Sugar is everywhere during the holidays – between the candy, cookies, parties, and yummy desserts, it’s tough to stay away from sugar during the holidays. The trouble is that even just a little bit of sugar can kick off cravings and the temptation binge, even for the best of us.
Many people don’t realize the addictive power of sugar, or how excessive sugar intake can cause the energy highs and lows and brain fog. Sugar causes insulin levels to spike and then dramatically drop, making your energy ricochet and triggering serious cravings .
Now, you probably aren’t going to pass on all the sweet treats this holiday season, but you can do a few things to manage your sugar cravings and enjoy your favorite seasonal desserts while still feeling good. Here are my top five tips to kick holiday sugar cravings.
1. Don’t skip meals
It can be tempting to “save” your calories for a big holiday dinner by skipping breakfast and lunch. It can also be tempting to fast or go way under calories the day after eating lots of foods you’d normally avoid.
While skipping meals may seem like a good idea on paper, it doesn’t work well in practice. Skipping meals makes it much harder to resist those delicious treats lying around your home or office. It takes a huge amount of willpower to stay away from temptation, especially if you’ve already had some sugar and have to content with sugar cravings on top of hunger. You’re likely to break and overeat, starting an unhealthy cycle of bingeing and starving yourself.
Instead, follow a steady meal schedule that works for you. Even if you’re doing intermittent fasting, which is a great way to manage your weight and hunger during the holidays, make sure you stick to the intervals you set instead of passing on meals.
Each meal you eat should have plenty of protein and fat to help keep your insulin levels balanced. Excess sugar and carbs spike insulin and cause more cravings, while protein and fat even insulin out and help regulate your desire for more sugar .
My Pure Power protein powder is a great way to add extra protein and a bit of healthy fat to your meals. You can whip up a protein shake before you eat to help you resist second helpings of even the most tempting desserts.
2. Create a sugar budget
There’s sugar hiding in a lot of everyday foods, and it can be easy not to realize how much sugar you’re eating before you even get to treats or desserts. Manufacturers often add sugar to drinks, sauces, dressings, and even bread — a single slice can have as many as five grams of added sugar!
Pay attention to nutrition labels, and give yourself a sugar budget of 25 grams of sugar a day.
By creating a sugar budget, you can track how much sugar you are actually consuming. Sometimes those hidden sugars are triggering your cravings. A budget also lets you save your sugar for something you’ll really enjoy, like your favorite homemade holiday dessert.
3. Drink apple cider vinegar tonics during the holidays
For a little extra insurance against sugar cravings, swap out plain water for health-boosting apple cider vinegar tonics this holiday season (or anytime of year, for that matter).
Apple cider vinegar keeps your blood sugar stable and makes you feel more satisfied with less food, even after a high-carb meal .
To make a simple tonic, mix apple cider vinegar and water in a 1:4 ratio, or just add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to your favorite drink. You can also add ginger and lemon to help your digestion and decrease inflammation.
4. Add green smoothies
Green smoothies are packed with fiber that makes you feel satisfied and slows down sugar absorption so you don’t get a sugar high and crash .
Your gut bacteria play a role in sugar cravings too (more on that in a moment). Fiber feeds healthy gut bacteria and starves bad bacteria, curbing cravings and even helping you lose weight .
Green smoothies are also chock full of antioxidants that fight the inflammation that comes with a sugar binge. Greens help your body make more glutathione, which protects your liver from the damages of excess sugar [5,6].
Avoid green juices, which lack fiber and concentrate sugar. Instead, go for smoothies that blend up vegetables whole. Here’s one of my favorite green smoothie recipes.
5. Use probiotics to manage sugar cravings
Eating a lot of sugar can cause Candida — a strain of sugar-loving yeast — to overgrow in your gut. Candida will then send signals from your gut to your brain that can cause sugar cravings .
Healthy probiotic bacteria can suppress Candida, decrease cravings, and help keep your blood sugar stable. Get a good probiotic supplement and take it daily throughout the holiday season. Look for these three strains, which are particularly good at fighting Candida:
– Bifidobacteria [8,9]
– Lactobacillus [8,10]
– Saccharomyces boulardii 
Fortunately, these probiotic strains are common. Look for a probiotic that has all three.
The holidays can be a tricky time if you’re trying to stay healthy and eat a low-sugar diet. They’re also meant for celebration and letting loose a little bit. Find a balance that lets you enjoy yourself, and use the tips above to help you feel good, even when you have the occasional sweet indulgence. Thanks for reading!
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Östman, E., Granfeldt, Y., Persson, L., & Björck, I. (2005). Vinegar supplementation lowers glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects. European journal of clinical nutrition, 59(9), 983. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16015276
Lattimer, J. M., & Haub, M. D. (2010). Effects of dietary fiber and its components on metabolic health. Nutrients,2(12), 1266-1289.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257631/
Menni, C., Jackson, M. A., Pallister, T., Steves, C. J., Spector, T. D., & Valdes, A. M. (2017). Gut microbiome diversity and high-fibre intake are related to lower long-term weight gain. International Journal of Obesity, 41(7), 1099. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5500185/
Jensen, T., Abdelmalek, M. F., Sullivan, S., Nadeau, K. J., Green, M., Roncal, C., … & Tolan, D. R. (2018). Fructose and sugar: a major mediator of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Journal of hepatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29408694
Alcock, J., Maley, C. C., & Aktipis, C. A. (2014). Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms. Bioessays, 36(10), 940-949. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270213/
Mendonça, F. H. B. P., Santos, S. S. F. D., Faria, I. D. S. D., Gonçalves e Silva, C. R., Jorge, A. O. C., & Leão, M. V. P. (2012). Effects of probiotic bacteria on Candida presence and IgA anti-Candida in the oral cavity of elderly. Brazilian dental journal, 23(5), 534-538. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23306230
Wagner, R. D., Warner, T., Pierson, C., Roberts, L., Farmer, J., Dohnalek, M., … & Balish, E. (1998). Biotherapeutic effects of Bifidobacterium spp. on orogastric and systemic candidiasis in immunodeficient mice. Revista iberoamericana de micología, 15, 265-270. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18473515
Matsubara, V. H., Wang, Y., Bandara, H. M. H. N., Mayer, M. P. A., & Samaranayake, L. P. (2016). Probiotic lactobacilli inhibit early stages of Candida albicans biofilm development by reducing their growth, cell adhesion, and filamentation. Applied microbiology and biotechnology, 100(14), 6415-6426. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27087525
Krasowska, A., Murzyn, A., Dyjankiewicz, A., Łukaszewicz, M., & Dziadkowiec, D. (2009). The antagonistic effect of Saccharomyces boulardii on Candida albicans filamentation, adhesion and biofilm formation. FEMS yeast research, 9(8), 1312-1321. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19732158