8 Sneaky Sugar Sources at Christmas & What You Can Try Instead
Christmas is synonymous with sugar - wouldn't you agree?
Ginger bread houses, Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, eggnog, advent calendars, stocking stuffers... the list is endless. Everywhere you turn in December, you're faced with something sweet.
Now, before you start to worry that this is an anti-sugar article, let me assure you it is not.
As a holistic nutritionist, there is no doubt in my mind that there is always room for our favourite indulgences within a healthy diet, especially during the Christmas season.
I believe that the key to a truly healthy way of life is achieving a sense of balance.
The trouble with maintaining balance this time of year is that there are sneaky sources of sugar that most people wouldn't suspect, so it becomes challenging to manage your intake without bringing awareness to some of these foods.
So, let's get to it...
Here are a few sneaky sources of holiday sweetness, plus, some ideas for what you can try instead (if you feel so inclined):
1. Festive coffees
At a café, these drinks usually include flavoured syrups or other sweeteners to make them taste & smell more festive. They're oh-so-tasty but they can be the source of major sugar over-load.
Try instead: at your local café, ask for frothed milk + festive spices like cinnamon or nutmeg to bring taste & comfort to your holiday-inspired drink. Alternatively, experiment at home.
Many store-bought breads actually contain glucose-fructose and sugar. It's important to both check the label & to carefully compare products when you're shopping. White bread turns to sugar quickly in the body since, and while it's a source a quick fuel, it likely won't sustain you.
Try instead: whole grain, seedy bread that is higher in fibre and lower in sugar. This will be more satiating and blood sugar-balancing.
Who doesn't love a good canape? These bite-sized delights can be fairly sweet without even trying! Christmas cheeses often go hand-in-hand with jams, jellies, dried fruit or chocolate so we end up consuming more sugar than we might think with these starters.
Try instead: some sautéed or raw fruit like pear with your cheese selection, along with fresh veggie options, whole grains, nuts + other satisfying finger foods.
This simple food is commonly found on Christmas platters and they're easy to over-consume without second thought. When you're shopping, check the label for sugar content; plain white crackers often list sugar (or some variation) in the ingredients and it's not always something that's top-of-mind to check.
Try instead: opt for whole grain crackers that have some seeds for added fibre.
5. Cranberry sauce
The canned versions of these sauces are usually made with high fructose corn syrup & corn syrup, which equals A LOT of added sugar. Be sure to compare products carefully!
Try instead: make your own sauce from scratch with cranberries, a bit of orange juice & honey (this way you are controlling the amount of sweetness).
6. Honey roasted vegetables
While honey can be a better quality form of sugar, it's still sugar. Honey glazes & root vegetables do pair well together, but this can easily up your meal's sugar content.
Try instead: olive oil + lots of garlic for a burst of flavour instead.
Store-bought stuffing mixes often have a long list of additives which can include fructose syrup & sugar. For homemade versions, the quality often depends on the bread used because white bread has lower fibre and is processed as sugar more quickly in the body.
Try instead: if you're making your own stuffing, consider the bread that you use and opt for whole grain, whole wheat or something with lots of fibre + seeds.
8. Salad dressing
If you plan on enjoying healthy greens as part of your holiday meal, be mindful when choosing the dressing because many store-bought options have notable sugar content (check the ingredients!)
Try instead: versatile & simple homemade recipes like these:
olive oil + balsamic vinegar + a bit of Dijon mustard
olive oil + lemon juice (fresh squeezed) + a bit of honey
I strongly believe that greater awareness of what we're eating ultimately makes us all healthier eaters.
The more you know, the better, right?
So here's to delicious, festive meals with family & friends to close out the year!
Ciara Morin, R.H.N.