Americans Feel 'Food Guilt' Over the Holidays, But Can't Resist the Cookies and Candy, Survey Says

The holiday season is an opportunity for many to share delicious dishes and drinks with loved ones, but for some, the decadence can prove stressful.

A study of 2,000 Americans found nearly half (47 percent) said that knowing they’ll be tempted by the unhealthy food on offer at family gatherings makes them anxious about these events.

Moreover, 48 percent said the temptation of unhealthy foods is a bigger stressor for them than family dynamics or gift-giving.

Conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by Premier Protein for the launch of their new Cinnamon Roll protein shake, the survey also looked at the foods respondents said were their biggest temptations this time of year.

While the temptations of festive flavors come in many forms, a few categories proved particularly enticing.

When it comes to what they feel most guilty about consuming during the holidays, desserts (23 percent) and specialty seasonal food and beverages (14 percent) topped the list.

Among desserts, pumpkin pie (16 percent), apple pie (15 percent), sugar cookies (14 percent), cinnamon rolls (14 percent) and cherry pie (10 percent) were the top five.

Tempting indulgent drinks included hot chocolate (18 percent) and eggnog (18 percent).

When it came to seasonal flavors, chocolate, pumpkin, cinnamon, and peppermint were among those that respondents called most tempting.

And while seven in 10 agreed it wouldn’t be the most wonderful time of the year without eating some unhealthy foods, 41 percent said the holidays, and the food that comes with them, set them back in their health and wellness goals.

That’s all before considering the ways in which the 2020 holidays are likely to be different than past years.

Navigating the temptation of “season’s eatings” might prove more challenging in 2020, with 53 percent saying that after the particularly stressful year they’ve had due to COVID-19, they feel less motivated to make the healthy choices they usually would at family gatherings.

And respondents may also be cooking up new solutions to the challenges of making healthy choices.

Reduced-guilt variations of holiday favorites are likely on the horizon, though, as four in 10 agreed they would be open to healthier versions of classic seasonal dishes.

Nearly six in 10 agreed that around the holidays, they often get so busy between shopping, family gatherings, and other events that they just reach for whatever’s around when hungry.

Cookies (24 percent), candy (17 percent), and leftovers (17 percent) were among the top items respondents were most likely to grab while on-the-go during the holiday season.

Yet 73 percent said, this year more than ever, it’s important to be properly fueled and well-rested in order to avoid getting sick.

The survey also revealed the memories that respondents associated with classic holiday foods are likely a contributing factor to how difficult they are to resist this time of year.

The smell of turkey cooking all day on Thanksgiving (32 percent), making holiday cookies with friends or family (22 percent) and waking up to the smell of cinnamon rolls on Christmas or Thanksgiving morning (16 percent) were among the most common festive food-related memories.

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