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Managing sugar overload this festive season

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Work parties, end of year wrap up, endless family gatherings – the festive season is upon us. As is the mountain of sugar usually on offer.

While a little added sugar is okay, we don’t want to go overboard!

Here are a few ways to manage the intake of added sugar in order to avoid the post-festivity sugar crash that so often accompanies these celebratory times.

Don’t drink sugar
Whether on it’s own or as an alcoholic mixer, sugar-sweetened beverages provide a quick hit of added sugar to the body but no nutritional value.

Instead, choose plain, soda or sparkling water, and if you wish, infuse it with slices of fresh fruit and herbs. If drinking alcohol, low or no sugar options include dry wine or white spirits.

Keep in mind that too much alcohol can be just as, if not more, detrimental than added sugar – so drink wisely.

Be prepared with healthy options
If you anticipate a sugar-feast at the next event, then have a few whole food snacks before to fill the belly with nourishing food and reduce the risk for overdoing the not-so-healthy offerings. Think a handful of plain nuts and seeds, some hummus and carrot sticks, or a hard-boiled egg.

If you are going to a potluck style occasion, take a no added sugar, real food dish so your and other guests can partake in a deliciously wholesome option. A fennel and citrus salad or festive nut loaf would do the trick!

Fill your plate with whole foods
You are now at the event and presented with a selection of foodstuffs. First, opt for loads of veggies, filling half your plate with these plant foods brimming with health-supportive nutrients.

Then, choose mostly unprocessed or minimally processed foods that are also good quality sources of fibre, protein or healthy fats. This will keep you fuller for longer, meaning you are less likely to fill up later on the sweet stuff. Think nuts, eggs, salads or roast veg with meat, fish or legumes, olives, fruit, and cheese.

Eat slowly and mindfully
While the day – and season – involves food, Christmas is not only about food. This time of year offers many opportunities to appreciate the company of others. When sitting down to a meal, chew slowly. Put down the cutlery between each meal and enjoy a chat. By eating slowly and mindfully you can improve digestion and your body has a chance to tell you when it is full. (Which means you are more likely to stop eating before you collapse into a food coma and reach for a sugary ‘pick-me-up‘.)

Having something sweet? Choose well
If you wish to partake in a little of the sweet stuff on offer around the festive season, choose to enjoy a bit of good quality food over the cheap and nasty. A piece of homemade cake or dark chocolate will satisfy far sooner than the stuff out of a box of Cadbury Favourites.

Say thanks, but no thanks (politely)
Nan wants to dish you another helping of pudding. But you are sugared up! In situations such as these, politely say thank you, but no. Let her know that you are satisfied and do not need another serving, though it was totally delicious!

Sustain energy with self-care between events
Surviving the festive season isn’t only about what you do at the events. Making good choices between the festivities is equally important. Schedule in time to eat healthy, homemade real food, and get good quality sleep.

By eating real, whole food packed with fibre, quality protein and healthy fats, we can stabilize blood glucose levels and avoid the sugar crash one gets after a gorging on cheap sweets. This crash is good to avoid as it leads to low energy and brain function, resulting in us reaching for a quick energy hit often in the form of more sugar.

Having a good breakfast is especially important to keep you powering on and resist the endless offerings of office pavola! Try these quick brekkie ideas.

Good quality sleep is also important to maintain energy, manage blood glucose levels, and limit the desire to reach for something sugary (or foods that are equally unhealthy). When the party season is in full swing, it is important to get as zzz’s much as you can!

Be kind to yourself
It is important to understand your own limits and balance when it comes to choosing what to eat. If you go overboard on the sweet stuff, don’t go down the road of guilt and beat yourself up. Your health can survive an unhealthy meal! Enjoy it for what it was, and know that the next meal, whenever that may be, can be full of healthy, nourishing, no added sugar foods!

Happy holidays!

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med)

 

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