With the holiday season upon us some of us have mixed feelings. Flights, lines, delays, junk food, sugary treats, Uncle Fred, gravy, creamed vegetables, Aunt Clara’s desserts…all of these things can be stressful to the person who is trying to eat heart healthy. A small amount of thinking ahead can make all the difference. Here are some tips you can use to keep yourself healthy and still have fun during the holidays:
1) Plan ahead and keep your heart healthy brain engaged. In every social situation take a moment to determine how much control you have over the menu. If you’re doing the entertaining, it’s a breeze. You make the food choices and stay with the heart healthy ones. If you know your host loves to cook with butter, sugar and salt come prepared with your own food. Take fresh veggies you can steam in the microwave, bring healthy snacks, like a handful of almonds or walnuts, and eat before you go.
2) Be alert: survey the buffet table before plunging in. Choose an appetizer size plate and begin with the freshest foods first. Choose veggies. Avoid cheese, crackers and pastry.
3) Eat for your heart, not your stomach, or your mood. Many holiday standards are loaded with sodium (read the labels), sugar (corn syrup is the biggest offender), and saturated fats. Select white meat turkey without the skin or a ham slice without the topping. Avoid the butter-laden mashed potatoes and gravy (unless you’ve brought a non fat packet of gravy and made your own.)
4) Be a thinking drinker. Choose a beverage that is not high in sugar and alcohol. Sticking with wine or light beer is best. Avoid mixed drinks and seasonal corn syrup based festive drinks. Keep your consumption moderate and drink a glass of water between each drink.
5) Keep your backside in motion. If you’re visiting cold-weather climates and can’t easily go for a walk after meals, visit the local indoor mall and take a power walk to keep your body moving in the right direction.
6) Skip dessert. Seriously. Unless it’s fresh fruit or frozen yogurt, pass. No good can come from pies, cookies, cakes and bon-bons. Unless they are made from non fat or low fat products and have reduced sugar and salt, you’re best without them. If you must, then have “just a taste” to satisfy your sweet tooth, then quit. One bite is all you need.
7) Listen to your body. It will always tell you when enough is enough or when you need something special. Holidays can deplete the body, so don’t neglect your sleep.
8) Last but not least, enjoy the company. Ask questions of the people you are with, delve into their lives and find out what motivates them. Ask them to share a childhood memory with you. Learn something new about each person in the room. Help with the clean up. Learn a trick or a game to entertain the kids. Bring photos with you that many may not have seen in years. If a new person has been added to the family, include them in the conversations and try to make sure they feel comfortable. Show a little extra kindness to everyone; you’ll feel a lot better, too.
– Dr. Kac Young – www.HeartEasy.com