Food Health

How to avoid the party pitfalls of the sugary holiday season

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

As we walk along the streets and browse inside crowded malls, we’re bombarded with tempting treats like flavoured holiday beverages at coffee shops, and packaged chocolate treats and goodies. No matter what you celebrate this holiday season, the temptation to indulge is all around us. But don’t despair. There is a way to enjoy some decadence while still maintaining a healthy diet throughout the holidays.

First, try to establish healthy eating habits before the holiday season hits its peak. A diet that’s high in protein, healthy fats and fibre, and low in carbohydrates will help reduce cravings for sweet treats. When deciding what to eat, remember that a serving of protein at each meal should be the size of your palm, and a serving of healthy fats should be the size of your thumb. If your body’s basic nutrient needs are satisfied you’ll feel less tempted by those tasty treats.

It is also a good idea to make sure you satisfy your body’s need for vitamins and minerals. For example, if you’re low in magnesium, a natural muscle relaxer, you may experience symptoms such as headaches, muscle pain, aches or cramps. A magnesium deficiency can cause us to crave chocolate. Chocolate contains cacao, which is a natural source of magnesium. By addressing this and other mineral or vitamin deficiencies, your chocolate cravings could disappear. A nutritionist can help you determine how your diet may be deficient in vitamins and minerals.

The next thing we can do to avoid over indulging is to be selective about which treats we eat. It is the holiday season after all, so it wouldn’t be the same without some small indulgences, right? But you need to be choosy and strategic — if you know you are going to a holiday party with scrumptious treats, resist temptations throughout the day. This means avoiding holiday beverages at your favourite coffee shop. A Starbucks Caramel Brulée Latte contains a whopping 54 grams of sugar. That’s nearly double the amount of sugar in a can of pop. It also contains 440 calories, the equivalent of a small meal. As many of us will grab our sugary holiday coffee and head back to the office to sit for most of the day, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to burn off the sugar and calories in the drink. Large quantities of sugar that can’t be used for energy are stored as fat in the body. These beverages are delicious, but try limiting yourself to one specialty coffee per week.

At the office, focus on healthier holiday snacking by agreeing with co-workers to limit decadent treats at work. Generosity abounds during the holidays and I recall plenty of sweet treats popping up around the office. To limit treat temptation, propose the idea of making one day the designated “treat day” at the office during the week. Also, try passing around some healthier treat options such as these.

You can also make your favourite holiday baking recipes healthier by using ingredient substitutions. Instead of refined white flour, try using whole grain flour such as spelt or rye, or gluten-free flours such as coconut, almond meal or quinoa. Feel free to reduce the sugar called for in recipes or use sugar alternative like stevia, agave or honey. Another great sugar substitute is applesauce to help sweeten your baking. Conduct some holiday baking experiments, and before you know it, you’ll have created a new healthier holiday favourite.

Lastly, ensure you get a good night’s sleep to reduce cravings for treats. Sleep deprivation can lead to carbohydrate cravings and overeating. When we don’t get sufficient sleep, the two hormones that regulate hunger and fullness are thrown out of balance. When we’re overtired, our bodies need fuel to keep going. The hormone that regulates our hunger is then over-stimulated, and the hormone that tells us to stop eating decreases. This is why we are more likely to overeat when we are tired. If you’re having a hard time falling asleep, check out some of these tips. You’ll be amazed how a good night’s sleep can be your best defence in avoiding the party pitfalls of the holiday season.

Have a happy and healthy holiday season.


About the author

Michelle Heighington

I am a registered holistic nutritionist (RNCP and ROHP) who also holds a degree in medical anthropology. Having worked in the legal industry for 15 years I became familiar with the corporate lifestyle and culture, and how the dedication to work – and the addiction to caffeine and sugar cravings that come with it – can get in the way of achieving a desired work/life balance. Through corporate workshops, articles and providing customized nutrition advice tailored to busy lifestyles, I help people to stay healthy at work without losing billable hours or precious time after work. You can reach me at or visit my website

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.