Taming the holiday sugar monster

Monday, December 05, 2016 6:24PM

This time of year, can be especially challenging when it comes to eating well to maintain your energy, mood and your weight. Sugar is everywhere and seductively calling to you every time you turn around. It helps to have an effective strategy to fall back on.

1. Eat breakfast—A healthy breakfast sets the tone for the day. If you start the day with refined carbs and high sugar foods such as ready-to-eat cereal, toast, jam and orange juice or even worse, leftover pie or a doughnut, you will set yourself up for sugar cravings all day long. A great way to start the day is with protein, fiber, and healthy fat. A protein smoothie (see my website for some good recipes, www.SmartNutritionLLC.com) is a great way to go or try an egg omelet made with some sautéed onions and spinach with some fresh fruit. This will give you the stamina that you need to stare down those snickerdoodles at mid-morning.

2. Limit your treats to one day a week—instead of having a month or more moratorium on good sense when it comes to holiday eating, let yourself indulge one day a week. This way treats stay treats instead of an everyday event.

3. Bring out the skinny jeans. Do I need to say more?

4. Get your sleep. It’s easy to skimp on sleep to get everything done during the holidays. Nothing does a better job than 7 to 9 hours sleep a night at balancing your hormones, which, in turn, curbs your cravings, manages your mood and prevents fatigue. Plenty of sleep makes it easier to bypass that tray of truffles in the middle of the afternoon.

5. Thirst can often by mistaken for hunger. Not only will consistent water help you eat less, it will also help you feel more energetic. If you rely on your thirst to help you get enough water you may come up short. Many of us don’t have finely tuned thirst mechanisms. You may find it helpful to use a water bottle so you can keep track.

6. Eat what you love and forego the rest. If the Linzer cookies just don’t do it for you, why waste your calories? Or if you don’t love fruitcake, why are you eating it? But if grandma’s pumpkin pie is on your love list, go for it. Just be mindful about what you are doing. Sit down, relax and focus on the pie. Enjoying the smell, taste, and texture of each bite will naturally help you slow down and stop when you’re full.

7. Don’t save up calories. If you skip meals to save up calories for the company Christmas party or any holiday event, this can be a recipe for disaster. Any alcohol you might consume will go right to your head which impacts your judgment. And if you are starving, it’s nearly impossible to deal with temptation. Hello sweets, here I come! A better plan is to have a balanced snack with healthy protein, fat and fiber like whole grain crackers and almond butter an hour or so before the party. This way you are the one in control not your low blood sugar.

8. Alternate cocktails with bubbly water. It’s easy to drink lots of calories and sugar in alcoholic beverages. One cup of eggnog provides about 345 calories and 5 teaspoons of sugar. It’s pretty darn hard to avoid alcohol completely at this time of year, but you can avoid a lot of extra calories if you drink some festive sparkling water in between drinks. Dress it up with some citrus fruit or raspberries with fresh mint. The hydration is good for you and may help you avoid a hangover the next day.

Ruth Clark is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a master’s in public health and over 35 years of experience. She lives in Sharon with offices in Peterborough and Amherst and sees clients in Keene (Jeni’s Skin Care). Clark specializes in helping women who are struggling with weight, mood and fatigue in mid-life.