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The nutritional cost of Christmas traditions

When it comes to food, very often it's hard to estimate how much energy, or in fact, how many different...

Holiday season is the season of indulgence and enjoyment of food. Indeed, many of us find it hard to imagine a Christmas without gingerbread, chocolate, candy canes and mulled wine. As much as we love to treat ourselves, we also believe that being mindful of what one consumes during the holiday season is of great importance. You might think – but it's just once a year and just over the holidays, so I might just go all in and not worry about what I put in my mouth. Let's look at the facts and see how innocent this holiday indulgence is. 

  • How many calories do you add to your daily intake? 

In one of our previous blog posts, we covered the topic of energy balance. As a quick recap: If you consume more energy than you expend, this energy will be stored in your body (mostly as fat). Let's take an advent calendar as a practical example – during the month of December, an advent calendar adds a small (typically sweet) snack to your daily diet. We recently tallied up the contents of our own advent calendar and realized that this small habit will lead us to consume an extra 8015 kcal! Translated into other terms, this amount of calories is equal to the energy stored in 0.9 kg of fat, which is enough to take our body through 3 full marathons. No wonder most of us register a few extra kilos after the holidays. What can be done about this? Be mindful of your food choices – if you decide to enjoy the treat, maybe account for the carbs in your regular meals or have an additional walk after dinner. 

  • Don't judge a food by “its cover” – know what's inside. 

When it comes to food, very often it's hard to estimate how much energy, or in fact, how many different nutrients are in it. Here we provide a quick comparison of food items and their caloric value. Sweets and snacks tend to be energy dense. In other words, a small amount contains a lot of calories. So, half a chocolate bar is as energy dense as a whole meal with rice, veggies and chicken. So, size alone is not a good reference – check the nutritional value of your snacks and sweets. 

  • Calories do matter, but they are not the whole story. 

Calories are the one thing to keep in mind, but our body isn't only looking for calories, it is also looking for minerals, vitamins and other nutrients. Put simply, a pack of gummies might be low in calories, but does not contribute anything valuable to your body. The so-called “empty calories” do not nourish your cells. As a result, your body will soon start feeling hungry. There is nothing wrong with treating yourself, but make sure to balance the treats with foods that do provide enough vitamins and minerals to keep your body healthy and satisfied. 

Here's our call to action: Enjoy your holidays and be mindful about your choices. All or nothing isn't the best option here; Rather, opt for balance. It's now a cultural cliché to bookend the holiday season with healthy resolutions and weight-loss programs, which we install to get back on track. But, if we never fall off the healthy track and only make some small detours, we may just succeed at striking the balance between our health, enjoyment and peace of mind. 

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