The best holiday food to hamper holiday weight gain

It’s easy to overeat during the holiday season. And it’s even easier to overindulge in the worst foods — rich, starchy, sugary dishes that contribute to seasonal weight gain.

But there’s one holiday dish that can help you burn off those extra calories — candied nuts.

I know what you’re thinking… “Don’t those contain a ton of sugar? How’s that going to help me burn calories?”

Well, you can easily make candied nuts that are low in sugar — or even sugar-free — by tweaking the recipe a bit.

And it’s worth a try because this seasonal snack contains two powerful metabolism boosters (cinnamon and walnuts) that can help you counteract the less healthy holiday foods you’ll be tempted to munch on.

I’ll share a healthy, metabolism-boosting candied nut recipe with you in a minute. But first, let me explain why this dish is so helpful during the holidays…

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Cinnamon and walnuts: The perfect pair

In case you haven’t heard, cinnamon is a super healthy spice. It can improve circulation, ease inflammation and relieve pain, among other things. But recent research suggests cinnamon’s biggest benefit may be related to metabolic health.

Several studies have confirmed that cinnamon has a powerful impact on blood sugar and insulin resistance.  Now, that’s great news for people dealing with diabetes and prediabetes. But it’s also helpful if you’re eating poorly for a short period of time — like during the holidays.

Foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients (like holiday cookies, casseroles and dips) have a rapid effect on blood sugar and insulin levels. And that’s part of the reason they’re tied to weight gain. So any food that counteracts blood sugar spikes and insulin resistance is a food you want around during the season of overindulgence.

But cinnamon’s metabolism benefits go beyond managing your blood sugar and insulin levels. Cinnamon also helps your body to burn more fat quicker…

A recent study from the University of Michigan found that a compound in cinnamon called cinnamaldehyde triggers genes that boost fat metabolism in your body. It also encourages thermogenesis, a process where your body burns energy (i.e. calories) to create heat.

So cinnamon is good for you. It can help keep your blood sugar stable, ward off insulin resistance and help you burn more calories. Now on to walnuts…

Walnuts have several benefits that can help keep your weight and health in control this holiday season. Studies in mice show that the omega-3s in walnuts can counteract the effects of an unhealthy diet by boosting metabolism, improving blood sugar and fighting inflammation.

And studies in people show that walnuts make you feel fuller and prevent unhealthy food cravings. So not only will walnuts help you burn calories quicker, they may prevent you from overeating in the first place!

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Candied nuts can save you from bad food choices

Ready to check out a candied nuts recipe that can protect you from those unhealthy food choices this holiday season?

It’s pretty simple. And there are a lot of approaches you can take. Easy Health Options’ own Kelley Martin recommends throwing walnuts, almonds, pecans and cinnamon into the crockpot with the sweetener found to support heart health — honey. Check out her recipe here.

You could also try making your nuts over the stovetop with butter (or coconut oil), vanilla, cinnamon, salt and a healthy, low-glycemic sweetener like monk fruit or stevia. Here’s a recipe if you want to take that approach. However when using stevia, look for 100 percent pure with no filler, particularly avoiding erythritol.

You could even opt for no sweetener at all and bake your nuts in the oven. This sugar-free cinnamon-roasted almond recipe calls for egg, cinnamon, water, nutmeg, salt and almonds… but you can easily swap in walnuts if you prefer. Of course, almonds have some dang impressive metabolism and weight loss benefits in their own right!

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  1. Why Cinnamon Is Insanely Good for YouTime. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  2. Mollazadeh and H. Hosseinzadeh. “Cinnamon effects on metabolic syndrome: a review based on its mechanisms.” — Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences. Dec. 2016; 19(12): 1258–1270.
  3. Junk food and diabetes: Recommendations and tips for eating out — Medical News Today. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  4. Cinnamon turns up the heat on fat cells — MedicalXpress. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  5. Jiang, et al. “Cinnamaldehyde induces fat cell-autonomous thermogenesis and metabolic reprogramming.” — Metabolism, 2017.
  6. In a Nutshell: Walnuts Activate Brain Region Involved in Appetite Control — Beth Israel Deaconess. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  7. Walnuts a key food to improve metabolism in obese mice — Oregon State University Extension Service. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and