The festive sugar conspiracy

Have you noticed that there seems to be a big conspiracy each December? Do you know the one I mean? The idea that dictates that if you want to enjoy yourself, any efforts to be ‘healthier’ have to be shelved during the winter festive season. The general consensus seems to be that due to Christmas drinks parties, special Christmas meals and the inevitable increase in sweet treats (mince pies, tins of biscuits and chocolates) all bets are off healthwise until the New Year (when of course everything will change. Because it always does. Doesn’t it?).

Well I have ONE simple suggestion that could make a dramatic difference to you this season. One thing that could significantly benefit your waistline, your immune system and your hormone balance. And I’m not going to suggest that you change anything that you plan to eat. Interested?


photo by floridagirlindc



Thats all I’m suggesting. Just make a decision to stop (or limit) the sugary drinks and mixers this season.

Thats all.

Its sugar (much more so than fat) that makes us put on weight. It depletes our immune system, plays havoc with energy levels and blood sugar regulation and of course it rots our teeth.

Plus its addictive.

“Diet” isn’t another word for “healthy”

Telling you that fizzy drinks are often laden with sugar is nothing new – we’re all aware that a coke is full of tooth-rotting sugar (a 250 ml glass has a whopping 26g of sugar in it) and thats why we know  the ‘low sugar’ or ‘diet’ options are better – right?

Well its not that simple. While technically lower in sugar, products marketed as ‘diet’ or ‘sugar free’ aren’t necessarily ‘healthier’ options.  Yes they are lower in calories, but the truth is, its hard to make a case for artificial sugar substitutes being better for you. In fact, recent research has linked common artificial sweeteners with weight GAIN.

Somewhat ironic if the so-called diet foods/drinks are, in actual fact, responsible for having the opposite effect isn’t it?

The not-so-innocent fruit juice

So what about a nice, naturally-sweetened fruit juice? Now surely thats ok – its healthy right? Well … what many people don’t realise is that many juices contain just as much sugar as fizzy drinks. Watch this video for a great demo of how much sugar is in drinks.

‘Sugar Maths’

In a nutshell, if you’re looking at sugar content, a 250 ml glass of fresh orange juice will pour 24g of sugar (6 teaspoons) into your body. Thats not much different from a coke (26g). .. In fact, thats not far off what you get from a regular sized ‘snickers’ bar (30g).  My advice is to make mindful, intelligent choices about sugar. If you’re going to have 6 teaspoons of sugar wouldn’t you rather enjoy it in 7 chocolate chip cookies, or for that matter a mince pie or piece of cake rather than in a drink? (read more about relative sugar content in this article here).

So by saying ‘no’ to sugary drinks this season, you really could have quite an impact on the amount of the sweet stuff you’re consuming. In fact, if you cut out just ONE glass of juice every day for the 12 days of Christmas, you could reduce your sugar consumption by 72 teaspoons or 288g of sugar  …. or the equivalent of more than a DOZEN mince pies! Thats quite a few!

Make intelligent, sensible choices

Now I CAN make a case for why fresh fruit juice is a BETTER option than many other sweet drinks (think vitamins for a start), but I’d like to suggest that maybe there are even better options out there that will actually be just as satisfying – especially if you’re out for a whole evening and likely to be drinking several glasses of something (alcoholic or not). What about choosing fizzy water, with a squeeze of lemon or lime, maybe, or even a dash of sophisticated ‘bitters’… or perhaps you could drink a tomato juice? (*Based on sugar content alone, neat vodka/gin could even be a better bet – but as a former academic, specialising in ‘Addictive behaviours’, I don’t think I can honestly take the argument that far with a clear conscience!!!).

So my point is this – if you’re going to consume sugar this Christmas then do so intelligently. Make sure you’re aware of where sugar is lurking in your food and drinks. Here are my top tips for keeping Christmas sweet

  1. Don’t drink your sugar – consider choosing fizzy water or even tomato juice
  2. Eat slowly, chew well and really savour your food. If you’re going to eat/drink something then make sure you REALLY enjoy it!
  3. Focus on making sure you eat some good stuff (protein or healthy fat) at the same time  as the sweet stuff to help to slow down the absorption of the glucose. This will help to moderate big swings in blood sugar levels and avoid the glycemic roller-coaster that often encourages us to overeat.
  4. Above all, have Fun! Interacting with people who boost your energy is very good for your health and can bring a lot of sugar-free ‘sweetness’ to life.

PS – I have three spaces for one-to-one health coaching available in January. Slots don’t come up very often, so if you’re interested (or you know someone who might be) please email me asap to secure a spot for a no obligation trial ‘health goals’ session.