Health & Wellness

Towards a less-sugary holiday season

Wow, this morning was the first time I had to scrape the truck windshield before I headed out… cooler weather is coming, along with rain, maybe some snow and, of course, the October through January festivities. There are most likely a few of you reading this that are contemplating or in the midst of exploring a Ketogenic (low carbs, high fat and moderate protein) diet. You’re losing weight, feeling great and you are starting to think about getting through the holiday season – while maintaining your progress towards better health. Just about every coaching session I have with a customer (they are free) includes tips on how to get off of the Blood Sugar Roller Coaster. This roller coaster situation describes your days spent alternating between high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). This ride contributes to weight gain, when your body stores extra sugar as fat – and mood swings, cravings and brain fog when your blood sugar crashes.
The sugary high-carbohydrate choices we often make can lead to insulin resistance (pre-diabetes), diabetes, obesity and impaired immune function. Studies have shown that reducing carbohydrate and sugar intake during our typical cold and damp weather helps us avoid colds and flu. When I am asked what my favorite tips for avoiding illness during our cold rainy winters, my first suggestion is to reduce the amount of sweet desserts.
Nutritionists and other health care providers often suggest making a game plan before you go to a holiday event, which can help you avoid making unhealthy choices. Here is a list of tried and true tools and tips to help you avoid ”carbing-out” this holiday season:
1. Ask the host/hostess if you can bring something, and make sure that it’s yummy. Focus on healthy fats, protein and fiber. An example could be a spinach dip and cut up veggie sticks, with some rolled up uncured (no preservatives) smoked turkey cold cuts.
2. As with a trip to the grocery store, don’t leave the house half-starved. That’s an open invitation to scarf down the first five things your eyes fall on. Eat a substantial snack with protein, fat and fiber in it before you leave the house. With stable blood sugar, you’ll be more able to think clearly and make better food related decisions.
When you arrive at the event:
3. Check out the food offerings and form a plan; continue to think, ”protein, fiber, fat.” Head for these things first, which will make it easier to limit your treats later.
Good bets: veggies and dip, cheese tray (there is no law saying you have to put the cheese on a cracker), sausage cubes and nuts. Put a small amount on your napkin or plate and go find someone to talk to away from the food.
4. Get something to drink. Good choices include sparkling water, club soda or dry wine. Avoid sugary drinks and beer, which are all high in empty carbohydrates.
Hold the drink in your dominant hand (right hand if you’re right-handed) as long as you’re standing near food. (This trick works better than you’d think. It delays the ”reaching instinct” long enough for your brain to engage and say stop.)
5. After an alcoholic drink, make the next one or two carbohydrate-free drinks such as sparkling water. This not only cuts down on carbohydrates and calories, but also helps keep your good judgment intact. Try a cup of tea or coffee with some cream if available.
6. If the party includes a buffet dinner, choose the low-carbohydrate foods, including salads, vegetables, meats and low-sugar fruits such as berries and tart apples. Avoid the high-carbohydrate potatoes, rice, pasta and breads.
This is all easier than you think, and you will feel great about yourself as you enjoy the company of your friends, family and co-workers while avoiding the stress of holiday weight gain, as well as the need for a New Year’s resolution to diet, a yo-yo process that is unhealthy and can be life-shortening.
We are in the beginning of the cold and flu season. Remember that the empty carbohydrates you eat will turn to sugar (and sometimes get stored as fat), and may contribute to a weakened immune response.
Note: Hang this column on your fridge for a reminder this Fall and Winter.
PSA: For those of you contemplating a New Year’s Resolution, or maybe planning a Keto Diet in the new year, I will be offering (at the store) a free six week Keto Reset (Book club format) series, with weekly meetings, and we will be using Mark Sisson’s: Keto Reset Diet. We will share recipes, and many other resources to help you reset your diet to one that supports your health goals, which may or may not be a Keto diet in the end.
At Natural Grocers in Eugene, where I am the store’s Nutritional Health Coach, we offer free classes that include plenty of information about healthy eating choices, and free one-on-one health coaching sessions (call 541-345-3300). Please ”like” our Natural Grocers-Eugene Facebook page. Find our store’s schedule of free classes at:



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