Low-Sugar Festive Menu Inspiration
It’s that time of year again! While the festive season brings holiday cheer and gift-giving galore, it also brings something else: overindulgence in some of the sweetest and most luxurious foods. One of the best things about Christmas is getting together with loved ones and sharing in the delicious festivities – but the meal you feast upon at Christmas is one that you generally wouldn’t indulge in at any other time of the year.
What many people look forward to most at this time of year are the sweet and scrumptious desserts and side dishes that often get snapped up before anyone has the time to go back for seconds. But how does all this food affect your immunity? Can overindulging in sugar during the holidays be bad for your immune health? Read on to find out.
How does sugar disrupt immunity?
The immune system, although complex and intricate in nature, can be quite fickle in the sense that it can be set off easily. When you chow down on all the delicious offerings at your holiday table, that sugar and carbohydrate overload turns into glucose in your blood. When you indulge a little too much, your blood sugar spikes and your immune system becomes suppressed.
Research shows that an overabundance of sugar can essentially put white blood cells, which are immune cells designed to fight off infection, in a little coma – and unconscious white blood cells means a severely disadvantaged immune system. While one little piece of fruitcake or a couple of sugar cookies aren’t going to hit you that hard, chances are you’ll be consuming these kinds of things frequently throughout the holiday season.
The good news is that you can still enjoy a Christmas feast without having to disable your white blood cells from being able to react to pathogens! There are tons of low-sugar Christmas recipes bound to taste great without all the negative health effects.
Clean eating Christmas dinner
Let’s start with the main course. There are several side dishes that can up the sugar in your bloodstream without you even realizing – for example, sweet potato casserole. Sweet potatoes have quite a bit of sugar themselves, and yet most recipes call for an additional cup of added sugar (not to mention the marshmallow topping favored by many!). Why not try a no-sugar-added casserole instead? Instead of extra sugar, you can break out the spices and sweeten up your dish with cinnamon, ginger, vanilla extract, and dried fruit.
During Christmas dinner, you’ll also want to make sure that you have some greens on the table. A salad full of leafy green vegetables and a simple homemade olive oil dressing may not steal the show, but it will give you some much-needed nutrients and roughage to go along with all the other richness. You could try sautéing some kale, spinach, and broccoli with a little garlic for a smart dish that is good for you and your body’s sugar levels.
Last but not least, the cranberry sauce that everyone loves is also typically full of added sugar. Instead of making the sauce you make every year (no matter how delicious it is!), you could try a no-sugar-added cranberry sauce that is made of four simple ingredients: apple cider, pitted dates, fresh or frozen cranberries, and vanilla extract. Your guests will still love the tart sweetness of the sauce and they’ll be none the wiser that you’re looking out for their health.
Healthy holiday snacks
Instead of reaching for the typical cookies and chocolates this year, why not make a snack that is good for your tastebuds and your blood sugar levels? Things such as a holiday-themed charcuterie board are bound to be a smash while your guests wait for the main event, and you can make it a delicious spread that it’s filled with sugar-free decadence.
You can still have some sweetness on the board, of course – try using foods with naturally occurring sugars like grapes and pomegranates. Having a small selection of fruit surrounded by a heaping pile of deliciously cured meats and aged cheeses is a great way to avoid any next-day guilt or sugar high crashes.
Low-sugar holiday desserts
One of the most anticipated parts of Christmas dinner is the dessert, but it really does seal the deal on the overabundance of sugar during your holiday feast. To ensure that all your hard work making a clean Christmas dinner doesn’t go to waste, you’ll want to keep it going with low-sugar holiday desserts.
A typical sweet treat like apple pie is generally full of sugar – but you can cut down by choosing naturally sweet apples and removing the added sugar completely. Using cinnamon and small amount of a natural sugar such as honey or maple syrup can help to regulate sugar levels while still keeping that sweet and delicious holiday taste.
While it might be tempting to throw caution to the wind and stick with a sugar-filled feast, it’s important to be aware of what this may be doing to your body. And when there are so many ways to eat clean during the holidays and still enjoy extra treats, you really don’t have to give up your holiday indulgence altogether! Simply tweak your recipes slightly and you’ll have an immune-happy meal plan ready to be devoured.