Myths vs. truths with holiday eating

Published 9:54 pm Thursday, December 17, 2015

By Dave Crocker

Well, Christmas is soon upon us, and food is such a huge part of the celebration. The problem can be two fold for many folks though, because not only is there usually more food available, much of holiday fare is higher in fats and sugars. 


This week I’d like to explain away some holiday eating myths.


Myth #1: Most people gain five to seven pounds in the six week span between Thanksgiving and Christmas. According to a New England Journal of Medicine study, most folks don’t gain more than about a pound.


Myth #2: Sugar makes children hyperactive. While it’s true I don’t recommend children have excess sugar any time of year, and some children are very “sugar sensitive,” eating sugar doesn’t make most hyperactive. In fact, one study found that when parents rated their children’s behavior as hyperactive, due to what they thought was a sugary drink, the drink was indeed sugar free. In many cases, children’s increased activity level during the holidays is due to excitement and joy.


Myth #3: Eating turkey will make you sleepy. It’s unlikely eating turkey will have much of a sedative affect. Turkey does contain the essential amino acid L-tryptophan which can induce sleep, but research shows tryptophan needs to be taken on an empty stomach to induce sleep. Now, granted, we’ve all headed for the sofa after a long, large meal, but the reason for sleepiness after a meal, is your body telling you to rest so you can digest all that food.


Myth #4: If using healthful fats like olive oil in holiday cooking, it’s okay to eat all you want. It is true we benefit from heart healthy fats in olive oil, but it, like most oils, contains 100-120 calories per tablespoon.


Myth #5: Serving multigrain rolls is always healthful. The word “multigrain” simply means there are several grains, which could include refined grains (which have been robbed of nutrients), not necessarily whole grains.


Myth #6: Pasta dishes make you fat. Pasta is mainly carbohydrate, but it’s extra calories that make folks fat, whether from proteins, fats, or carbohydrates. By the way, carbohydrates have four calories per gram, proteins four calories per gram, and fats nine calories per gram.


Myth #7: Attending holiday parties puts a strain on our willpower, and makes us overeat. The truth is, all that available food at parties doesn’t usually make us overindulge, but rather the company we’re with. One study found those who ate in a group consumed 44 percent more calories than those who dined alone.


Myth #8: If you’re trying to lose weight, stay away from holiday carbohydrates. It’s true that it is easy to take in many calories from carb-rich foods like potatoes, breads, and dressings, but remember, you must have carbohydrates for energy. Have small amounts of these carbohydrates, but eat more whole grains, brown rice, and beans. Also, don’t fall into the “protein trap.” During holiday meals, some folks will skimp on the potatoes, but mound their plate with turkey in an attempt to cut calories. Remember, protein and carbohydrates have the same number of calories per gram (four), while fat has nine calories per gram.


Diet or exercise question? Email me at David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 29 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC Spartanburg baseball team, S.C. state champion girl’s gymnastic team, and the Converse College equestrian team. He served as a water safety instructor to the United States Marine Corps, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency, and taught for four semesters at USC Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.