This often leaves us feeling a bit low as the season begins to wind down and we realise that the fleeting joy of all that chocolate, pie, and other treats has disappeared. For some others, a sense of heightened vigilance about eating in moderation and overthinking it can take the joy out of the celebrations.
It is almost impossible to avoid sugar during the holiday season, and nobody is expecting you to completely cut it out. We all deserve to let our hair down with a sweet treat or two! But there is a difference between enjoying our food throughout the festive period and gluttonising only to feel a bit worse for wear at the end of the holidays.
So, if you’re looking for ways to moderate your sugar consumption during the festive period, we’ve compiled a handy listicle to help you make it through the season.
How to navigate sugar during the holiday season
1. Don’t attend a gathering with an empty stomach!
If you’re worried about eating too much sugar while you’re out at a holiday party or enjoying a meal with your loved ones, don’t starve yourself in anticipation of a feast. Avoid skipping your regular meals. Eating a nutritious snack, like a bowl of fruit or some nuts, before heading out can help you modulate your appetite, induce satiety and help maintain steady blood sugar levels. This will reduce the likelihood of a craving for sugary treats while you are out. Consistent meals help you eat intuitively and be in tune with cues of satiety.
Another great way to still enjoy delicious holiday food while not maxing out on sugar is to bring along a homemade dish that contains less sugar than some of the more traditional festive foods. You could opt for figs, jaggery, dates, honey or pitted prunes as alternatives to regular sugar. By doing this, you show your hosts that you are grateful for the invite and also regulate what you consume.
2. Slow down, scan the table and eat mindfully!
In a season that is all about decadence, it can be really easy to forget to eat mindfully. This leads to overeating, leaving us riding a sugar high that will usually end in a crash. Research has also shown that mindful eating can promote parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) dominance, which activates the rest and digest mode, by stimulating the release of saliva to facilitate digestion.
Slowing down and surveying the table to pick complex carbohydrates, protein-rich foods and healthy fats can help you sift out the processed food and simple carbs.
By eating slowly and thus eating less, you will be more satisfied and not feel the need to stuff your faces with sugary goodies in between meals. This ensures that your sugar levels won’t go through the roof. Great news, don’t you think?
3. The order of eating matters
The sequence in which you eat food can help to regulate your blood sugar levels. Research suggests that the intake of vegetables or proteins before carbohydrates can lower post-meal blood sugar levels. It’s not healthy to cut carbs out and you don’t want to deprive yourself during the festive season. Just be mindful of the order of eating!
4. Opt for healthier desserts!
Eating less sugar doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the incredible food that comes with the festive season. There are still plenty of delicious dishes that can give you the best of both worlds—pleasing to the tastebuds and not so high in sugar content!
If you’re the host, why not opt for healthier dishes, particularly when it comes to desserts? There are loads of ways you can do this. I’ll bet there’s a recipe for your favorite festive dessert in a low-sugar format somewhere on the Internet!
How about swapping out a regular cheesecake for a healthier ricotta cheesecake? Or why not make tiramisu without refined sugar and cream, instead of using chia seeds, prunes, and cacao? There are plenty of options to keep your sweet tooth satisfied!
Some nutritionists suggest consuming sweets between meals to balance the high glycemic index of sweets with the low glycemic load of the smaller portion of the meal.
5. Remove the temptation to continue overindulging after the meal
Peter Attia, an expert focusing on the applied science of longevity and whose practice deals extensively with nutritional interventions, says that one of the best ways to avoid overindulging following a holiday meal is to remove the temptation to do so in the first place!
He says that whenever he hosts a holiday meal, he asks his guests to bring Tupperware so that everyone can take their share home with them, and he’s not left with a fridge that’s bursting with food to tempt him to continue overeating.
6. Keep moving
It’s not easy to maintain an exercise regime during the festive season. However, there are still ways you can remain active without giving up precious time with your loved ones!
Why not suggest an evening walk with your family or take the kids sleighing in the crisp winter snow to get that heart rate up? Research suggests that post-meal walks can lessen the spike in glucose levels that follows immediately after eating and even lowers insulin levels, which is great for our long-term metabolic health. This happens because walking is an aerobic exercise. The muscle contractions during short walks take the edge of post-meal blood sugar elevation. It can be so rewarding to spend time outdoors with loved ones just enjoying your surroundings and getting a bit of exercise in.
By engaging in moderate exercise over the holiday season, you’ll feel better at the end of the festivities, and it’ll make it far easier to get back into an exercise routine as you enter the new year and move away from the holidays.
7. Socialise away from the food
If you can’t stop yourself from reaching out for a yummy snack while you’re catching up with an old friend at a party, position yourself away from the food to reduce the temptation!
“Out of sight, out of mind” as they say. If you can’t see the food, you’re far less likely to want to eat it, thus reducing the chances of you overeating just for the sake of doing so.
It isn’t all that difficult to navigate sugar during the holiday season, is it? By combining all of these hacks, you’ll find it far easier not to overindulge or deprive yourself during this festive period, and you’ll feel way better for it, too!
So, remember: try and eat before going out, or bring your own dish; eat mindfully; opt for healthier swaps where possible, especially when it comes to dessert; give leftovers to friends or cook less food to reduce later temptation; go on post-meal walks; pay attention to the sequence of food and, finally, socialise away from the food to reduce temptation!
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention, or alleviation of any disease, disorder, or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns before undertaking a new healthcare regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.