Maintaining a Low-Sugar Diet Through the Holidays

Last August, I began seriously cutting back on how much added sugar I ate after a friend mentioned all of the positive changes she’d seen from doing that.

Not only did I lose a few pounds unexpectedly, my skin became clearer and I have more energy now than I did last summer. My early afternoon energy slump has ended, and I don’t crave sugary snacks the same way I used to. Cutting back has brought so many positive changes to my life that I’m planning to stick with it.

Is my diet 100% added-sugar-free now? No, it isn’t. I have occasional treats, and I know there is still a little bit of added sugar in some of the food I buy like spaghetti sauce. At this point, I’m not interested in completely eliminating every source of added sugar from my diet.

Going 100% sugar-free would require me to cook and bake stuff that I’ve rarely if ever made purely from scratch, from bread to homemade spaghetti sauce. Maybe someday I’ll want to give this a try, but for now I’m happy with the way things are.

It is going to be interesting to see how this low-sugar diet affects me over the next few months in a few different areas, though.

Changing Tastebuds

The funny thing about switching to a low-sugar diet is that it changes your perception of how sweet something is and how much of it you want to eat.

Fruit and carrots taste much sweeter than they used to taste. They’re almost becoming a new version of candy to me because of how sugary and flavourful they are.

To give another example, I bought a pie for Canadian Thanksgiving last month thinking it would be a special treat after spending two months watching what I ate so carefully. While it did taste good, it was so sweet that I didn’t want much of it at all. The savoury dishes my spouse and I had that weekend were much more enjoyable, so I suspect I won’t bother buying or making a dessert for Christmas.

What will Christmas season treats be like in general this year?

Well, there is a flavour of speciality herbal tea I’ve already stocked up on for the winter. It happens to be a sugar-free variety that tastes so wonderful I’ve never felt the need to add anything sweet to it. It’s delicious just the way it is.

I might buy a couple of bars of dairy-free chocolate for the winter if or when I notice interesting flavours at my local grocery store. I also expect to eat them much more slowly than I did in the past. If carrots taste almost like candy to me, dark chocolate might not taste bitter at all anymore.

Fewer Treats

So far, I’m not stocking up on dairy-free Christmas treats like I’ve done in the past. I bought Halloween candy last month, and I still have plenty of it left to nibble on here and there.

Having a lot of sugary treats in the house also make it harder to stick to a low-sugar diet. There is something about having to bundle up and walk to the store that discourages me from actually doing that most of the time when I have a sudden urge to eat something decadent.

I’m not saying I won’t buy anything sugary this holiday season. Grocery stores often sell delicious holiday-themed candies and chocolates this time of the year, and I’m not opposed to trying one or two of them if any of them are dairy-free as I mentioned earlier.

The difference will be in how many I buy and how often I eat them. Some of my Halloween candy actually got stale a few weeks ago because I was eating it so slowly. That’s never happened to me before, but I like the fact that I can be satisfied by much smaller and less frequent portions of sweets these days.

Holiday Sicknesses

My final prediction for the holiday season has to do with getting sick.

Every Christmas I used to eat far more sweets than normal because they were sold everywhere and it always made me so happy to find a few of them that were safe for me. On or soon after Christmas, I’d come down with a cold or other mild illness.

Obviously, the sugar itself didn’t cause me to get sick. Late December is prime time for all sorts of respiratory illnesses to get passed around as people meet up for celebrations and spend much of their free time indoors in crowded places in general. I’m sure that most of the blame for my annual Christmas cold can be placed on all of the germs that thrive during that part of the year.

I have read, though, that sugar can curb your immune system just enough that a germ you might have normally been able to fight off is able to make you sick.

It will be interesting to see if this pattern repeats itself now that I’m eating sugar far more sparingly.

Go Low-Sugar with Me

If you’ve been thinking about adopting a low- or no-sugar diet, now is the perfect time to start.

It only took a couple of weeks for my tastebuds to begin adjusting, and I didn’t take a cold-turkey approach to this dietary change. It can be as simple as putting one teaspoon of sugar into your morning coffee instead of two.

Small changes can make a big difference over the long haul. Don’t think of this as temporary experiment. Make it a permanent lifestyle change, but go as slowly as you need to in order for every tweak to your habits to stick. They build on each other, especially once your tastebuds become more sensitive and fruit begins to taste sweeter than it did in the past.

The more tweaks you make to what you eat and how often you eat it, the easier it will be to stick to the next small change as well.

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