After a holiday season filled with sugar cookies, gingerbread houses, Christmas cake, candy canes, chocolates and all those other hard-to-resist goodies, some Canadians may feel it's time to get back on the healthy diet bandwagon now that 2013 has rolled in.

With Canadians packing on an average of 10 pounds over the holidays and a new study suggesting fructose consumption can lead to overeating, it may be time to kick the sugar habit.

If thinking about putting all those sweet treats away makes you break into a cold sweat and the shakes, experts say it may be easier than you think.

Nutritionist Lianne Phillipson-Webb, the founder of, told CTV's Canada AM it can take just pure willpower -- and a bit of planning.

"For a lot of people that I've spoken to over the past couple of days, they're really ready to leave all of those sweet treats behind and starting to eat more balanced and healthier meals, which is typical for the New Year which is fantastic," she said.

"But willpower alone it's difficult to maintain that for a long period of time," she noted.

When your energy level crashes, it's tempting to reach for the brownies or cookies, she said.  But those sugary foods spike insulin like a rollercoaster.

Instead, Phillipson-Webb said, start off with a good breakfast. Foods such as oatmeal -- which can be soaked overnight in water with a probiotic added to boost beneficial bacteria levels -- as well as protein from eggs, cottage cheese or yogurt -- can help balance blood-sugar levels.

Phillipson-Webb recommends skip putting brown sugar or honey on cereal. Instead grate a pear and add some blueberries which are sweet and will add more fibre, she said.

Break the habit of the midmorning swing by the office vending machine. Instead bring along some trail mix of dried fruit and nuts, or eat apple slices with cinnamon.

Calming those hunger pangs may help fight the battle of the bulge -- a not so sweet side effect of eating a lot of sugar.  Sixty per cent of Canadian men, 44 per cent of women and 31.5 of children are overweight or obese.

Now a small U.S. study has shown that fructose -- which is often added to improve the sweetness, appearance and texture of baked goods -- can cause changes in the brain that trigger overeating.

In the federally funded study published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, scientists used magnetic resonance imaging tests to examine the brain blood flow in 20 young, normal-weight people before and after they consumed drinks containing glucose or fructose in two sessions several weeks apart.

The result? Drinking glucose "turns off or suppresses the activity of areas of the brain that are critical for reward and desire for food," said one study leader, Yale University endocrinologist Dr. Robert Sherwin.

With fructose, "we don't see those changes," he said. "As a result, the desire to eat continues -- it isn't turned off."

People who drank fructose in the study told researchers they didn't feel full while those who had glucose-only drinks did feel satiated.  Researchers now are testing obese people to see if they react the same way.

Dr. Jonathan Purnell, an endocrinologist at Oregon Health & Science University, wrote a commentary published along with the study. He recommends cooking more at home and limiting how much processed food and beverages  containing fructose and high-fructose corn syrup you consume.

Another study in the journal suggested only people who are severely obese have a higher risk of death and that carrying a few extra pounds might provide a survival advantage. 

The research by Katherine Flegal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found moderately overweight people had a six per cent lower mortality rate than thinner people. 

Her analysis looked at 100 studies around the world however critics complain her data is flawed because it includes smokers and people with pre-existing illness.

With files from The Associated Press