‘Tis the season for sugar creeping up everywhere — from extra treats to adult beverages. But what I love about this time of year is that it’s the true season of giving. Everyone tends to be a little bit more jolly and generous. But it can also lead to overindulging and making food choices that are less-than-healthy that can impact our health and weight.
Too much sugar can not only impact our waistline, but it can also have a negative impact on our blood sugar, energy, mood, gut health and even worse — can cause you to have more cravings.
Most of us know that cookies and other holiday treats are high in sugar. And during this time of year especially, we want to eat our holiday indulgences, own it and be done with it.
But sugar can be found in other places that we might not as easily recognize — and with those holiday cookies — lead to heavy overconsumption.
If you want to enjoy the season and this time of year without adding some additional baggage, check out these five unexpected places to be on the lookout for sugar — so you can mitigate the damage.
THE WORK BREAKROOM
Navigating away from temptations at work is a common topic with my clients when identifying healthy eating strategies. And during this season especially, everyone seems to be bringing treats to share. One thing I remind my clients to help get their mindset right is that often people are bringing gifts (of food) they’ve been gifted and want to get rid of so they don’t eat it. You don’t have to feel any guilt or obligation to consume what’s been brought it.
Pro Tip: Snap a picture of it. We’ve seen this trend within our 60-Day Challenge participants — instead of giving into the temptations, Challengers snap a picture of it, and share it with their group for motivation and support by tagging something they avoided during the day.
Keeping a tub of protein powder at your desk for a quick shake (when cravings hit) can be a great tactic along with practicing saying, “No thank you,” or tossing away anything that’s been personally gifted that you don’t want to consume.
My team knows that my love language is coffee, so coffee runs and bringing coffee to share is a regular thing at my workplace. This time of year, the coffee shops love taking advantage of all of the nostalgia and emotions that come with the season and often launch really amazingly tasty seasonal flavors. Don’t fall for this trap. Most of these drinks crank more sugar than the daily recommended dose and is no different than chugging a can of soda.
Pro Tip: When it comes to coffee, stick with the basic add-ins or consider bringing your own. I’m a big fan of some of the minimally sweetened almond milk creamers on the market, but also enjoy a coffee with a little heavy cream. Although artificial, you could go for a little sugar-free shot of flavor if you really want to add some sweetness. Or try using a seasonal extra, like peppermint or coconut.
“Does wine actually have sugar?!” is a favorite question I get from clients. During this time of year when there are more celebrations and after work happy hours, it’s easier to hibernate on the couch and sip wine because of the early onset of darkness. And yes, alcohol can absolutely interfere with any weight loss efforts. And during this season especially, it can add up quickly and promote an increase in body fat.
Pro tip: Pick your indulgences wisely and on those occasions, give yourself a limit. If you want to linger with a drink in hand, opt-in for sparkling soda water with lime. And go for calorie-free mixers. At the end of the day, all alcohol counts so sip slowly and consume water in-between drinks.
We all love gifting food. It’s easy and for the most part, something we all value. Whether it’s a hostess present, stockings or Secret Santa at the office — there are a ton of opportunities to be given food as a present whether you like it or not. And although the sources of food might be obvious if containing sugar or not, try to assess the frequency going in (likely higher than normal) and ration off the ones that will be the most meaningful.
Pro Tip: Although it’s not easy, try to gift all season with non-food items. And if you’re given food (and not something that will promote your health) re-gift, donate, toss or trial and share. One of the coaches on my team referenced that her mother used to give a piece of exotic fruit (in place of candy) in her stocking growing up — try to think out of the box.
Gingerbread protein bars, candy canes, dark chocolate granola bars, pumpkin spice cereal . . . food companies do a great job of taking advantage of the season to create limited edition options. And although many of these processed starches are now being marketed containing no artificial ingredients, it doesn’t mean they are healthy. And most often, they are the biggest offenders of adding additional sugar.
Pro Tip: Check the label and look for <5 grams of sugar per serving (and only eat one serving). Even better, make your own seasonal foods so that you can control the added ingredients, too. One of my favorite things to make is my own granola bar. Check out below for a tasty and healthy recipe.
I hope you found above useful. Overall, just know that higher sugar intake is likely. So choose wisely. I’m a big fan of eating healthy holiday cookies so I opt in for that in place of other sugary foods that I’d usually consume.
GRANOLA BAR — 3 WAYS
- 2 cups raw certified gluten-free oats
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- 1/4 cups coconut oil
- 1 cup dates, pitted, and soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine oats, cinnamon and flavor options (if desired).
- In the base of a blender, combine remaining ingredients and pulse until well combined, and add to oat mixture.
- In an 8×8 baking dish that has been greased with coconut oil, pat out ingredients and refrigerate for 30 minutes, until firm.
- Cut into 6 equal-sized rectangular pieces.
Cranberry pecan: ¼ cup dried cranberries, ¼ cup pecans
Blueberry Muffin: ¼ cup dried blueberries, 2 tsp. lemon zest
Coconut lime: ½ cup dried, unsweetened coconut flakes, 2 tsp. lime zes
Servings 6 | Calories 230 | Sugar 6g | Fat 16g | Carbs 18g | Fiber 4g | Protein 5g
(Nutrition information given without added flavor options.)
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In health, Anika Christ – Director – Digital Programming & Events – Life Time Weight Loss
This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.