Christmas is a time of celebration and great joy. With the festivities come desserts, candies and other confections, which are almost as highly anticipated as opening the presents under the tree. Is there a way to enjoy the seasonal sugary delights while avoiding holiday sugar overload? Luckily, there is, and we have tips that can help you and your family avoid and deal with sugar overload too.
Tips to help you avoid and deal with sugar overload:
- Eat well. Emphasize variety and balance from healthy foods for all of your meals, but do so especially on a day where you know you’ll be at a gathering with rich foods and a plethora of sugary temptations. Some people skip meals in advance of the “big” holiday meal, but this can lead to overeating later in the day. Studies show that those who eat breakfast tend to eat less total calories in a day than those who skip breakfast. For some excellent Christmas breakfast ideas, check out 15 magical and healthy Christmas morning breakfast ideas.
- Survey the spread. At gatherings, survey the offerings and fill your plate with healthy options first. Using MyPlate as a guide, make half of your plate vegetables and fruits and look for lean meats. As the space dwindles on your plate, you’ll be forced to have small portions or maybe even just a bite or two of higher fat and calorie foods. Serving your plate in this way help you enjoy a healthier meal prior to having dessert, and it also decreases your desire for dessert since your hunger will be satiated.
- Eat your meal first. Resist the temptation to nibble (or allow the kids to nibble) on sweets prior to eating your meal to allow for healthier foods first.
- Bring along a healthy snack. If you’ll be somewhere other than home for a holiday gathering, bring something healthy that the kids can snack on if needed to avoid snacking on the desserts. 25 healthy Christmas snacks and party ideas has some fantastic suggestions. I don’t know if this happens in other families too, but in ours, we usually wind up having our holiday meals at about 2 p.m., which is tough for a child who is used to eating at noon. If you are hosting, make sure healthy snack foods are available that you can offer to ward off hunger and tantrums.
- Watch the plate size. Avoid the huge plates that sometimes accompany holiday gatherings. If possible, choose a smaller plate to help control your portion sizes for your meal as well as your dessert.
- Stop the grazing. If possible, keep the desserts safely stashed until it’s time to unveil them after the meal rather than having all of the desserts on display for little hands to grab for the whole gathering. At home, keep sweets out of site so that they are only eaten when you allow it.
- Everything on a plate. If you graze on the desserts after your meal, it’s easy to lose track of just how many almond bark covered pretzels or Christmas cookies you’ve had. Make a plate of what you’ll allow yourself to have then make a conscience decision to be done with the dessert table.
- Healthier versions of desserts? If you are contributing a dessert, bring a healthier version, such as Christmas bean cookies, whole wheat gingerbread cookies, healthy peanut butter fudge, or offer to bring a festive fruit tray with fruit dip.
- Sample the desserts. If you or your child wants peanut butter fudge, a praline, pecan pie, and a Christmas cookie and won’t be satisfied without trying it all, make a dessert plate for your family and divide it up into bite sized samples. Then make a small sampler plate for everyone.
- Add some exercise into the Christmas season. Play in the snow together, dance to your favorite music, walk through your neighborhood Christmas caroling, or organize a game that encourages physical activity. This will get everyone’s mind off of the wonderful treats and foods at holiday gatherings or during the holidays in general while helping to prevent unwanted weight gain and promote health and family togetherness. Exercise also lowers blood sugar.
- Be mindful. Savor the foods that you put into your mouth to enjoy. This concept can be hard to explain to a five year old, but at least set the proper stage. Have your child sit to eat without an electronic device or a toy as a distraction. Eat from a plate rather than just grabbing and eating from the smorgasbord.
- Be a role model. Kids look up to their parents, so role modeling eating in moderation is important. If Dad gets several of his favorite chocolate covered peanut butter trees in his stocking, eating one as opposed to four in a sitting is a way to role model limiting the portion of a sweet. Eating it slowly rather than popping the whole thing is his mouth is role modeling being mindful and present to enjoy the treat.
- Limit what’s in the house. It’s easy to get a stockpile of sweets in the house during the holidays. With class parties, neighbor gifts, coworker gifts and more, you may find that you have more treats than you know what to do with. Bring them to the lunch room at work, freeze some for another day, share with neighbors, or if you need to, toss them to keep from overeating sweets.
- Drink water. Drinking water can help to prevent overeating and helps to keep you hydrated. It also carries away waste products, so it’s beneficial if you do overeat sweets too.
- Get your sleep. It can be hard to get enough sleep over the holidays, but adequate sleep can be in your best interest when trying not to overeat. Inadequate sleep can lead to overeating and increased desire for sweet and salty foods.
- Aim to eat healthfully afterward. Eating healthy meals when it’s time to eat again after a large holiday meal is a great idea for all. However, if you do find yourself with sugar overload, limit refined sugars and refined grains while eating a lean protein and fiber rich meal for your next meal.
The holidays can be the most wonderful time of year, and sharing a meal with classmates, friends, family, and/or coworkers is part of the season’s festivities. Sweet treats seem to be everywhere, but knowing how to enjoy them while limiting the amount can help you avoid sugar overload and keep the season merry and bright.