Make this holiday healthier for your family

The holiday season is about family traditions and making memories that last a lifetime.  But many of these traditions involve food such as hosting cookie-baking parties, making gingerbread houses, or making a favorite entrée or side dish.  Traditions are meant to be passed along from generation to generation.  By tweaking your recipes you and your family can enjoy every minute without the guilt and pass down food recipes that keep everyone heart health.

Enjoying healthier versions of family favorites can help cut back on extra calories and prevent health issues related to obesity, like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Here are a few tips from the American Heart Association so you may create new, heart healthy traditions with your family.

You don’t have to give up the treats you love.  By making a few small changes, you can save on calories and still have all the flavor.   Try these simple tips from the American Heart Association:

Eggnog – Fill your glass with half – to three-quarter-parts of low-fat or skim milk and one part eggnog.  You’ll get the flavor without all the calories.

Desserts – Cut the fluff- pass on that big dollop of whipped cream to avoid the extra sugar and saturated fat.

Hot Chocolate – If you order hot chocolate at a restaurant or coffee shop, ask that it be made with low-fat or skim milk and without the whipped cream.  Look for at home packets marked “low-fat/fat-free” or “low-sugar/sugar-free.”  Be sure to add the mix to low-fat milk, skim milk or hot water.

When baking cookies, cakes and other treats, try these substitutions:

  • Instead of sugar, use a lower-calorie sugar substitute. Instead of whole or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or skim milk.
  • Instead of using only white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat flour.
  • Instead of adding chocolate chips or candies, use dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries.
  • Use extracts like vanilla, almond and peppermint to add flavor, instead of sugar or butter.


Traditions don’t have to be all about food.  Start new traditions that are fun and provide quality time without all the calories. The American Heart Association recommends that children get at least 60-minutes-a-day and adults get at least 150-minutes-per-week of moderately vigorous physical activity.  Sometimes it is hard to continue that level, but you can keep your family physically active when the weather gets chilly.  Try these activities that bring the family together.
Go sledding – running up a snowy hill, sliding down and repeating is a great way to get the whole family physically active.  If you don’t have a sled, don’t worry – a cardboard box, trash can lid.

Ice Skate – this is a great workout for your legs and heart.  You’ll also help strengthen your core, which is engaged when trying to keep you balanced.

Shovel Snow – someone has to do it and it’s a great way to get the heart pumping and the other muscles working.  But don’t overdo it!  Anyone with known heart conditions should always consult with their physician before picking up a shovel.

Go for a Walk – Take the family for an afternoon walk and leave the electronics at home.  It is a great time to engage in conversation.  Your kids will always remember those special walks, and talks.

This delicious heart healthy snack only takes a few minutes to prepare and is more fun when you get the kids involved.  Have the kids measure everything, seal the bag, and shake it. Go one step further and have them fill snack-size resealable plastic bags with single portions to have on hand so they can grab a quick, low-fat snack.

Sweet and Crunchy Snack Mix


2 cups crunchy, high-protein cereal
1/4 cup dried, sweetened cranberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds, dry-roasted
1 to 2 tsp. grated orange zest

Directions: In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the ingredients. Seal the bag tightly. Shake until well blended.

 Serving size 1/2 cup trail mix

Nutritional Info

Per serving Calories Per Serving 140
Total Fat 5.5 g
Saturated Fat 0.5 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.5 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 73 mg
Carbohydrates 19 g
Fiber 4 g
Sugars 9 g
Protein5 g
Dietary Exchanges- 1 1/2 starch, 1 fat

 This recipe is reprinted with permission from American Heart Association Healthy Family Meals, Copyright © 2009 by the American Heart Association. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc. Available from booksellers everywhere.

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