Between gifts of cookies and fudge to attending abundant holiday parties to dinners full of holiday favorites, it can be easy to justify a few extra treats here and there during the holiday season.
But sugar is the most abused drug in the United States, responsible for making us the second most obese country in the world (second only to Mexico), and the primary negative factor to many health issues, says Andrea Szebeni, a registered nutritionist and dietician with the Lighthouse Recovery Institute.
Neurologically, sugar is a stimulant that keeps us craving it the more it is eaten, says Szebeni. "This is why during the holidays once we overindulge once, it leads us to believe we have failed once again and we may just as well start the diet after the holidays," Szebeni says.
Szebeni, who helps young women overcome eating disorders, provides these four tips for enjoying your favorite treats this holiday season without going overboard:
· Be realistic - Telling yourself you will never have another candy cane when it is your favorite holiday treat is probably not realistic, Szebeni says. The key is setting guidelines. For example, if you have three holiday parties in two days, don’t try every dish and every cookie at each party.
· Plan ahead - Have a light snack before you leave the house so you are not hungry, which could make it easier to justify bad choices.
· Make things easier for yourself - Instead bringing wine or more sweets, bring a dish that’s healthy and delicious, Szebeni suggests. Be the hit of the party by bringing a pumpkin dip with vegetables or freshly baked parmesan kale chips with apples, cheese squares and blackberries.
· Detox your taste buds - Over time we adapt to eating foods that are high fat, high salt or high sugar, which literally erode our taste buds, Szebeni says. The good news is that you can renew your taste buds. Try abstaining from processed foods and hyperpalatable choices even for just one week. “As you begin to incorporate back certain foods that you enjoy but know should be limited, you’ll see that by only eating them periodically you will still enjoy them without feeling the need to overindulge,” Szebeni says.
Inconsistent nutritional habits also contribute to sugar cravings, says Szebeni, who has a master’s degree in dietetics and nutrition. “Eat every 4 to 4½ hours and watch those cravings go away,” Szebeni says.
About Lighthouse Recovery Institute
Lighthouse Recovery Institute (www.lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com) is a licensed drug, alcohol and eating disorder treatment center in Delray Beach, Fla., specializing in recovery for women. At the Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our mission is to help each client attain peace, happiness and permanent sobriety. With more than 30 years of experience in the treatment of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, eating disorders and trauma, our passionate team of doctors, therapists, and specialists provide nothing but the highest quality of care for every woman who walks through our doors.