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The Telegram
  • Healthy Eating: Avoid the sweets this holiday season

  • Holidays are a time for giving and people like to show appreciation by baking treats. But by mid-December, offices, nursing homes, hospitals, school faculty lounges and homes are bursting with sweets and bellies are bulging from too much indulging.

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  • Holidays are a time for giving and people like to show appreciation by baking treats. But by mid-December, offices, nursing homes, hospitals, school faculty lounges and homes are bursting with sweets and bellies are bulging from too much indulging. With weight gain a problem in our country, perhaps it’s time to think outside of the cookie tin for gift ideas this season.
    Health care workers, in particular, are faced with piles of goodies delivered to units by well-intentioned recipients of their care. Isn’t it odd that in an environment where these professionals are working hard to bring patients back to health, they are inundated with tempting, fattening sweets that risk jeopardizing their own health? As a nation, why do we have blinders on and glorify food so much?
    Candy dishes on desks in an office environment are another trap. Research studies find when tempting foods, like chocolate, candy and such, are within reach, people tend to eat more.
    In one study, researchers found when candy was easily accessible on workers’ desks, they ate an average of nine pieces a day, and they didn’t realize how many they ate. But when the candy was kept in their desk drawers, they ate about six pieces per day. And when they had to get up from their desks to reach the candy 6 feet away, they only ate four pieces.
    Other studies have found when a greater quantity of food is around people consume 25 percent to 50 percent more than when faced with a smaller amount – especially when eating snacks and sweets.
    Hence, the mountains of treats available within view in December creates the perfect storm for holiday weight gain. More alarming, new research finds excess sugar in the American diet increases the risk of cancer and heart disease.
    Rather than putting a negative Scrooge-spin on this idea, instead think of it as an opportunity for improvement. A creative mind and a trend-setting attitude is all you need to find non-food gift options. Get children involved to show them that expressing love, kindness, gratitude and the like with a gift does not have to involve comfort food.
    Unsweetened gift ideas for the holidays:
    Inspirational note pads or sticky notes.
    Ornaments.
    Exotic teas or coffee.
    Pens, highlighters and Sharpies in a holiday mug.
    A plant or indoor herbs in a reusable grocery bag.
    Colorful erasers or stickers in a pretty jar.
    Nail polish, lip gloss, ChapStick and hair elastics.
    Gum and mints.
    A hand-made card with a donation to a food bank.
    Joan Endyke is a registered dietitian with a master's degree in food and nutrition. Send your questions to her at www.wickedgoodhealth.com. This column is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. Check with your doctor before changing your diet.
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