Tips To Cut Down On Holiday Sugars

Practical Tips for Reducing Holiday-Induced Added Sugars

By Andrew Adorno, DTR

Added sugars during the holidays can skyrocket faster than Santa and his reindeer on a winter night’s sky. We know that high intakes of added holiday sugars are linked with chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, and rheumatoid arthritis – but cutting back on added sugars can also benefit us short-term. If you’re looking to drop weight and improve your mood, energy, and quality of sleep – you may benefit from dropping that extra slice of pumpkin pie.

Added sugars differ greatly from naturally occurring sugars in their overall total package. Added sugars are isolated forms of sugar. Natural sugars from fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, beans, and nuts contain a matrix of other nutrients, phytochemicals, and fiber that factor into its overall metabolism – not to mention the countless number of beneficial agents we haven’t even discovered yet.

Obvious culprits of added sugars are regular sodas, cakes, cookies, pies, ice creams, and tarts. But what about the silent offenders? I’m looking at specialty coffee drinks, sauces, dips, marinades, bottled salad dressings, flavored yogurts, BBQ sauce, sports drinks, and pre-sweetened beverages.

So how much is too much? The USDA dietary guidelines recommend a maximum of 50 grams added sugar per day – which is about 200 calories. The American Heart Association (AHA) takes it further by recommending 25 grams per day – about 100 calories. In household measurements, 1 teaspoon of sugar equals about 4 or 5 grams.


Here are some tips to help you cut back on the added sugars this holiday season:

Stay hydrated: Don’t mistake hunger for thirst. Load up on water or your favorite unsweetened beverage throughout the day.

• Fun fact: Regular sodas contain about 39 grams of added sugars per 12 ounces. This equals 13 packs of sugar –
about 80% of the UDSA’s and 156% of the AHA’s upper daily allowances for added sugar in one beverage.
• When in doubt, choose sparkling waters and natural sodas like La Croix or Zevia
• Even though diet sodas contain aspartame, the amount is about 2.5 times less than the amount of sugar in a regular version.
If you’re stuck between choosing regular versus diet soda – choose diet.


When shopping, read the ingredient label – lookout for these terms that fall under the added sugar umbrella: honey, agave, turbinado,
corn syrup, maple syrup, dextrose, and just plain sugar – table, granulated, cane, brown, and coconut.

 • Ideally, choose products that do not contain these ingredients. If sugar is unavoidable in the product, find a variety that does not list sugar as one of the top ingredients.


Stay wary of the silent offenders: specialty coffee beverages, sauces, dips, marinades, bottled salad dressings,
flavored yogurts, BBQ sauce, sports drinks, and pre-sweetened beverages.

• Stick to products that have about 5 grams of sugar or less per serving.
• Ask for sugar-free syrup when ordering your vanilla latte
• Favorite flavored yogurts: Chobani Simply 100, Oikos Triple Zero


Have a snack comprised of lean protein + healthy fat before attending a party or dinner.
This will help keep your appetite at bay and prevent you from eating all the things – hopefully.

• Easy proteins: boiled eggs, roasted salmon, grilled shrimp, edamame, 2% cottage cheese
• Healthy Fats: natural nut butters, avocado, almonds, roasted pumpkin seeds


Bring your own healthy dish, casserole, or dessert

• Preparing your own foods gives you more control over the ingredients you use.
• Use the internet: there are a ton of healthy, savory, decadent and easy recipes at your fingertips. Find ones that don’t rely on sugar for flavor.
• Center your recipe finds on whole foods such as fruits and vegetables.


Load your plate up on quality ingredients that will keep you full.

• Lean proteins, roasted vegetables, green salads, sliced fruit, spiced nuts


Give it time before heading for dessert. Allow your food to digest for at least 30 minutes prior to diving into that decadent apple cobbler.

• Use a small plate for dessert.
• Slice your dessert according to half the size of your index finger – about 1/2 inch
• 1/2-inch by 1/2-inch squares, or a 1/2-inch arch of sliced pie


Choose your alcohol. Presweetened mixers, sangrias, margaritas, daiquiris – aka sugar bombs. Stick with distilled spirits and wine in moderate amounts.

• What’s moderate? 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
• 1 drink = 1.5 ounces distilled spirits, 5 ounces wine, or 12 ounces beer


Recover. Keep up your exercise routine throughout the season, and resume your healthy diet outside party time.

• Choose green leafy vegetables, whole fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, fiber-rich carbohydrates,
and fresh citrus such as lemon or lime to cut down on added sugar-induced inflammation


Andrew Adorno is a Dietetic Technician, Registered with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics