What are the holidays without the accompaniment of the Christmas classics… ginger and sugar cookies, candy cane cookies and pecan pie, just to name a few. The not-so-good news is that these delicious sweet treats ain’t as good for us, no matter how cute they look.
Know your sugar
Most of our favourite holiday sweet treats are piled with loads of sugar, which come in forms like raw sugar, brown sugar, castor or icing white sugar, molasses, corn syrup and honey. They are called ‘empty calorie foods’ — food that have substantial amounts of calories but contains very little or no beneficial nutrients.
They are usually high Glycemic Index (GI) foods which raise blood glucose levels rapidly after eating, hence making us feel hungry soon after. These are unlike nutrients-dense low GI foods such as whole grains (brown rice, oats, barley, corn, etc), fruits (apple, kiwi, citrus fruits, etc), and non-starchy vegetables, which are digested slowly, thus make us feel fuller longer.
Excessive intake of foods and drinks that high in added sugar lead to increased energy intake, which predisposes one to weight gain if the excess calories are not expended through physical activities.
Here are the low-downs of the sugar contents in our favourite holidays treats:
- Christmas log cake (1 slice: 45g): 21g sugars*
- Christmas cupcake (1 slice: 57g): 30g sugars*
- Candy cane (1 piece: 17g): 13g sugars*
- Pecan pie (1 slice: 109g): 37g sugars*
- Gingerbread man cookie (1 piece 32g): 10g sugars*
*Source: USDA Nutrients Database
The good news is that we can still enjoy these holiday treats while managing our sugar intake. Here’s how:
Tip #1: Share the love
Enjoy the sweet holiday treats in moderation in reduced portion sizes by sharing them with your loved ones!
Tip #2: Read before you eat
Read the food labels before purchasing them off the shelves.
Firstly, ingredients are arranged in descending order by weight. If sugar is listed as the first three ingredients in the ingredient list, it is more likely than not that the food has high sugar contents.
Secondly, do note the different names of sugars such as malt syrup, maple syrup, honey, high–fructose corn syrup and molasses. All forms of sugars contain 4kcal per gram. Au contraire, brown and raw sugar are not lower in calories than white sugar; they merely carry more minerals.
Thirdly, product packages that are labelled as “sugar–free”, “no added sugar” or “unsweetened” only means that no additional sugar was added during manufacturing. The product may be naturally high in sugar, such as canned fruits and fruit sugars.
Lastly, read the sugar contents under the ‘per serving’ column in the Nutrition Information Panel. According to Health Promotion Board Singapore, added sugar should not be more than 10 percent of one’s daily caloric intake. A good gauge is to limit your daily sugar intake to no more than 40 to 55g (~ 8 to 11 teaspoon). This limit includes sugar added to your foods and drinks.
Tip #3: Mix for a quick fix
Incorporate low GI foods with your holiday’s sweet treats! Consuming both low GI foods and high GI foods consecutively will help reduce the effect of the high GI foods in blood sugar levels.
Here’s wishing everyone a blessed, happy Christmas and a brand new healthful new year!
Nutritionist, Halley Medical Aesthetics