December 2018Health tips

Satisfy your sweet tooth with smart selections this holiday season

Regardless of which holiday you celebrate in December, there’s good news and bad news that all of the traditions have in common. The good news: there are plenty of desserts to go around. The bad news: there are plenty of desserts to go around.

We’ve all been tempted to sample the full array of chocolates, candies and baked goods on the sweet table at this time of year. Unfortunately, they’re loaded with added sugar, so if you overdo it now, you may regret it later.

“We should be trying to keep sugar to a minimum,” says Patricia Urrico, a Dietitian-Nutritionist at the JGH. “Too much sugar is linked to weight gain and various chronic conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and gout.”

According to the World Health Organization, it’s recommended that you limit your intake of added sugar to about 5 per cent of your daily calories. For a typical daily diet of 2,000 calories, this comes to 100 calories, or 25 grams of added sugar. Excluded from this total are foods with naturally occurring sugar, such as fruit, milk products and some vegetables, which also contain fibre, vitamins and minerals, which are essential to a healthy diet.

However, during the holiday season, it’s only natural to want to indulge in something a bit more decadent than an apple or pear. Fortunately, you can treat yourself without going overboard.

When faced with many sugary options, stick to your absolute favourite, Ms. Urrico recommends. “Really savour a small portion of dessert or chocolate in your mouth, instead of consuming it quickly, which may lead you to grab more,” she says.

You can also opt to share your dessert with a family member or friend. But if you’re really looking forward to your own slice of cake, cut out the extra carbohydrates elsewhere. That might mean skipping the bread before the meal or the pasta appetizer.

And if you’re the one doing the baking, you can reduce the amount of sugar without sacrificing the flavours of your recipe.

“A lot of recipes call for too much sugar to begin with,” says Ms. Urrico. “You can decrease the amount of sugar by a quarter and still end up with a great dessert.”

Sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol and erythritol may also be a good alternative to sugar when baking, she adds. “For most of these sugar alcohols, your body converts only half—sometimes less than half—into sugar.”

This means they have a lesser impact on blood sugar levels, but sugar alcohols can cause gas or digestive difficulties in some people.

Sugar lurks beyond the sweet table, too. Juices, alcoholic drinks, sauces and salad dressings can be brimming with it, so it’s best to consume them sparingly. For example, one tablespoon of ketchup contains nearly four grams of sugar.

“The key is to be mindful and aware of what you’re consuming,” says Ms. Urrico. “You can have a dessert after a meal, but keep in mind what else you consumed that day.”

For more information, visit UnlockFood and enter the word “sugar” in the search field.

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