How Much Exercise It Really Takes To Burn Off Holiday Party Food

Have you ever eaten something really indulgent and thought to yourself, “I will just work-out longer tomorrow.”  I experienced this exact scenario the other day at work when I indulged in risotto and said, “I’m going to have to run 6 miles tonight” (I didn’t end up doing it because I was too full from risotto). The holiday season is the time of year when everyone is indulging in high-calorie foods and trying to “undo” all the calories with exercise.  Have you ever wondered how much exercise it would really take to burn off your favorite holiday treats? I’m going to break it down for you, and I think the numbers may shock you!

First, let’s start with a simple concept: the more you weigh, the more calories you burn during exercise.  It seems unfair, but bigger people need more calories than smaller people so they have more to burn. The exertion level of your exercise also determines the amount of calories burned.  You will burn more calories if you run a mile then if you walked that same mile. Since calories burned varies by person, let’s assume that I am talking about a 150-pound person for the purposes of this post. I will list a few of your favorite holiday party foods and then tell you the amount of activity it would take a 150-pound person to  burn the calories in those foods.  

* All calorie information is pulled from the USDA’s nutrient database.


  1. You start the party off with a glass of red wine = 150 calories

To burn 150 calories, you need to walk at 4 miles per hour for 25 minutes (almost 2 miles).

  1. Every party has 1 oz. cheese (a piece about the size of your thumb) + 16 wheat crackers = 270 calories

To burn off these cheese and crackers, you need to bike at 10 miles per hour (a moderate/leisurely pace) for 40 minutes.

  1.  One of your favorite parts of the holiday party is enjoying 2 sliders = 300 calories

Jump on the elliptical at a moderate pace (about 5 METs) for 50 minutes to burn off those two small sliders.

  1. It’s so easy to pop 4 pigs in a blanket in your mouth = 350 calories

To burn off this one appetizer, go out for a nice 30-minute jog at a 10-minute mile pace

  1. Holidays mean desserts, right? 1 large brownie square = 230 calories

Play a singles tennis game for 25 minutes to burn off that one decadent dessert.

6. Let’s be realistic–you are more likely to have all of these foods than just one. 1 glass of red wine, cheese and crackers, 2 sliders, 4 pigs in a blanket, and 1 large brownie = 1,300 calories!

To burn this all off, you need to run for 1 hour and 40 minutes at 7 mph.  That’s 11 miles!!

Natalie Rizzo, MS Brooklyn 1/2 Marathon

Aren’t these numbers shocking?  It almost seems easier to avoid these holiday treats altogether.  But don’t worry, I would never suggest that you can’t have your favorite treats.  Instead, follow these few tips for making lighter choices.

  1. Choose one indulgent item that you really want and have it! There’s no need to deprive yourself of everything around the holidays.
  2. Make these healthy food swaps:

Instead of red wine, enjoy a red wine spritzer (½ glass red wine + ½ glass seltzer).

Instead of cheese and crackers, have crudite and hummus or a Greek yogurt based dip.

Instead of 2 sliders, go for the shrimp cocktail.

Instead of pigs in a blanket, have 2 prosciutto wrapped figs.

3. I know you want the brownie, so cut it in half and share the other half with a friend!

4. When all else fails and you look forward to all the food at the party, plan your week out to include extra exercise.  Make a plan and stick to it!





Picture credit:

pigs in a blanket


  • Reply
    December 16, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Argh this is plain scary. I would NEVER drink as much wine as I do if I equated it to how long it would take to burn off :s

    I have lots of nutrition / wellbeing bits and bobs on my blog, I would love for you to take a look!

  • Reply
    Vinny Grette
    December 16, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    Or maybe if you don’t eat all day, you can indulge at the party :)…

  • Reply
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    January 2, 2016 at 8:03 am

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