We all know that the typical American diet contains excessive amounts of sugar. We also know that’s not good for health or weight management. If you’ve done a really good job all year of controlling your sugar intake, you probably don’t want to lose focus now and let the year end with a whimper instead of a bang.
A mindful approach to reducing the typical holiday sugar intake involves work on all the important angles: what you eat, how you eat and how you move.
On that note, let’s look at some proven tips for reducing the amount of sugar that could potentially be consumed by the end of the year. Here are 10 holiday tips for keeping sweets under control:
Keep risky foods out of sight: You know that the mind likes sweet tastes. Why tempt yourself? Keep risky foods in the pantry or, even better, at the grocery until you need them, for example, for Grandma’s famous holiday cookie recipe. It can’t be out of mind if it’s in plain sight.
Place healthy foods front and center: Now that you’ve made the least healthy foods in your house less visible (and less preoccupying), do the opposite with the foods your body needs the most. Put fresh fruits and veggies on the kitchen counter. Make a giant, colorful salad in a see-through bowl and put it at eye level in your fridge. And make sure that when you go to the grocery store during the holidays you replenish those nutritious foods.
Eat something small, nutritious and satisfying — frequently: Ravenous hunger will always win over your best intentions, so why invite the struggle? Your intentions to control appetite will be most successful if you make sure that you eat well as soon as you start getting hungry, or about every three hours. If you do this, by the end of the holiday season you will have consumed fewer sugary foods.
Steady your blood sugar levels: When the body’s blood sugar dips, the mind starts focusing on food. Eating meals that contain mostly processed carbs and sugar will make blood sugar dip faster and further. Avoid the resulting compulsion to eat by including foods high in protein at each meal and making sure carbs are full of nutritious and delicious whole grains.
Take a daily walk: Managing weight takes frequent activity, and stress makes people want to eat more. Walking is a great exercise any time, and during the holidays, it’s an easy way to burn more calories. At the same time, it’s a great stress reducer. It’s two benefits in one.
Skip the holiday baking: The world won’t come to an end if, despite tradition, you decide not to bake high-fat, high-sugar treats this year. You can still have a great holiday season, and you’ll feel healthier for opting out. If you must make some sort of treat, try a new, more nutritious recipe or convert the traditional one, making it more nutritious.
Rock the night away: If you’re having a party, think of a way to make it more active. Dance to oldies, play an active game, lead a walking tour through your neighborhood to look at holiday lights. Your party will be more memorable, and the extra movement will help your guests be healthier, too.
Savor early: Keep your hunger and eating in check at a party by eating early. Serve yourself reasonable portions of the most nutritious options, go to a relaxing spot where you can focus on what you’re eating, and calmly eat. Then you can concentrate on everything else at the party without being subject to mindless eating.
Eat before drinking: The effects of the alcohol won’t drive you to overeat because the food will minimize its impact. Skipping the alcohol altogether will give you the most control over eating.
Keep hydrated: Drink a tall glass of water each time you eat. Sometimes thirst can be confused with hunger. Water is filling. As you ramp up your water intake you’ll have less room for food, including sweets.
Previously published in The Tampa Bay Times