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Christmas Food Smorgasbord kale salad

Season's Eatings! Heart-Healthy Ways to Stay Healthy this Year

The holidays are nearly here and that often equates with lots of opportunities for excessive eating. Unless we are vigilant, we can end up packing an extra 2 to 5 pounds onto our waistlines. I’m sharing with you a few of my favorite strategies to help you “lighten up” your holiday eating.

Eat Slowly

First and foremost, focus on mindful eating. Concentrate on slowing the pace when you are eating. By taking at least 20 minutes to eat your “feast,” you will be more likely to pick up on your body’s signals.  Aim to eat when you begin to feel hungry and stop when you’re satisfied. (Remember, stuff the turkey, not yourself!)

Modify Recipes to be Heart-Healthy

Next, try some heart-healthy modifications for your holiday recipes. Here are a few simple swaps to shave off calories, fat, and/or sodium:

  • Remove the skin from the turkey. Choose white meat over dark meat and save over 100 calories per 3 oz. portion.
  • For creamy mashed potatoes, mash them with either fat-free half and half or fat-free sour cream or fat free plain yogurt.
  • For stuffing, cook the onion and celery in low sodium broth instead of butter.  Stir in 2 egg whites vs. 1 egg to make the stuffing fluffy.
  • Eliminate (or at least reduce by 50%) the salt called for in MOST recipes.
  • For gravy, if you use meat drippings, cool the drippings and strain off the fat. Otherwise, thicken low sodium broth with cornstarch to make your gravy low in fat, sodium and calories.
  • For molded salads, use sugar free gelatin.
  • For desserts and pies, substitute ¼ to ½ of the sugar with Splenda.  (However, Splenda will not work in making most candies.)  Also, use fat free evaporated milk in pumpkin pie and top with fat free whipped topping vs. whipped cream.
  • For brownies and moist bars or breads, replace ¼ to ½ of the oil with unsweetened applesauce.  Reduce the amount of nuts by 50%.

Moderation is Key

Moderation is the next key to managing your weight over the holidays. When you know the food you love is high in calories, sodium or fats, police your portions.

  • Try to moderate starches to ¼ of your plate or less than the size of your fist (this includes potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, dinner rolls, corn dishes, etc.).
  • Fill half of your plate with fiber, such as fruits, relishes and steamed vegetables. Eat some of these prior to your holiday party/dinner to curb hunger.
  • Moderate your use of gravy, butter and sauces.
  • Alcoholic drinks are loaded with calories, especially those “creamy” ones. Reduce your calories by alternating water or seltzer between alcohol beverages.

As you approach the holidays, I encourage you to think of your calories as an expense account as you choose your holiday foods. Prioritize the foods you REALLY enjoy spending your calories on and pass on the “ordinary” ones. My mantra with my cardiac and weight loss clients is “LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT!!”   (i.e. Shall I eat the stuffing or mashed potatoes?)

Finally, remember that the holidays are special and they only come this magical time of the year.  Therefore, moderation, NOT elimination is the key to enjoying a heart healthy holiday!

Learn more about CHI Health Heart Care, or get more healthy nutrition ideas from our blog.

Rita Frickel, MS, RD, LMNT
Rita Frickel, MS, RD, LMNT

Rita Frickel, MS, RD, LMNT is a Clinical Dietitian with CHI Health.

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