Finding a Healthy Balance Between the Holidays and Sugar

Holidays and sugar
Finding a Healthy Balance Between the Holidays and Sugar

Holidays and sugar go hand-in-hand, so how the heck are you supposed to stay sugar-free this time of year?

Don’t worry, this article has a few helpful tips. 

Keep reading to find out more…

Holidays and Sugar: Your Health Matters

Eating too much sugar can lead to conditions like:

  • Chronic inflammation

  • Dental plaque and cavities

  • Heart disease

  • High cholesterol

  • Hypertension

  • Obesity

  • Fatty liver disease 

  • Type 2 diabetes

Fortunately, cutting back on sugar reduces your risk of these health conditions.

The maximum recommended limit of added sugars to eat a day are: (1)

  • Women: 6 teaspoons

  • Men: 9 teaspoons

However, ideally, you want to keep it at a big, fat ZERO. 

Despite this, most American’s eat roughly 22 teaspoons a day! (2)

To make matters worse, these numbers go up during the holidays. 

Let’s take a closer look at how to avoid sugar…

Holidays and Sugar: 10 Tips to Avoid Sugar 

Here are ten tips to steer clear of sugar during the holidays: 

  1. Set a goal

  2. Ask for support

  3. Cut out liquid sugar

  4. Remove temptation

  5. Control portion sizes

  6. Make your own

  7. Read food labels

  8. Shop on a full stomach

  9. Reduce stress

  10. Get more sleep

1. Set a Goal

Before the celebrations get underway, set yourself a goal.

Once you make a commitment to yourself, you’ll be more likely to make healthy choices. 

For example, research shows that people with obesity were more successful at losing weight when they set goals. (3)

Try and be specific with your goals and decide what indulgences you’ll allow yourself.

For example, allow yourself one sugar-free “sweet” treat a day. 

Even better, make a list of your favorite festive treats and come up with a sugar-free replacement for each of them. That way if you get a craving for something specific, you’ll know exactly what to do. 

Be intentional about how much, what, and when you’ll eat sugary foods so that you don’t overindulge. 

2. Ask For Support 

It’s easy to be pressured into eating or drinking something sugary when everyone else is. 

Once you’ve decided on your goals, tell your loved ones so they can support you.

Even better, get a friend or family member to do it with you so that you can…

  • Keep each other accountable

  • Support each other

  • Set challenges 

  • Share successes 

One study found that overweight people were more likely to stick to their diet programs if a family member was doing it with them. (4)

3. Cut Down On Liquid Sugar

During the holidays, sugary drinks are everywhere. 

Unfortunately, the body doesn’t recognize calories from drinks the same way it does from food, so it’s easy to drink sugar without you even knowing. 

To make matters worse, studies show that people who drink high-sugar drinks don’t compensate by eating less sugar, so their overall sugar intake is much higher. (5)

At this time of year, festive drinks are extremely popular. 

But did you know that a gingerbread latte contains up to a whopping 23 teaspoons of sugar?

That’s the equivalent of eating four white chocolate and strawberry muffins!!!

Eggnog is a nightmare for inflammation too, as it contains milk, heavy cream, and refined sugars. 

Alcohol also plays a big role in festivities, and it causes inflammation as well.

Chronic, sustained inflammation is a major contributor to diseases like: (6)

  • Diabetes

  • Cancer

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Heart disease

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Obesity

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Research shows that alcohol can also increase appetite and promote weight gain. (7)

4. Remove Temptations

Let’s face it, the more sugar you have in your house, the more likely you are to eat it. 

It takes an enormous amount of willpower to resist temptations when they’re sitting right in front of you, so take the easy route and remove them!

Instead, stock up on sugar-free snacks like: 

  • Dark chocolate

  • Sugar-free trail mix

  • Nuts

  • Freshly-ground almond butter

Unfortunately, avoiding sugar in social situations, like a family party can be more difficult. 

In this case, try and be mindful of your snacking habits and opt for real foods like nuts, low-carb fruits, and veggies. 

5. Control Portion Sizes

Portion sizes and dinner plates have gotten bigger, which can make overeating extremely easy.  

It’s no surprise that people who eat bigger portions gain weight faster, so if you want to keep your weight under control, try eating off a smaller plate. (8)

If you find yourself tempted to get a second helping, force yourself to wait 20 minutes. 

