For most people, holidays are a time of celebration with family and food. It can be difficult to resist tempting foods prepared with unhealthy fats, sodium and excess sugar. But you can still enjoy your favorite traditional foods by learning how to make them more heart-healthy and how to budget them into your holiday plans.
When you are the meal planner, you have a little more control over what will be served at a holiday gathering. But with a little strategy, it is possible to remain in control of how you eat while a guest at holiday parties, too. Either way, SecondsCount.org can show you small changes that will help you maintain a heart-healthy eating plan even during the holidays.
Keep in mind that during the season of holiday eating, sometimes not gaining weight is as important as losing weight. To balance out what you eat, keep moving. Make a more conscious effort to be physically active during the holidays. This will make it easier to enjoy a few holiday treats without paying for it later with extra pounds to lose.
- Tips for Planning a Heart Healthier Holiday Meal.
- How to Be a Heart Healthy Party Guest
Tips for Planning a Heart Healthier Holiday Meal
- Serve a selection of higher-fiber crackers with hummus, and raw vegetables with low-fat dressing for quick snacks or appetizers at a holiday party. These are great alternatives to a typical cheese platter or creamy dip that are full of saturated fat. A fancy bowl full of unsalted nuts has heart-healthy unsaturated fat and couldn't be simpler.
- Cut out or reduce salt by half in most recipes. Substitute pepper, herbs, onion, garlic or flavored vinegars in place of salt.
- Look for lean cuts of meat. The words "round," "loin" or "chuck" indicate the healthiest choices. The word "prime" in the name means high in fat. When using ground beef, use half ground sirloin and half ground turkey breast or ground chicken breast. Or better yet, try soy crumbles (found in frozen food section) in place of all the meat.
- Use fat-free evaporated milk to make creamy mashed potatoes. Use low-sodium chicken broth and roasted fresh garlic (or garlic powder) to give them a little more flavor.
- Make your stuffing heart healthy by using whole-wheat bread crumbs. Then mix in more celery and onion than called for in the recipe, along with dried cranberries, raisins and apricots instead of meat. Use less butter or margarine than called for to reduce the saturated fat. To obtain the correct moist consistency, use more water instead of broth to reduce the sodium.
- Skip store-bought gravy mixes or jars of gravy and make your own. Use low-sodium broth (or meat drippings with the fat removed), flour and skim milk to make a delicious, healthier gravy.
- Avoid pre-packaged cookies, cakes and pies because they are typically filled with trans and saturated fats. Make your own desserts. When making pumpkin pie, make it crustless, and reduce the amount of sugar by half and enhance "sweetness" by adding more vanilla, nutmeg, or cinnamon. Try a fruit crisp with a lower-fat oatmeal topping. When baking cakes or quick breads, cut the fat in half and replace it with unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana. Serve a selection of fresh fruit along with a yogurt dip. Or Angel food cake with fresh or frozen berries is a tasty alternative.
- Buy low-fat eggnog to cut down on calories and fat. Or instead of milk in your coffee or black tea, try adding a little low-fat eggnog for an "eggnog latte." Or better yet, try mulled apple cider or ginger tea.
You may also be interested in other ways to lighten up recipes that you can use all year round.
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How to Be a Heart Healthy Party Guest
- Aim to eat at least five fruits and vegetables a day-more if you can. If you make sure to fill up on your low-calorie fruit and vegetable servings for the day, it will help you avoid overeating the starches (bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, etc.) and meats.
- Never go to a party hungry. Small frequent meals (at least three) are a good way to keep yourself satisfied. If you go to a party hungry, you are more likely to eat too much.
- When going to a party, if possible try to plan ahead and suggest to the hostess that you bring a low-calorie dish with you to help keep yourself (and others) on track.
- At a buffet-style gathering, try filling your plate only once with a reasonable, healthy portion of food. This will keep you from absent-mindedly eating bite after bite, losing track of the total amount of food. It also helps to stand away from the food table and focus on socializing.
- Limit alcohol. Moderation (one drink for women, two drinks for men) is important for overall health. But alcohol also provides extra calories and interferes with your ability to keep tabs on your food intake. You'll drink and eat more calories than you mean to eat. If you do choose to drink alcohol, beer and wine generally are lower in calories than liqueur mixed with soda or fruit juices.
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