10 Ways to Cut Back on Sugar During the Holidays

The holiday season is busy, joyful, and full of time with your loved ones—but it can also be laden with stress, especially if you’re trying to focus on your health and nutrition. The good news is there are tips and tricks that can help you decrease your sugar intake while still enjoying dinners, holiday parties, and sweet treats. Read our helpful guide to learn more about cutting back on sugar during the holidays.




1. Share Your Goals with Loved Ones

Inform your loved ones of your health goals and plans to cut back on sugar. If your friends and family are aware that you’re trying to be mindful of what you eat, they will be able to support you instead of offering a second (or third!) helping of dessert.


2. Choose the Right Beverages

Apple cider, eggnog, and your relative’s famous punch are delicious, but they also tend to be filled with sugar. That doesn’t mean you can’t indulge—just seek out low- or sugar-free versions of your favorite beverages.


A bar graph comparing the amount of sugar in a glass of unsweet tea (0 grams) versus sweet tea (25 grams).

3. Understand How to Read Nutrition Labels

Your food’s nutrition label tells you many important details, including the serving size and how much sugar a serving contains. You can compare that number with your own daily sugar limit. In general, it’s recommended that men consume no more than 36 grams of sugar per day. For women, that recommendation is lower: 25 grams.

In addition to looking at the nutrition label, pay close attention to the ingredients. A general rule of thumb is that fewer ingredients indicate a food choice that is better for you. The longer that list gets, the more likely the product is to contain processed and unnecessary ingredients, like added sugars.


4. Look Out for Hidden and Added Sugars

Keep in mind that not all sugar is bad sugar. For most people, natural sugars, like those found in fruit, aren’t bad at all. Labels indicating "added sugar” indicate that more sugar has been put in during the production process. Cereal, syrup, and juice are known for having high amounts of added sugar.


A bar graph comparing the amount of sugar in an apple (19 grams) versus a candy bar (20 grams), and explaining that natural sugars are better than added sugars

5. Allow for Little Indulgences

It's important to maintain a balance between cutting back on sugar and still allowing for small indulgences. Feel free to have a slice of pumpkin pie while enjoying time with your family! If you continue to eat a balanced diet otherwise, the occasional treat won’t hurt.


6. Plan Ahead

Holiday travel can make it difficult to limit your sugar intake. With fast food available on every stretch of the highway, it’s all too easy to choose convenience over wellness. By planning your meals on travel days, you can avoid high-sugar and high-fat options.

You can also bring healthier snack options, like dark chocolate and almonds, when visiting family or friends. Even if you find yourself surrounded by baked goods and other desserts, you’ll always have a sweet—yet not as sugary—option on hand.


A bar graph comparing the amount of sugar in dark chocolate (8 grams) versus milk chocolate (25 grams)

7. Be Mindful of When You Eat

The holidays can be stressful, and the change in routine can make it difficult to stay on track with your health goals. To keep from overindulging in sugary treats, be mindful of when you’re craving sugar and why. Are you feeling bored? Thirsty? Or hungry for something more nutritious? Identifying the cause of your sugar craving may help to curb it.


8. Look for Ingredient Swaps When Baking

If you’re someone who does a lot of baking, particularly around the holidays, don’t get discouraged by your health goals. There are plenty of ways to enjoy baking while still being mindful of sugar consumption.

Consider these ingredient swaps:

  • Raw honey instead of sugar
  • Oat or whole-wheat flour instead of white flour
  • Unsweetened applesauce instead of butter



This image details easy swaps you can make when baking if you want to cut back on sugar: artificial sweetener instead of sugar; oat or whole wheat flour instead of white flour; and unsweetened applesauce instead of butter

9. Engage in Plenty of Physical Activity

Even the most health-conscious people are likely to eat more than usual during the holidays. By staying active and getting at least 30 minutes of low-impact exercise each day, you can help offset the extra sugar you consume.


10. Turn Your Holiday Goals into Lifelong Habits

The holiday season spans nearly three months. If you’re trying to cut back on sugar at this time, why not establish some lifelong habits along the way? Focusing on your sugar intake during the holidays is the perfect opportunity to instill habits that you can continue even after the holidays are long gone.


It is easier than you might think to enjoy the holidays while also staying true to your wellness goals. All it takes is a bit of planning, awareness, and leaning on your support system.


If you’re still concerned about health during the holidays, chat with your physician. They can help you approach the holidays with confidence and a plan.



Content contained on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Consult your health care provider before beginning any new fitness or dietary plan. References provided are for informational purposes only and do not constitute endorsement of any websites or other sources. Should you have any health-related questions, you should contact your health care provider.






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