Chances are, you’ll realize that you weren’t actually that hungry. 

Portion control starts with smarter shopping…

Instead of buying a whole sugar-free cake, buy a slice so that you don’t get tempted to eat it all. 

Another great way to control portion sizes is to fill up on protein-rich foods. 

Protein helps you feel fuller longer, so you’ll be less likely to overeat. 

Some great protein options include: 

  • Almonds

  • Broccoli 

  • Brussel sprouts

  • Chicken breasts

  • Eggs

  • Lean meat

  • Tuna

6. Make Your Own Fixins’

Pre-packaged foods are notoriously high in sugar, artificial ingredients, trans fats, and refined carbs. 

These foods promote inflammation, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and weight gain.

For example, commercially processed gravy is usually full of food additives and preservatives which make it difficult for your body to digest.  

Also, store-bought cranberry sauce is loaded with high fructose corn syrup, which sneakily turns off the brain’s ability to feel full. 

Therefore, it’s best to make your own ingredients so that you can control what’s inside.

If you’re going to a social event and want to avoid sugar, ask if you can bring your own dish. 

That way you know you’ll have something healthy to eat and can still enjoy the social aspect of eating. 

Some great anti-inflammatory options include: 

  • Grilled vegetables

  • Cucumber boats

  • Deviled eggs

  • Ginger-glazed salmon

  • Liver pate

  • Pomegranate salad

  • Slow roasted nuts

  • Spicy chicken wings

7. Read Food Labels 

Sugar is super sneaky and can hide in seemingly healthy foods, like: 

  • Dried fruit

  • Cereals

  • Fruit juice

  • Granola

  • Protein bars

  • Sauces

Therefore, it’s important to read and compare food labels so you can limit your sugar intake. 

But it may not be as easy as you think…

Food companies use over 50 different names for added sugar. Here are some common ones to look out for: 

  • Agave nectar

  • Caramel 

  • Cane sugar

  • Dextrose

  • Fruit juice

  • Glucose

  • Golden syrup 

  • Invert sugar

  • High-fructose corn syrup

  • Maltose

  • Molasses

  • Rice syrup

It’s also important to note that ingredients are listed in order of the highest percentage to the lowest percentage. If a sugary ingredient is first on the list, that means there’s a lot of it.

Sometimes, manufacturers will use multiple names for sugar, like fructose and sucralose, so that it’s harder to spot. 

So keep your eyes peeled!

8. Shop On a Full Stomach

If you’ve ever been grocery shopping while you’re hungry, you know how challenging it can be. 

Everything looks good!

Studies show that if you shop when you’re hungry, you’re more likely to buy unhealthy foods. (9)

When you’re hungry, you become less thoughtful about what you should be eating. 

This is particularly difficult at this time of year when sugary treats fill the aisles. 

Try to time your grocery shop after mealtimes and make sure you eat a combination of fats, protein, and carbohydrates to keep your hunger pangs at bay.

9. Control Stress Levels

The holiday season can be overwhelming. 

Keeping up with expectations and extra expenses can be stressful. 

Research shows that stress can increase your cravings for junk food. (10)

This is because sugary food turns down the stress response in the brain, which helps you feel better. 

However, stress eating can develop into a habit, especially when you are surrounded by high-sugar treats. 

Using sugar to cope with stress can increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

If you find yourself feeling stressed and craving sugar, try one of these practices:   

  • Meditation

  • Yoga

  • Exercise

  • Breathing techniques 

Once your stress levels come down, your craving for sugar should be less intense. 

10. Get More Sleep

When you’re tired, it affects the types of food you eat.

This is because sleep deprivation and fatigue affect the part of the brain that controls desire.

Poor sleep also increases the risk of several health conditions, including: (11)

  • Depression

  • Heart disease

  • High blood pressure

  • Kidney disease

  • Lower immunity 

  • Stroke

Although it may be difficult to stick to your usual bedtime during the holidays, try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night.

And last but not least…

Remember that YOU’RE NOT PERFECT.

One last note concerning the holidays and sugar: if you give in and eat some sugar, forgive yourself and get back on your anti-inflammatory diet as soon as possible. 

If you have any more questions about the holidays and sugar, feel free to contact us at Complete Care Health Centers. 

We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.

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