There are many things I love about the holiday season: the lights, cheer, traditions, time with family and friends, just to name a few. At the same time, there is one thing I dread: baked goods and sweet treats seem to be everywhere, and avoiding them takes significant planning and effort!
I have many friends who enjoy baking, either as a tradition during the holiday season or as a hobby throughout the year. Most of these individuals will tell you that they like to give away the treats they make because they don’t want to keep them in the house. This statement leads me to wonder, if bakers themselves don’t want to be tempted by baked goods in their homes, what leads them to think that others will appreciate the temptation if given these items as a gift?
A report published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the average American adult gains about a pound between mid-November and early January each year. Although a pound might not seem like a big deal, those pounds add up when they’re not burned off in the spring, summer and fall months, which is the case for many Americans. A study published in the same journal concluded that at least half the weight gained during the holiday season remains into the summer months and beyond. With this information in mind, giving baked goods to people who are trying to watch their weight, cut back on sugar consumption, count calories or generally make more healthful food choices is hardly a gift. Presenting well-intentioned people with tempting sweet treats can sabotage even the best of efforts!
If you like to bake during the holiday season, consider trying an alternative hobby or starting a new tradition that supports health. If you are a regular recipient of holiday baked goods, don’t be afraid to suggest the following ideas to the bakers in your life:
- Make and exchange ornaments, small gifts or hand-written cards in place of cookies and candies
- Create fruit santas (such as those pictured above) or other holiday fruit treats instead of baked goods
- Give fruit baskets as gifts in place of cookie trays, cakes and pies
- Play board or card games with children when you would typically spend time baking together
- Take a family trip to a park, museum, theater production or holiday lights display
- In the workplace, suggest a “no dumping” policy to discourage coworkers from bringing cakes, cookies or other desserts from home. Bring healthy snacks and pack healthy lunches throughout the holiday season so you’ll be less tempted to fill up on sweet treats that you do encounter.
- Write thank you letters to firemen, policemen and members of the armed forces to express your gratitude for their service instead of donating baked goods.
What will you do this year to make your holiday season healthier? Share a comment with your plans!
Author: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviewer: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, email@example.com
Chieh, Helander & Wansink (2016). Weight Gain over the Holidays in Three Countries. New England Journal of Medicine; 375:1200-1202. Available at http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1602012.
Yanovski et al. (2000). A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain. New England Journal of Medicine; 342: 861-867. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4336296/.