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Five Heart-Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

heart-healthy holiday meal

Now that the holidays are here, everyone is in immediate danger of over-eating. Holiday meals tend not only to be large, but to be very high in salt, fats, and sugars. Plus, there are more festive drinks and treats all around that encourage snacking.

Fortunately, there are ways to eat healthy over the holidays. Here are five good tips to help you eat a heart-healthy diet despite the temptations and demands of holiday festivities.

Cook for Yourself

One of the best ways to control what’s in your food is to cook for yourself. Whenever you buy prepared food or go over to someone’s house, you don’t know what’s in the food. It’s likely that what seems a reasonable portion on your plate might actually have unreasonable amounts of fat, salt, and sugar.

So, it’s a good idea to do your own cooking over the holidays, even if this might mean hosting. It’s nice to take your turn, anyway, and not just force the same family member to host every year. If you are visiting friends or family for meals, offer to bring one of our heart-healthy holiday recipes. Then there’ll be at least one dish you know you can eat without putting your heart at risk.

Take a Break Before You Take Seconds

Portion control is another great way to eat healthy over the holidays. However, it can be hard to make yourself stop. There is so much food and it all looks so good. You want to eat it all.

Of course, eating everything is not healthy for you, so you need strategies to control your portions. One common recommendation is that you use a small plate. However, this doesn’t necessarily help much if you just keep going back and refilling your plate.

To keep yourself from just taking more portions and eating the same amount, you need to give your body time to tell when you are full. After you finish your first plate, spend ten minutes doing something other than eating. Socialize. Have a glass of water. This gives your body time to register how full you are. Taking a short break can help you decide if you’re really hungry enough for seconds.

Focus on Your Favorites

Another thing that undermines your efforts at portion control is when you say, “I can’t stop eating, because I haven’t had X yet.” Then you go back to the kitchen or buffet to get X and you end up filling your plate with many other items, too.

To avoid this, make sure you get your favorites on your first trip. You can do this more easily if you survey the table or walk the buffet once before putting anything on your plate. That way, you know everything that’s there and you can make sure you get the things you really want the first time.

Don’t Forget Your Veggies

heart healthy vegetables for your holiday mealWe know that for many people this violates the above recommendation, but heart healthy eating depends on getting enough vegetables. So, no matter what else you are eating, make sure you are getting enough heart-healthy vegetables. Always put some on your plate to help you fill up without too many calories and fat.

But don’t think a dish is healthy just because it’s vegetables. No matter how they’re prepared, vegetables will have some benefits, like antioxidants and other nutrients. However, some holiday dishes can be so overloaded with fat, salt, and sugar, that these outweigh the benefits.

If you are going to get some heavy holiday veggies, like candied yams or broccoli with cheese sauce, make sure you’re getting healthier variations, too, like steamed green beans. And remember that while it’s healthier to snack from the veggie tray than the candy dish, you lose some of the benefit if you’re dipping your celery sticks in ranch dressing.

Drink Smart

Remember that the calories you drink also count. Alcoholic drinks contain a lot of calories, especially some rich holiday cocktails. Alcohol has the double difficulty of diminishing your urge control, making you more likely to overeat.

But it’s not just alcoholic drinks you have to worry about. Eggnog, cider, hot cocoa, and more can have a lot of calories even without alcohol.

Caffeine drinks can be bad for your heart. It might be enjoyable to have a cup of coffee with your pumpkin pie, but try not to overdo it. Be aware that the festive holiday drinks you get at coffee chains are full of fat and sugar – check the nutrition information online when possible and make smart decisions about the right size drink.

Want to Check Your Heart Health?

Many people start to feel unhealthy during or after the holidays. Changes in eating, drinking, exercise, and stress contribute to concerns about their overall health, including the health of their heart.

If you are worried about your heart, cardiologists at South Denver Cardiology can perform diagnostic tests to detect problems that might require interventions. We can even help you make decisions about achieving a more heart-healthy lifestyle, including better diet choices and more regular exercise.

To check in on your heart health, please call 303-744-1065 or contact South Denver Cardiology today for an appointment with a cardiologist.

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As with any health concerns, your specific treatment program should be discussed thoroughly with your primary care physician as well as any specialists who may need to be consulted – like a cardiologist.

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