November is Eat Smart Month and this week kicks off the holiday season. The holidays can be a stressful time to adhere to a regular diet schedule. There are holiday parties, travel, an abundance of special goodies lying around the house, and there is more time spent indoors and less time exercising.
“Staying on the path to health during the holidays might seem challenging, but it’s all about finding joy in special moments without sacrificing your year-round wellness efforts,” says Laura Immordino, MD, a cardiologist at Bryn Mawr Hospital, part of Main Line Health in Greater Philadelphia. “Embracing heart-healthy choices isn’t about deprivation; it’s about wise decisions and the power of small, positive changes. Opting for veggies over chips at lunch may seem insignificant, but these small shifts create lasting well-being.”
The holiday season is synonymous with cherished family recipes and indulgent treats, but did you know you can give your family favorites a healthy makeover without anyone noticing? Most recipes can trim fat, sugar, and salt by about a third, making a heart-smart choice.
Here are 10 tips to avoid holiday stress eating and ways to maintain your health.
- Spice it up: A great way to reduce sodium is to add more herbs and spices such as rosemary and thyme to flavor meals. Instead of butter, opt for heart-healthy oils or tub margarine. Seasoning can enhance flavors without overloading on salt. For green bean casserole, trade the cream of mushroom soup mix and fried onions for olive oil, herbs, and roasted almonds. If stuffing is a must, reduce sausage content or substitute mushrooms or nuts for the meat.
- Choose nutritious snacks: To avoid overindulging at holiday meals, prep with satisfying, good mood foods that don’t sacrifice taste. Check out this no-added-sugars recipe for Caramel Kettle Popcorn. It’s perfect for a tasty snack that will keep you feeling full and less tempted by those unhealthy choices.
- Shop smart: Grocery shopping during the holidays can be overwhelming. So if you’re looking for heart-healthy options, keep an eye out for the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark on select products.
- Focus on Naturally Healthy Foods: As you plan your holiday menu, consider adding more naturally healthy foods to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke associated with fatty, salty, and sugary dishes. Roasted turkey breast, a staple of traditional Thanksgiving spreads, is lean, low in calories, and heart-friendly. Sweet potatoes, rich in nutrients, can be a healthy choice when prepared thoughtfully. And don’t forge you can substitute the chips for a fruit and veggie platter. You want to make sure you’re adding 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily!
- Make Healthy Swaps: Instead of butter, opt for heart-healthy oils or tub margarine. Seasoning can enhance flavors without overloading on salt. For green bean casserole, trade the cream of mushroom soup mix and fried onions for olive oil, herbs, and roasted almonds. If stuffing is a must, reduce sausage content or substitute mushrooms or nuts for the meat. Sponsored by Main Line Health, watch this video on other ideas for healthy swaps!
- Try Something New: Consider creative alternatives for holiday classics. Mashed turnips or mashed cauliflower make healthy replacements for traditional mashed potatoes.
- Don’t Fill Up on Appetizers: Before a holiday party, snack on fruits or vegetables to avoid arriving famished. Choose raw vegetables over fried foods and opt for salsa for dipping instead of sour cream-based dips. Enjoy baked or air-popped chips, gluten-free crackers, or lightly salted popcorn for a lower-calorie option.
- Sip Wisely: Stay hydrated with water, coffee, tea, or other non-caloric beverages to curb your appetite. While alcohol is acceptable in moderation, be mindful of its calorie content. A glass of wine contains about 100 calories, and eggnog, without added alcohol, can exceed 300 calories.
- Slow Down, Be Mindful: Practice mindful eating by savoring each bite, avoiding seconds, and controlling portions, including dessert. Using a smaller plate can aid portion control. If indulging in pumpkin pie, opt for a smaller slice and question whether whipped cream is necessary. Here is a video full of tips about portion control, sponsored by Main Line Health.
- Get Moving: Stay active during the holiday season to balance the extra calorie intake. Physical activity not only burns calories but also distracts your mind from food, helping you maintain a healthy balance.
This holiday season, make heart-smart choices that preserve tradition and promote well-being. With these tips, you can enjoy the festive feasts without compromising on your health. For more heart-healthy tips, visit www.heart.org