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‘Tis the season for overdoing it on the sweet stuff, but these tips can help.

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When most people think of their favorite holiday foods or family traditions, there’s often something sugary and decadent at the center of it all. Think cookies, pies, cakes and eggnog for starters. There are also plenty of foods that contain more sugar than you realize, and they might not even taste sweet. So how do you avoid sugar overload at this time of year? And why is it a good idea to do so anyway?

Reasons to Limit Sugar

If you need a reason to eat less sugar, think about how it makes you feel. Sure, it feels good in the moment to indulge in a sweet treat. But that influx of sugar sends your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride that ultimately ends with a crash. When that happens, you’ll likely feel tired and cranky, and you’ll be craving more sugar.

The thing about sugar is that it’s like a drug. In fact, research has shown that it can be even more rewarding and addictive than cocaine. So once you start eating sugar, you tend to want to keep eating it. This can snowball into sugar overload, ultimately affecting your energy levels and mood. Too much sugar in your diet has also been linked to health issues such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, among others.

5 Tips to Eat Less Sugar

There’s nothing fun about completely swearing off sugar in the midst of the holiday season, but here are some tips to keep consumption of the sweet stuff in check:

    1. Pick and choose. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you can eat everything in sight. Learn to strike a balance between eating healthfully most of the time while allowing yourself to enjoy an occasional indulgence. Save your splurges for things you don’t get to eat at other times of year or that are intricately connected to your enjoyment of the holidays and skip the rest.
    2. Eat mindfully. There’s a lot going on at this time of year, and that can lead to stress eating and a lot of unintentional snacking. If there’s something special you want to eat, do so mindfully. Savor the flavor, experience it with all your senses and enjoy every last bite. By paying attention to what you eat, you’ll be more satisfied and will be less likely to overindulge.
    3. Fill up on whole foods. Make whole foods, like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and lean sources of protein, the mainstay of your diet. They’ll not only keep you well-nourished, but you’ll also feel fuller longer. If your belly is full, you’re less likely to seek a quick sugar fix any chance you get.
    4. Stay hydrated. Sometimes you think you’re hungry when all you really are is thirsty. Although recommendations on how much to drink vary, aim for about 6-8 glasses a day. If you feel a sugar craving coming on, drink a glass of water. It may just take the edge off your craving.
    5. Read labels. When you eat a cookie, you make a conscious decision to eat sugar, but many processed foods contain sweeteners even though they don’t taste sweet. Check labels and look for things like high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar or rice syrup. Then avoid those foods as much as possible.

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Date Last Reviewed: October 14, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RDN, CLT

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