Managing That Sweet Tooth over the HolidaysPosted November 30th, 2010 by mclaugke
The Holiday season is upon us and for many, this is a season of giving….and eating. For my family, the Holidays are a time of year to enjoy the company of family and friends and share treats like pumpkin pie, frosted cookies, peanut brittle, and (one of my favorite’s) Aunt Julie’s Rocky Road fudge. Although we celebrate different holiday traditions, for the most part, we share the experience of enjoying special foods and treats. Food is a vital part of the Holiday experience and helps “amplify” the spirit of the season.
However delicious, many of the Holiday treats are sweet and based in refined carbohydrates and sugar…and over-indulgence of these goodies can send our bodies on a roller coaster ride of sugar highs and lows.
It is interesting that in nature you hardly ever find a carbohydrate that is not protected by a covering of fiber. Even the sugar in sugar cane is protected by a dense husk that (once upon a time) we had to chew on to break down the fibers to get to the sugar. Fiber protects the plants grains from nature’s elements, and it also protects our bodies. Minimally processed carbohydrates such as whole grains break down slowly in our bodies and help us maintain more stable blood sugar levels.
“Are Carbs Bad For Me”?
As UHDS’ dietitian, this is definitely one of the top ten questions that I hear. The answer? No (they’re not bad for us), in fact they are essential. Carbohydrates are our bodies’ most efficient fuel source. On average, carbohydrates account for 50-60% of our daily calories. Our bodies’ process carbohydrates differently depending on how “refined” they are. Refined carbohydrates have been processed to remove the bran or fiber, leaving smaller chains of sugar that the body can easily break down into simple sugars (our cell’s #1 energy choice).
So eating more refined carbohydrates (such as candy, sugary treats, soda, white rice, white flour) can cause blood sugars to spike and consequently, cause spikes in insulin to allow the our cells to take in the sugar. These sugar “highs and lows” can be taxing on our body and sometimes people feel a “sugar crash” (tired, lack of focus) after eating too many refined carbs.
Veering from the Sugar Crash
Here a few simple strategies to keep from the “sugar crash” over the holidays:
- Savor the flavor. Most of the time we feel just as satisfied with a small amount of sweet treats than if we were to eat a larger portion.
- Fill up with veggies, fruit, lean proteins and whole grains before (or while) enjoying your treat.
- Make fresh fruit your portable, 100% biodegradable snack of choice –fresh apples, bananas and oranges are only $.65 in UHDS dining centers and stores—grab a few and enjoy in your room, on your way to class, or on a road trip!
- Quench that thirst…with water! Fill up that reusable water bottle and make that your #1 beverage choice over sugary beverages. Drinking water will help keep you hydrated during the busy season and provide a feeling of fullness.