Dear JJ: I have a coworker who, during the holiday season, puts "healthier" versions of sweets in the office break room. Determined they are guilt-free (or at least better), I sometimes grab a few bites that inevitably become more than a few bites. What's my best option to navigate potentially dietary derailments during the inevitable holiday crapfest?
Every October, blogs surface by health-minded, well-intended writers showing how you can tweak Halloween candy. Typically these "healthier" versions are lower in calories and fat. But are they really healthier?
Not necessarily, at least from a sugar-impact standpoint. Let's look at a few "healthier" substitutions experts sometimes suggest and how they actually stack up.
Substitute raisins for Tootsie Rolls. Truth: A mini-box of raisins packs 20 grams of sugar, whereas six Tootsie Rolls has 19 grams.
Substitute a granola bar for a Snickers fun-size bar. Truth: A Snickers fun size bar has 8.5 grams of sugar, yet a "healthy" Kind granola bar contains 9.
Substitute a Fruit Roll-Up for Twizzlers. Truth: Whereas four Twizzlers have 19 grams of sugar, four Fruit roll ups contain 28.
Substitute dried fruit for gummy bears. One serving of gummy bears contains 17 grams of sugar. Five pieces (one serving) of organic unsweetened pineapple rings contain 22.
The truth is that "low-fat" or "reduced calorie" usually translate into high-sugar foods. These sugary swaps elevate insulin levels, contributing to insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Their fructose loads -- sometimes higher than full-fat foods -- increase liver inflammation and convert to triglycerides (fat).
These foods also create a halo effect as you reach for seconds and thirds. "Low fat" and other claims appeal to anyone brainwashed to believe fat is the enemy. Once those addictive foods get their hooks in you, you unconsciously give them a free pass because, hey, if they don't have fat, you can't gain weight.
Many "healthier" alternatives also contain artificial sweeteners, excessive amounts of sugar alcohols, preservatives, and other nasty things you would never find in whole, nature-made foods.
I see a clear pattern when clients confess they've nosedived into junky Halloween foods. They haven't sleep well, they're over-caffeinated yet groggy, and they usually blow off breakfast or eat a high-sugar impact catastrophe that sends their blood sugar spiraling.
When you eat every four to six hours, you steady your blood sugar levels so those innocuous-looking mini candy bars don't become your undoing.
To do that, have a fast, filling protein shake for breakfast. Make lunch and dinner a fat blasting, filling combo of healthy fats, protein, loads of leafy and cruciferous veggies, and slow-release high-fiber carbs like quinoa.
With those strategies, you'll probably remain full between meals, but if you've got to snack, keep slow-roasted or dehydrated nuts nearby and steer clear of even the "healthy" holiday stuff. Don't fall for the "just a few bites" mentality, because I can practically guarantee that will become a slippery slope into sugar-ville.
Next time your coworker offers you "healthier" holiday candy or you read one of those swap-this-for-that articles, don't be fooled: It's all high-sugar impact.
What's your biggest high-sugar impact obstacle during the holiday season? What tactics do you have to resist? Share yours below. And keep those great questions coming at AskJJ@jjvirgin.com.