Careful what you nosh on at your next holiday party! Turns out, the season is rife with foods and drinks that trigger our instinct to all-out binge.
Consider a delightfully festive caramel sea salt hot chocolate. It's sweet, creamy and just the right amount of salty—a flavour combo that we don't tire of, and so we keep drinking.
It's these powerful flavour combinations of fatty-salty-sweet (or fatty-salty or fatty-sweet) present in many holiday treats that make them addictive—in fact, it's encoded in our DNA to eat as much of these foods as we can. That's because back in the day of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, eating these rare high-cal gems was key to obtaining adequate nutrition (i.e. not starving) and thus, released dopamine in our brains, producing feelings of pleasure that encouraged us to "eat that again!"
But now—and especially this month—sugary, salty, and fatty food combos aren't scarce, and we don't need them for survival. They just make our pants tight. But awareness is power! Here, we've compiled the holiday offenders most likely to trigger a binge, so you can either avoid them at all costs or make a point to indulge mindfully.
Spinach artichoke dip
Creamy, dreamy and downright dangerous, a mere half-cup of this deliciously dip—so, like, four chips worth—contains over 1,250kJs and 20 g of fat. Stick to the guac, salsa and hummus if you know what's good for you!
Mini quiches, pigs in a blanket and spanakopita bites
So cute and harmless, right? Nope! While you may be tempted by the convenience of these often ultraprocessed party apps, that makes them even easier to overeat. And because nearly all of them contain refined white flour, loads of butter and cheese, you could be downing a meal's worth of kilojoules (there are about 1,670kJs in three mini quiches) over the course of just a few minutes. Instead, try these 8 DIY holiday appetizers you can make with 3 ingredients or less.
How is it that every year a giant tin of this stuff ends up in your office? These little gems of deliciousness contain copious amounts of sugar and butter, and are way too easy to keep popping. In fact, some brands pack as much as 30 g of sugar into 2 measly cups and list brown sugar before popcorn in the ingredients list.
Maple sea salt walnuts? Honey cayenne almonds? Much like caramel popcorn, it's way too easy to keep grabbing handfuls of these little flavour bombs. And while yes, nuts can be healthy, they lose pretty much all of their superfood potential when coated in sugar, butter and chocolate. Stick to plain roasted nuts for a less addictive crunch.
Baked brie with honey
To make this holiday appetiser, brie is first doused in honey, then wrapped in puff pastry, then baked to gooey perfection—and that makes even the most devout clean eaters go weak in the knees. If you're going to cheese it up, we recommend sticking to good ol' cheddar and apple slices for a less intense (and thus less addicting) sweet and savoury hit.
Caramel sea salt hot chocolate
Like we mentioned above, once you sip this stuff you just can't stop. Salt actually enhances this winter drink's sweetness, making it hyper-palatable. But with 1,590kJs and 50 g of sugar (more than the recommended daily limit) in a 375mL cup, you'll do yourself some serious harm if you make this a habit. Instead, grab a latte to help power through that last-minute holiday shopping.
If having a glass or two of eggnog seems like a healthier choice than pigs in a blanket and pumpkin pie, think again. Just a cup of this fatty-sweet combo packs 1,500kJs, 10 g of saturated fat, and 42 g of sugar (more than a can of Coke!)—and that's before you even add the rum. To indulge smarter, pour yourself just a shot glass worth of nog and sip slowly, or stick to straight booze.
Ugh, might as well call it crack pie. Sure, pecans are healthy, but when they're coated in corn syrup and butter, and sitting atop a crust made of refined white flour and even more butter, it's hard to limit yourself to the small sliver you set out to consume. And get this, just one slice will set you back 2,000kJs.
First published: 16 Dec 2018