The Holidays and Sugar

December 11, 2018

The Holidays and Sugar

The holidays are here.  And so is the sugar.  How do we combat the amazing amount of incredible desserts and holiday treats that abound this time of year?  It's about your everyday choices.

Desserts are delicious.  We all know it. The holidays are full of desserts, from cookies to pie, to those amazing holiday specialty drinks at the coffee shop.  I’m just as guilty as the next person when it comes to holiday indulgence. But in all honesty, all of that sugar creates a series of highs and lows and takes a toll on my overall health.  It’s not just about the extra 5 pounds that can be gained over the holidays, it’s also about how we feel day to day. So how do we avoid falling into the path of this highly addictive substance? Go cold turkey on sugar?  That is easier said than done. So here are a few ways to reduce your sugar intake this season. It comes down to choices.

Sugar has a different effect on everyone, and it is literally in almost every processed food. In my my own experience if I have too much, it affects my feet; the next day they ache.  It’s a direct result - the overload of sugar in my system attacks the weakest point, and in my case, inflammation in my feet. Do I want my feet to hurt every day? No! Do I want to give up all of  those delicious holiday treats? No! Let’s talk about those choices then.

 Reduce the amount

Reducing sugar in your kitchen isn’t difficult.  Most recipes call for far too much as it is. Start by reducing it by a 1/4th and move down from there.  Another option is substitution. If your recipes call for white sugar, switch it out with pure cane sugar or coconut sugar.  Monk Fruit sweetener is another option but one that is rather pricey (many Monk Fruit sweeteners on the market have other additives, making them cheaper).  Avoid sugar substitutions that are highly processed as they will be even worse for you than the real thing. Play around with your recipes and remove the refined sweetener all together and use honey or maple syrup.  Small steps will start to add up to create a bigger impact on your health.

 Change how you shop

Look for whole unprocessed foods, and if you need other items be wary of those listed as “healthy.” Often times they are marketed as such, when the ingredient list is crazy long and the grams of sugar is increasingly high.  Read your labels. Learn what to watch for. When the first ingredient is sugar (may appear under a wide array of sugar names) put it back on the shelf. You can do this. Be your own advocate.

 Can’t give it up completely?  

It takes about three weeks to get over the sugar cravings, and if you are anything like me, chocolate is basically in your DNA.  So give yourself a window. In some cases, it is helpful to create boundaries. Remove the sugar during the week from your diet and save it for the holiday events on the weekends.  Or limit your intake to a 2 hour window in your day from say noon-2pm. Setting goals to reduce and not deprive might be helpful. Over time things will start to taste too sweet and you may crave it less.

 Up your fats

Did you know that fat satiates you? One of the biggest things you can do to cut down on sugar is to increase the good fats in your daily diet. These include foods like: avocados, olives, grass fed butter, coconut oil, olive oil, dark chocolate, nuts, egg yolks, and red meat. Just being intentional about increasing your daily fats will keep you feeling full without the highs and lows afterward. Try it- instead of reaching for that granola bar at 3pm, why not grab a handful of macadamia nuts or a hard boiled egg?

 Do the math

Figure out how much sugar you are actually ingesting.  This can be extremely eye opening. I never realized just how much I was consuming until I sat down and did the math.  Four grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon. So before consuming that amazing grande white chocolate mocha, do the math in your head.  53 grams of sugar = 13.25 teaspoons of sugar. That’s a lot of sugar. Asking for half of the syrup or sugar in your holiday drinks can make a big difference in helping to reduce your sugar intake.   Pass up the milk chocolate and pick up the 70-85% chocolate bar instead.

 Be Accountable

Find a friend to reduce sugar with you.  Having someone else keeping you accountable will help you keep your resolution and goals.  Also having someone to commiserate with when all you want to eat is sweets or to celebrate when you resist eating that second piece of apple pie.  You are also helping to make a difference in someone else’s health when you work alongside them to reduce your sugar intake.

 It Takes Time

I am lucky enough to make my own lattes at home every morning and have worked my way down to just a drizzle of honey and cardamom on top.  They are delicious. However, it took me a while to get there. It takes time and effort. But it is worth it. A diet high in excess refined sugar can help contribute to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation and other negative health effects.   No one wants any of those to happen to them. Start to be proactive, and take small steps toward improving your health. Pretty soon the results will start to show.

The truth of it? I love those desserts, but after taking small steps to reduce the sugar in my daily diet, I now enjoy them even more.  However I no longer have those cravings that would lead to buying a whole box of doughnuts. One suits me just fine with a cup of black coffee.  I can pass up those seconds servings without another thought. It’s second nature now to ask for just one pump of syrup of chocolate in my mocha instead of the four they add.   Our health is important. We have to be the ones to take the steps forward to improving it. And we can. We just have to start somewhere.  Don't beat yourself up if you overindulge, just make better choices the next day and keep moving forward.

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Carrie is OXNUTRITION's on staff photography and designer.  She is an advocate for nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle.  Follow her food and cattle photography on instagram @carrieannpear.