It’s officially December—the time for parties, family get-togethers and snuggle sessions. These three things all have a common denominator: food. Usually the kind that’s not so good for your body but oh-so gratifying for your soul. Holiday shopping wouldn’t be complete without a sweet, hot beverage in hand. Nor would couch cuddling be as fun without a giant bowl of treats to snack on. And while yes, it is important not to get too caught up in overindulging—it’s an occasional treat, not an hourly reward—there is nothing wrong with enjoying everything this time of year is about, including something sweet.
The wrong types of sugar, like bleached white sugar that has been stripped of everything good it once had to offer—minerals like calcium and phosphorous—is super harmful to our bodies. It’s something we all are knowledgeable about these days. Check out this article for more information on how sugars can affect your gut. Or read this article for an overview on how sugar affects our bodies. The holidays are times we often look past the nutritional content of our choices, instead grabbing our fourth and fifth cookie from grandma’s holiday assortment.
Since we know too much sugar is bad, but that we’re going to eat a ton of it anyway in the coming weeks, there are a few things we can all practice for the least harmful impact on our bodies as possible this holiday season.
1. Eat sugar in the afternoon
Consuming that chocolate Santa in your stocking for breakfast is probably not the best thing to do. For years I thought metabolism was highest in the morning and that was the best time to consume treats. Turns out, metabolism is 10% higher in the afternoon and cortisol (the stress hormone) is already high upon waking. Consuming sugar in the morning causes a greater spike in cortisol and then leads you to crash in the afternoon—hello cranky mood! This in turn messes with your sleep. Not enough sleep makes your body produce more ghrelin (the hunger hormone)…and you see how this cycle can be disastrous. Better to save that choccy for the afternoon when cortisol is lower.
2. Eat sugar after a main meal
Holiday brunch with your best friends? Great. Make sure to have as balanced meal first (yes, brunch can be a balanced meal!) and then have something sweet after. The healthy fats, complex carbs and proteins from your meal will help to absorb some of the sugar, leading it to make less of an impact on your system. Check out this recipe for an amazing, balanced brunch idea.
3. Choose a sweet that has fat and protein
For example, something like a peanut butter cookie would be better than an iced sugar cookie. A piece of chocolate would be better than gummy bears. This suggestion follows similar rules to the previous one. Items made from little other than sugar digest too quickly and cause a blood sugar spike.
4. Combat sugar intake with activity and proper sleep
Walking around the mall while drinking a hot chocolate is great because your getting your blood to flow, getting rid of the sugar quicker than if you were laying on the couch. At night, ensure you go to bed early to get enough sleep. As mentioned above, not enough sleep causes a spike in ghrelin and cortisol leading you to desire sugary things more.
5. Eat balanced meals
Similar to my second point, this one differs because eating balanced meals will leave your body satisfied. Eating a meal devoid of nutrients will cause your body to seek out more food in hope of attaining the things it vitally needs. And more often than not, we gravitate to something sweet.
No need to avoid sugar altogether this holiday season, just be smart about it. If you do go overboard a few times, don’t beat yourself up either. Each day is a new start and a chance to make new choices. Try out any of these guilt-free recipes on Peaceful Dumpling over the holiday to healthily and happily indulge.
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Photo: Pappas, Lark, Despeyroux, Paladin; Unsplash.