Holiday eating: Separating myth from fact

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Well, the holidays are soon upon us, and food is such an integral part of our celebrations. The problem can be twofold for many folks, because not only is there usually more food available, much of holiday fare is higher in fats and sugars.

Today, 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.

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According to a New England Journal of Medicine study, most don’t gain more than about one pound.

Myth #2. Sugar makes children hyperactive.

While it is true I don’t recommend children have excess sugar any time of the year, and some children can be very “sugar sensitive,” eating sugar doesn’t usually make them 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 eating is your body telling you to rest so it 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 all 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, not necessarily whole grains.

Myth #6. Pasta dishes make you fat.

Pasta is mainly carbohydrate, but it’s extra calories that make many folks fat, whether from proteins, fats, or carbohydrates.

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 make folks overeat, but rather the company they’re with. One study found those who ate in a group consumed 44 percent more calories than those who dined alone. One reason for this is at parties and gatherings, you’re interacting and get distracted, and don’t keep track of what you eat.

Myth #8. If you’re trying to lose weight, stay away from holiday carbohydrates.

It’s true that it’s easy to take in many calories with 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 will skimp on the potatoes, but mound their plates 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 Upstate baseball team, the S.C. state champion girls 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.