Lighten Up the Holiday Treats

December 12, 2023

Festivities around the Christmas holiday usually leads to higher sugar consumption compared to other times of the year.
It’s normal to consume more non-nutrient foods and indulge in beverages more than our normal pattern.  In fact, one study done in 2020 found that average weight gain of adults were 1-2 pounds during Thanksgiving to January.  So, here’s what we can do to lighten up the food and beverage indulgences.


The American Heart Association actually has parameters around a daily sugar limit for adults.  For women, no more than 26 grams per day and for men, 36 grams.   Here are some tips from the American Heart Association (AHA) as well as my own.

Keep your holiday traditions, and make small changes and smart substitutions where you can.

•   Instead of butter, use a healthier vegetable oil or substitute equal parts unsweetened applesauce when baking.
•   Use a lower-calorie sugar substitute.
•   Use low-fat or nonfat milk instead of whole milk or heavy cream.
•    Instead of only white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat flour.
•    Instead of adding chocolate chips or candies, use dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries.
•    Use extracts like vanilla, almond and peppermint to add flavor, instead of sugar or butter.
•    Use vegetable oils or soft margarine instead of butter.
•    Use whole-grain breads, rice and pasta instead of white.
•    Bake, grill or steam vegetables instead of frying.
•    Compare labels of your holiday ingredients, and choose products with lower amounts of sodium and added sugars.
•    Use spices, fresh herbs and citrus juice to flavor foods and drinks instead of excess salt and added sugars.
My Tips:


Find one holiday drink you love, have it and enjoy, be mindful of the size.  A grande (16 oz) peppermint hot chocolate from Starbucks has 56 grams of sugar.  That’s double what the AHA recommends for the daily limit. Go for the short (8 oz) version, which is a cup, for about 28 grams of sugar.   If you have FOMO and feel like you want a nice hot chocolate for only 5 grams try this healthier hot chocolate recipe:
Have a low calorie cocktail.  Mixers are what typically pull the calories into the beverages.  Ask for club soda, spirit, and a splash of juice to lighten up the cocktail while still flavorful.  Try one here:

Easy Skinny Cranberry Cocktail or Mocktails

Food Choices:

Share the indulge!  Group share or use the buddy system to share sugary desserts. If you are full, bring home and freeze it until you want a treat!
Eat regular meals throughout the day as opposed to “saving up” your appetite.   This way your hunger levels will be easier to manage.

The Author

Laura Cason, B.S., R.D., L.D.N.

Laura has a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition from Kansas State University. She did her Dietetic Internship at Loyola University Chicago. She is a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. She is a Licensed Dietitian in Illinois and a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist. Laura is a former marketing professional turned Registered Dietitian with a heightened passion for helping others. She has extensive experience working with clients seeking assistance with weight. With a background in the corporate setting, she has can empathize with those who work in these environments which often come with stress highs and lows. She helps her clients understand how to eat in order to feel good, boost energy, and be comfortable without restriction or obsessing. Laura believes in forming a partnership with her clients providing them with the tools to succeed and accountability to increase success rate. In her spare time, Laura enjoys cooking, working out, traveling, and beach volleyball.

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