Surviving the Holidays in Bedford

Christmas cookies

Christmas cookies

Just because I’m a Bedford dentist doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a good holiday snack. However, what might start as a single innocent holiday truffle can all too easily cascade into a sugary downward spiral that would leave Willy Wonka wincing.

Consuming excessive sugar during the holidays isn’t the best idea if we are trying to live healthy. Moderate amounts are ok, but during the holidays, most of us consume an extra 500 calories a day from sugar alone! Whoa.

While for years it was dietary fat that was demonized, more research is pointing to sugar as the big baddie. Excess sugar is linked to an array of cardiovascular risks and obesity, but it’s also pretty tough on teeth.

Sugars in our holiday food and drinks can play a major role in tooth decay. Bacteria in the mouth feeds on the sugars left hanging around after eating, creating an acidic byproduct that destroys tooth enamel. Cavities are a bacterial infection created by acids wearing a hole into the tooth’s surface. The areas between your teeth are the most susceptible, being hard to reach with a brush.

Cavity prevention, then, is about reducing sugar intake and keeping teeth clean. How do you navigate the potential holiday havoc without being a Scrooge?

Brush Your Teeth

You’re primarily in the danger zone when you allow sugar to stay in contact with your teeth. If (or when) you do consume anything with significant amounts of sugar, the impact to your teeth can be mitigated by immediately brushing afterwards. It’s also prudent to keep dental flossers somewhere convenient when you’re on the go, such as in your car, purse, or desk at work.

Drink Water

As hard as it is to avoid sugar in our Christmas treats, it’s even harder to avoid them in our Christmas drinks. Drinking water between meals isn’t just good for you, it will help you stay satiated. Many people mistake thirst for food cravings, particularly when there are tasty snacks about.

Try Healthy Sweets

If that sweet tooth is controlling your life, opt for some naturally-sweet foods that will be less harmful, or even beneficial, to your teeth. Dried fruits like raisins can be good for you, as well as cheese, apples, or oranges.

Healthy, Low-Sugar Alternatives

These are some of my favorite versions of traditional holiday snacks, using alternative recipes to make them better for your body and your oral health.

Gingerbread Cookies

Makes: 36 servings
Carb Grams Per Serving: 12

Ingredients

¼ cup butter, softened
¼ cup 50% to 70% vegetable oil spread
½ cup packed brown sugar*
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ cup full-flavor molasses
¼ cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed, or 1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour

Directions

  • In a large bowl, combine butter and vegetable oil spread; beat with an electric mixer on medium-to-high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and cloves. Beat until well mixed, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in molasses and egg. (Mixture will look curdled.) Add all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour, beating just until combined. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill the dough for 2 to 3 hours or until easy to handle.

 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper; set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough, half at a time, to ⅛-inch thickness. Using a 2- to 3-inch gingerbread person cookie cutter, cut out shapes; reroll scraps as necessary. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets.

 

  • Bake for 4 to 6 minutes or until edges are firm and centers are set. Cool on cookie sheets on wire racks for 1 minute. Transfer to wire racks; cool. Makes 36 (3-inch) cookies.

Almond Cream Cutouts

Makes: 48 servings
Serving Size: 1 cookie
Carb Grams Per Serving: 7

Ingredients

½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
1 eight-ounce can almond paste
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed, or 1 egg
2½ cups flour

Directions

  • In a large mixing bowl beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add almond paste, baking powder, and salt; beat until well combined. Beat in egg. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours or until easy to handle.

 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough, half at a time, to ⅛-inch thickness. Using a 2½-inch cookie cutter, cut into desired shapes. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets. Reroll scraps as necessary. If desired, decorate unbaked cookies with sugar sprinkles or egg white “paint” before baking.

 

  • Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are firm and just starting to brown. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. If desired, decorate plain, cooled, baked cookies with piped chocolate. Makes about 48 cookies.

Decorating Idea: In a small bowl beat 1 egg white with desired-color food coloring until well combined. Use a new paintbrush or a clean paintbrush that is only used for food to lightly brush colored egg white over unbaked cookies. Bake as directed. Color will be more intense after baking.

Coconut Banana Christmas Fudge

Ingredients

3 cups unsweetened, shredded coconut
1 ripe banana
Christmas sprinkles!

Directions:

  1. Place the shredded coconut in a blender and mix at high speed until it reaches a buttery consistency. A dash of coconut oil or milk may help get the desired consistency. 
  2. Add the banana and mix again at high speed. 
  3. Spoon the mixture into a small dish lined with parchment paper. Top with sprinkles (for presentation) and then refrigerate for 1–2 hours to harden the fudge.

Chocolate-Dipped Almond Thins

Makes: 26 servings
Serving Size: 1 cookie
Carb Grams Per Serving: 9

Ingredients

2 egg whites
½ cup very finely chopped toasted almonds and/or pecans
3 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sugar*
½ cup flour
4 ounces semisweet or dark chocolate, melted

Directions

  • In a medium bowl let egg whites stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line large cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper. If using foil, lightly grease the foil; set aside. In a small bowl combine almonds, butter, and vanilla; set aside.
  • Beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add sugar, beating on high speed until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Fold in about half of the flour. Gently stir in almond mixture. Fold in the remaining flour until thoroughly combined.
  • For each cookie, drop 1 level tablespoon of the batter onto prepared cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches between mounds. Using the back of a spoon, spread each mound into a 2-inch circle. If necessary, coat the back of the spoon with nonstick cooking spray to prevent sticking.
  • Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until cookies are just golden brown around edges and centers are set. Cool cookies completely on cookie sheets; lift cookies off parchment paper or foil and place on wire racks.
  • Dip each cookie halfway into melted chocolate. Use a thin metal spatula to scrape chocolate to a thin, even layer on the cookie. Place cookie on a waxed paper–lined cookie sheet and let stand until chocolate is set (if necessary, place cookies in the refrigerator to set the chocolate). To store, place cookies in single layers between waxed paper in an airtight container. Cover and seal. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Makes about 26 cookies.

*Sugar Substitute: Choose Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking. Follow package directions to use product amount equivalent to ½ cup sugar.

Merry Christmas, Bedford!

From all of us here at Dr. White’s, your friendly dental practice in Bedford, we’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!

Think you may have overdone it with sweets this year?  today and we’ll help get you back on the right track.

 

~Dr. Marea White