Families gathered around lavish tables overflowing with turkey, ham, pumpkin pie and other delectable delights are a holiday tradition.

But make the wrong food choices and all those visiting nieces and nephews will cringe when you give them a hug. That’s because many of everyone’s favorite holiday culinary pleasures are – to put it not-so delicately – breeding grounds for bad breath.

“Food is just one of the many things that can cause bad breath, but watching what you eat is at least a good start for combating it,” says Dr. Harold Katz (www.therabreath.com), a dentist and bacteriologist. “A lot of people think that if they brush and use mouthwash in the morning they are set for the day. Certainly, that’s something you should do, but the effects pretty much wear off by lunch time.”

Plenty of holiday dishes can lead to bad breath, but here’s the five staples are especially guilty:

  • Candy canes. These otherwise wonderful treats essentially are pure sugar, and what’s worse about them is that people take a long time to eat them. That means all the while they are drenching their teeth with sugar, wearing down the enamel and also feeding bacteria that cause bad breath.
  • Cranberry sauce. Cranberries and cranberry juice are often recommended as a remedy for bad breath. But the canned cranberry sauce that you plop on the holiday table is another story. It contains corn syrup and artificial products that feed bad-breath bacteria.
  • Candied yams. Chances are you planned to top these with marshmallows.  The marshmallows contain gelatin that has protein, which can contribute to bad breath.
  • Mashed potatoes. These aren’t so bad if you leave off the butter and the sour cream, but most people will add one or both of those. And once you’ve mixed in those dairy foods, you can expect bad results when it comes to your breath.
  • Eggnog.  Sorry, eggnog lovers. This is worst of all. “The drink is loaded with sugar, which isn’t good for your dental health to begin with,” he says. “Then it just gets worse if someone adds bourbon, rum or brandy. Those liquors may induce dry mouth later on in the night. Without enough saliva, the mouth becomes vulnerable to bacteria growth that can create raunchy breath and tooth decay.” If you still can’t imagine the holidays without eggnog, we suggest rinsing your mouth with water afterward, or better yet, after each sip.

So what should you eat if you want to keep your breath fresh? We suggest sticking with fruits and vegetables.

Those may not be what your holiday appetite is craving, but at least none of the relatives will run from your hugs.