The Livewell Clinic - December 2018



13375 University Avenue, Suite 100, Clive, IA 50325||515.279.9900

The holiday season is in full swing, and that means we’re all gearing up for classicMidwestern celebrations. You know the kind. Mayonnaise-based salads and side dishes line the kitchen counter, as a thick turkey or ham caked in glaze bakes at 375 degrees. Dozens of different cheeses, little appetizer crackers, and endless dips also based onmayonnaise or cream cheese are scattered along the snacks table, while delectable, hyper-sweetened whipped cream salads, pies, bars, and treats fill mismatched Tupperware containers. I’mno stranger to these celebrations and the temptations they stir up. This was—and still is—a common scene at my own old-school Lutheran family events. My momwas famous for her shortbread cookies, keeping sheet pans of them in the basement freezer every holiday season. When I lived in the basement, I ate more thanmy fair share of cookies outside of the gatherings. I was the guy who used to drink packs of MountainDew and maintained an almost pro -carb diet. What I didn’t realize growing up was that I was harboring a craving for an addictive substance: sugar. In an oft-cited study on the effects of sugar intake, scientists studied mice to better understand how the brain reacts when sugar is introduced to the body. When different groups of the mice were compared, the brains of the mice that were given sugar lit up the same way as the brains of those that had been given cocaine. When sugar was taken away and the mice were locked down, they would gnaw off their own legs to get at the sugar. A Sweet HOLIDAY


cookies. Instead, I actually enjoy the healthy snacks and foods I’ve committed to having inmy diet.

It is possible to avoid sugar at these family gatherings, and it’s okay to bring your own food to a holiday celebration. My wife and I are known for bringing a cooler with some healthier food for our children to enjoy, and we often bring a side dish or dessert to share with the group. It’s an option that isn’t filled with sugar or mayonnaise—and it still tastes great. There are easy and healthy ways to enjoy a sweet treat, not give in to temptation, and create a lifestyle without a high-sugar intake. For example, enjoy an after-dinner dessert by whipping up coconut fat and dolloping it onto blackberries. Make your own frosting, or use gluten-free flours in your baking. Choose simpler ingredients, and be mindful of your portions. By committing to a lifestyle change, you can create healthier food traditions with your family and still enjoy a sweet treat around the holidays. Besides, the holidays don’t have anything to do with the food you eat, the cookies you bring, or the hearty potlucks that fill homes across theMidwest. It’s all about the family and friends you choose to celebrate with.

While we’re not mice, and I’d like to think we wouldn’t chew off a limb for a donut, sugar has a more powerful grip on us than we realize.

But in the years that I’ve cut down onmy sugar intake and chosen healthier sweet options, I’ve found that my body doesn’t craveMountainDew or

That’s what makes the season sweet.

317-776-9942 515.279.9 00 –Dr. Z a c Watki ns


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