When it comes to the holidays, sheer willpower may not be enough to avoid sugary treats. “Carbohydrates (sugar) stimulate the release of serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical. Plus, sugar tastes good, so it is not a surprise that people find it hard to resist desserts, especially around the holiday time,” explains Tracey Blahey, Registered Dietician Nutritionist. “A report from the 2001-04 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) database showed that Americans consume approximately 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. There is no data to show how many additional teaspoons are consumed around the holidays, but I am sure this number is much higher. To put it into perspective, the [maximum] recommended daily amount of sugar we should consume is 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men.”
Try these tips and tricks to keep your sugar intake in check at one of the sweetest times of the year.
Protein & Fiber: Your Tools to Beat Sugar Cravings
Eating protein helps keep your blood sugar from rising too rapidly after a meal, which means you’ll be less likely to “crash” afterwards. Insoluble fiber has the effect of filling you up without any added calories, and it helps block the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels.
Choose foods like these to help keep blood sugar balanced and avoid sugar cravings:
Sweet & Healthy Holiday Snacks
“A little indulgence around this season is to be expected, but choose your teaspoons of sugar wisely,” advises Blahey. “Don’t waste your calories or sugar quota on cheese cake if this is not your favorite dessert; go for the chocolate cake if that is your favorite, but limit yourself to a small slice and don’t go back for seconds.”
“If you find that your little indulgences here and there have turned into full-on sugar cravings, it might be time to “retrain” your taste buds,” Blahey says. “The best way to do this is to cut out all simple sugars for 72 hours. Choose a couple of days when you have no parties planned, hide the candy or give it away, and start your retraining program. At the next party you get invited to, you might want to take along fruit kebobs or a low-sugar dessert.”