‘Tis the Season for Sugar
by Nicole Rubenzer, Director of Community Health Initiative, United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley
The holiday season comes bearing gifts of joy and family togetherness—but it also brings cookies, eggnog, and extra weight gain. On average, holiday eating results in 1 to 2 pounds of weight gain. In addition to the delicious meal comes the abundance of sweet treats spread throughout the parties. You don’t need to turn yourself into “Scrooge” avoiding all of your holiday favorites. Be mindful of maintaining a healthy balance of food and activity throughout the holidays.
Why is it so hard to avoid those sweet treats? Sugar, sugar, sugar! To say that sugar is in the gingerbread cookies and pumpkin pie comes as no surprise, but sugar is everywhere! The hors d’oeuvre crackers, biscuits on the table, and dressing on your salad sneak hidden sugar into your diet. Sugar comes as good sugar (naturally occurring sugar) and bad sugar (added sugar). Naturally occurring sugars are found in foods such as fruit, vegetables, milk, beans, nuts, and whole grains. These “good” sugars are accompanied by vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. Added sugars are hidden in foods and beverages, added during processing or preparation, providing plenty of calories without the nutrients. There are at least sixty-one different names for sugar listed on food labels (sugarscience.org). A few of these names for added sugars are disguised in the ingredients as corn sweetener, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, and molasses (American Heart Association).
The truth about sugar consumption is that most Americans are consuming too much! Americans consume 19.5 teaspoons (82 grams) every day, which translates to nearly 66 pounds of added sugar per person, every year (sugarscience.org). According to the American Heart Association, recommended sugar consumption is no more than 100 calories per day (6 teaspoons, 24 grams) for women and no more than 150 calories per day (9 teaspoons, 36 grams) for men. Reducing the amount of added sugars can cut calories and improve heart health and weight control (American Heart Association). With a 12-ounce can of soda containing an average 10 teaspoons of sugar (42 grams), carbonated beverages are the number one source of added sugars in the American diet. The CDC attributed beverages as 33 percent of added sugars consumed by adults and 40 percent for adolescents (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
When it comes to the holidays, eggnog, apple cider, and hot chocolate can contain many added sugars. To have your drink and enjoy it too, consider mixing with low-fat milk, avoiding the whipped cream, or choosing sugar-free ingredients. Making small adjustments to your holiday favorites can have a big impact on your health. When it comes to the holidays, prepare yourself to enjoy your favorites without overindulging.
Maintain a healthy balance throughout the holidays by considering the following tips:
• Eat a small nutritious snack before attending a holiday party to avoid overeating. • Choose sparkling water or low-fat milk instead of high- calorie or high-sugar drinks. • Converse with others and avoid the snack table. • Eat slowly and enjoy the meal, giving yourself time to digest and feel full. • Enjoy dessert, but be mindful of portion size. • Balance your schedule to include activities and sleep during the holidays.When it comes to the holidays, don’t be afraid, just be informed. Enjoy your family and traditions, while keeping yourself healthy.
For more healthy tips and habits, visit www.uwgcv.org/chi.