the Christmas tree. Is a Christmas Tree Marshmallow Peep a better choice? Well, it’s certainly lower in calories (43.3 calories per peep) and burning it off would require less time setting up your tree, but it’s not really a better “health” choice. In fact, it’s really just sugar and a lot of artificial colors. At least with the chocolate you’re getting some health benefits. Or try Williams-Sonoma Christmas Crunch at 50 calories each.

Fit Tip: Always go for the dark chocolate. Ghirardelli makes a 60 percent cacao square — get that, because it has health benefits.

Williams-Sonoma Peppermint Bark = 119 minutes of preparing, serving and cleaning up after a holiday party
We have friends who get this for us every year, and it’s truly a bittersweet situation. And I’m not talking about the taste of the candy. The bittersweet part is having that stuff around the house. It’s so tempting to snap off a piece without even realizing how much you’re actually . The recommended serving is 1 ounce. So I took out my trusty food scale and looked at how much I (and most other people) typically break off, and it was about 2.5 ounces — or 350 calories — and it’s not a very big a piece.

Fit Tip: Try Miss Meringue Peppermint Crush; nine cookies are 110 calories.

Starbucks Venti Peppermint Mocha with Whipped Cream = holiday shopping for 3 hours and 20 minutes
This dessert is 540 calories. A 20-ounce Gingerbread Latte with whipped cream is 440 calories. Drop it to 12 ounces, go without the whipped cream, and use nonfat milk and it’s only 150 calories. A Caramel Brulée Latte lets you toast the season with warm, buttery decadence, but a 20-ounce latte with whipped cream is 580 calories or 3 hours and 35 minutes of tramping through stores, getting in and out of your car, and walking through the mall.

Fit Tip: Drop down to 12 ounces, go without whipped cream, and use nonfat milk instead of whole and you’re down to 240 calories.

Russell Stover Chocolate-Covered Marshmallow Santa (1 ounce) = 19.5 minutes performing in “The Nutcracker”
Do you even know how to do pirouettes, spins, jumps and pliés? In reality, however, this is lower in calories than most candy bars, so it’s not terrible.

Fit Tip: Go for the Dark Chocolate Placesetting Snowman by Lake Champlain Chocolates. It’s slightly higher in calories, but with 54 percent cacao you get the magic of dark chocolate.

3 Big Handfuls from the Popcorn Tin = 64 minutes dancing as a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall
Oh gosh, those tins of popcorn seem like such a healthy treat. Wrong! A large tin holding about 6.5 gallons can be a pretty treacherous thing to have around the house, especially if you’re like me and can’t stop grazing. The tin opens and closes about 20 times per day.

Fit Tip: Get a bag of yellow unpopped kernels and make your own popcorn in an air-popping machine. Or if, like me, you don’t love air-popped corn and don’t mind the hassle (or occasionally burnt popcorn), pop yours on the stovetop. Put the kernels in a deep pot, coat them with cooking spray, cover, and pop. Make sure to release the steam occasionally by opening the cover slightly, and be careful not to burn yourself. We cover our pot with a Mesh Grill-Top Fry Pan (see: so the corn can breathe. Make sure to shake the pot throughout the process — the shaking spreads the heat and allows the unpopped corn to pop. Add margarine spray, and maybe even mix in some chopped up 70 percent cacao dark chocolate.

2 Handfuls of Harry & David Moose Munch Confection, Milk Chocolate = 4 hours and 8 minutes of Christmas caroling or 2 hours and 21 minutes shopping in the mall with three rambunctious kids — take your pick
That’s a lot of singing without any breaks. If you want to go a bit upscale with your high-calorie treats, Henri Bendel offers a New York City Trash Mix that is about 540 calories for 1 cup and a third.

Fit Tip: Try LesserEvil’s Cocoa Coal; it’s 160 calories for the same 1 1/3 cups, and it’s covered in dark chocolate.

1 Candy Cane = 23 minutes writing holiday cards
Not much to say about candy canes other than they’re made from sugar and mint.

Fit Tip: Don’t chew; suck it and make it last longer.

REESE’S Peanut Butter Cup Snowman = 176 minutes building a snowman
It’s more than 700 calories, and you know you’ll probably eat the whole thing. A better choice would be the REESE’S Peanut Butter Cup Tree; it’s still high in calories, but at least it’s portion controlled at 170 calories for a 1.2-ounce tree.

Fit Tip: How about trying Scharffen Berger 70% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Tasting Squares dipped in Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter (the only thing added is salt — that’s it). Now that’s a healthy combination (in moderation). Or what about a 100-calorie Vitalicious Hungry Girl Fudgy Peanut Butter Chip VitaTop — delicious, satisfying and low in calories.

The number of calories burned doing each activity is based on a 155-pound person. If you weigh more, you’ll burn more calories. If you weigh less, you’ll burn fewer.

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