Although the temptation to go overboard on sweets is always there, it is especially tough to exercise self control during the holidays. Sweets are in abundance between family gatherings, holiday parties with friends or colleagues, and school activities. According to the American Heart Association, women should consume less than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day, and men should keep their intake to less than 9 teaspoons per day. However, these limits are easy to surpass in one day when just one 20 oz. regular Coke has 23 teaspoons of added sugar. Having a game plan for navigating the holidays is important for maintaining your healthy lifestyle. Here are 10 tips for helping you navigate the holidays while not going overboard on sugar.
1. Keep sweets out of the house. This may be tough, but it definitely isn’t impossible. When baking sweet treats, give them away to friends, family, and coworkers rather than keeping an abundance of them around the house to tempt you throughout the day.
2. Don’t drink your sweets. Eggnog, cider, and hot chocolate are delicious, but they also tend to be high in sugar. Limit yourself to 1 serving and then switch to other lower sugar beverages like water, tea, wine or beer. (Wine and beer in moderation, of course.)
3. Keep flavored teas or coffee at home. Feeling tempted to grab another sugar cookie from the counter? Brew yourself a cup of herbal tea or flavored coffee instead. There are so many great varieties of herbal tea and coffee available that often are flavored like sweet treats without the sugar or calories.
4. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy snacks. Keep healthy snacks in the front of the fridge or in plain sight on the counter. Meanwhile, keep sweets out of reach in a cabinet or freezer. When the healthy stuff is more convenient than the sweets, you may choose them more often. Out of sight, out of mind right? Some of my favorite healthy snacks include: fresh cut vegetables and hummus, an apple with peanut butter, trail mix, popcorn, or plain yogurt with berries.
5. Don’t go to parties hungry. When you are starving, you are less likely to make healthy choices. Before heading to a party that is guaranteed to have lots of sweets, try eating a healthy snack at home before you leave so you don’t get to the party feeling starved. Also, make sure to pick foods with protein and fiber to help fill you up so you don’t crave the sweets.
6. Work out! It may just be me, but when I workout, I feel a less tempted to overindulge. I worked hard in that bootcamp class so I don’t want to undo that!
7. Get enough sleep. This may seem like a strange tip to include but studies show that when someone is sleep deprived they may have less self control, which makes you more likely to overeat sweets. The holidays are a busy time of year, but keep yourself healthy by making adequate sleep a priority.
8. Try chewing gum. Next time you are craving something sweet, try chewing a piece of gum instead. Sometimes the sweetness of the gum is enough to curb your craving for cookies.
9. Overindulge? Start fresh at the next meal or next day. We’ve all done it. You go to a party and drink a couple too many glasses of eggnog and snack on half a dozen cookies. Instead of just throwing in the towel until New Years, get back on track the following day by starting your morning with a healthy breakfast. Going overboard a couple days throughout the season is much better than 30+ days of too many sweets and treats!
10. Be selective about what sweets you do eat and truly savor them. This is the most important tip. You don’t have to give it all up! There are many sweets that are only available this time of year that may be something you look forward to. (Grandma’s cinnamon rolls? Aunt Tina’s sugar cookies?) When you do have the chance to eat your favorite sweets, take the time to truly savor them. If you haven’t gone overboard on sweets all month, the treats you truly enjoy will be all the more special.
Start practicing these tips today and you’ll be feeling much healthier by the time New Years comes around. Do you have any other favorite tips for eating healthy during the holidays?
Sugars 101. (2014, November 19). Retrieved December 5, 2015, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Sugar-101_UCM_306024_Article.jsp#.VmMZo4Thii4
- Pitcher, J., Morris, D., Donnelly, J., & Feigl, H. (2015). Interactions between sleep habits and self control. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2015.00284/fullb.org.org
Deborah Davis MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian who practices clinical dietetics in Chicago, Illinois. She shares practical nutrition tips and healthy recipes on her personal blog, Dietitian Debbie Dishes. In her free time, you’ll likely find Deborah in the kitchen, camera and spatula in hand, developing recipes for her blog and freelance pieces. You can also connect with Deborah on Twitter and Instagram.