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The holidays are back, and with that the worry of overindulgence and weight gain.  When it comes to overeating, food cravings are related most strongly to sugar, so developing a strategy to keep sugar intake under control is a good idea.  Avoiding sugar completely may not be a realistic option, so we have come up with a few simple tips for you to enjoy sweet treats without overindulging in them.

Enjoy your dessert or treat slowly and mindfully

Since you should try to have treats only occasionally, when you do have one, make sure that you choose something that you love and will really enjoy.  Enjoy the treat slowly, savouring each and every bite.  By paying full attention to the treat and tasting it completely you will likely feel satisfied with a small amount.  A few bites of dessert can be enough when you taste it properly.  And if you’ve started eating a treat or dessert and it is not that great, leave it.  Don’t waste your calories on substandard foods.

Give yourself some time before eating the dessert or treat

When you are at a restaurant or dinner party the dessert is normally straight after the meal.  Try to give your body a couple of minutes to let you know if you do in fact have room for more food.  Sit back and carry on talking for a bit and decide some 10-20 minutes later whether dessert is a good idea.   Similarly, if you want a treat, stop and decide whether this is a good time for a treat.  The decision can go either way, either can be right, but make sure that it is right for you at that point in time.

Enjoy some tea or coffee instead of a dessert or treat

Having a cup of tea or coffee after the main meal may be enough to end off the meal.  There are some deliciously flavoured herbal teas that work very well after a meal.  Having a cup of tea or coffee can also give you that break to help you realise that you have had enough to eat and don’t need dessert.

Choose simple desserts or treats

The simple approach is often a refreshing one.  Three ingredients that provide a treat for the senses and have a health benefit are fruit, nuts and dark chocolate.  Fruits are packed with vitamins and minerals.  They have a natural sweetness and provide beautiful colour to the plate.  Nuts provide healthy fat and protein and bring a wonderful texture to the dessert.  Dark chocolate adds flavour without the high amount of sugar in milk chocolate, and provides flavonoids that may reduce blood pressure and insulin resistance.  A dessert made from these ingredients can capture the senses and allow you to feel satisfied without being stuffed.

Make smart sugar choices

The guideline for the amount of sugar we should have per day is about 4-6 teaspoons.  We can use this as some sugar in our tea and coffee, a small amount of honey or jam on our bread or in our yoghurt etc., a teaspoon of hot chocolate or milo in a glass of milk, or a small treat.  If you choose to have a cool drink, vitamin or flavoured water, or an energy or sports drink you are immediately having at least 8 teaspoons of sugar.  These drinks may not be the smartest sugar choice for your sugar intake.  Unfortunately many processed foods contain added sugar.  Try to stay aware of where your sugar intake is coming from.  As a good general rule, any food where sugar is in the first 3-4 ingredients should be treated as a treat and eaten in small quantities only occasionally.

The holidays can be challenging, but if you have a plan in place, it will feel more manageable.  Decide before you go out what you will eat, whether you will have some alcohol or dessert etc.  It is also important that you consciously decide that you want to continue with your healthy lifestyle.  It is not worth undoing a year of hard work.  Take one day at a time, and even if you overdo things on one day, just get back into your regular eating plan from the very next day.  No harm done.  Happy holidays everyone!