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Extra, extra, read all about it! If you read the labels, sugar is everywhere and the scary side of these sweet treats are currently haunting most households. From the moment costumes and candy hit the shelves (sadly, it seems like it was in August this year!), our children start gobbling more than turkeys! Though Halloween starts the seamlessly endless holiday season of parties and treats that are filled with sugar, sugar and more sugar, it continues through Valentine’s Day or even Easter! Unfortunately, even healthier foods have more sugar than we think and it’s becoming harder to detect since sugar can go by as many as 57 different names!

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So, what should we do? It’s impossible (or at least it is for me and my family) to completely swear off parties and treats. We love the holiday season and all the sweet treats that go along with it. I wait all year to get my Reese’s fix at Halloween, eat my share of homemade buckeyes, holiday cookies, apples pie and even Valentine’s Day sweets. But in years to come, we won’t love the added pounds and health issues that come with the often overlooked and not so innocent overindulgence. Sadly, adults are no longer the only ones that gain extra holiday pounds and are at risk. Kids are at risk to gain now as well. So instead of being a complete downer, when possible, I try to educate the family to make healthy choices more often so they can indulge and enjoy — just not so often.

Here are a few tips and tricks we use to keep the scary effects of sugar to a sweet minimum.

>> Read more: Here’s How Sugar Can Lead to Cancer Growth

1. Educate: Talk to your family about what they’re eating. Read and discuss nutrition labels together and select foods together to encourage and support healthy choices. What appears healthy may not be as many marketed health foods are often packed with additives, preservatives and added sugar. According to a recent article in Parents, even a homemade packed school lunch can sneak in too much sugar. For example, consider a peanut butter and jelly on whole-wheat bread, a cup of applesauce and fruit punch. Although this lunch has, as Parents says, “protein-rich peanut butter, fruit, fiber-filled bread” it contains “a whopping 76 grams of sugar. That’s 16 teaspoons of sugar — even more than what’s in… four Twinkies. ”  Even the very popular health fad food Greek yogurt can contain more sugar than an ice cream bar. In fact, companies like Fage and Chobani have faced legal issues due to sugar content – some containing 15 grams of sugar – in one little container.

But it’s okay. Grams are tiny, right? WRONG! Let’s take a look at just how big grams really are. The American Heart Association suggests limiting sugar to the following:  

  • Adult men should limit sugar to 9 teaspoons or 37.5 grams
  • Adult females 6 teaspoons or 25 grams
  • Children (depending on age) 3-4 teaspoons or 12 grams

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If you recall, that little cup of yogurt already had 15 grams. That’s more than your child should consume all day! Perhaps those little grams of sugar are more significant than we originally thought because they add up, and they add up quick!

>> Read more: Dietary Guidelines Restrict Sugar

2. Eliminate and exchange: Since sugar adds up quickly and our bodies can only process a small amount per day, it’s important to eliminate added sugar wherever and whenever possible. Although eliminating sugar seems like an impossible feat, start slow. Try to start reducing sugar at one meal per day to wean your family off their unknown sugar addiction gently. Once everyone has adjusted to breakfast, continue to lunch, etc.  

Try to reduce and control sugar where possible. For example, exchange high sugar processed foods for whole foods. Think simple and when in doubt go with plain. Why does all our food have to be sweet anyway? Swap peanut butter for nuts. Swap fruit-flavored yogurt to plain yogurt flavored with real, whole fruit, such as strawberries or blueberries. Lose the sweetened and flavored milks. Just stick with plain. Get rid of those sugar loaded oatmeal packs and go with plain oatmeal and stir in some frozen blueberries. Exchange apple sauce for an apple. Keep in mind that although fruit is a good option, it’s also loaded with sugar, so eat them mindfully.

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3. Enjoy: There’s nothing more shocking than sugar shock, so a slow sugar detox is likely going to be more successful and easier on everyone. At this time of year, going cold turkey might leave your holidays a little too bland. But if sugar is controlled during the majority of eating (try for the 80/20 rule), it’s okay to splurge at events, parties, and even the occasional PB&J packed lunch. Any reduction you implement is better than nothing and the most surprising thing is that the more sugar reduction there is, sweets will eventually start to taste too sweet.

Most important, the holidays are about family and the people we love will fill your heart with all the sweetness needed because they give us sweet treats in the form of moments and memories, not sugary food. Swap that cookie for a sweet hug! 

>> Read more: Sugar-Free Challenge