It’s December. You’ve tried to make heart-healthy food decisions most days – but the holidays are another story. From family favorites you’ve waited for all year and cozy, comforting foods that are too good to resist. So, how do you enjoy this special time of year without sacrificing your heart health?
We’re not telling you to skip Grandma’s infamous chocolate cake, but using a few easy tricks will ensure you can have your cake and eat it, too!
You don’t have to deprive yourself of all the seasonal goodies we all love. Some basic strategies can help you stick largely to a healthy diet while enjoying yourself to the fullest.
1. Don’t Skip Meals
While it may seem logical to curtail your eating before a holiday gathering or family dinner, that approach can actually backfire on you. When you don’t eat at regular intervals, you’re much more likely to get overly hungry (or hangry) and then overeat.
Instead, eat regular meals and snacks as part of your normal healthy diet. This will help keep your appetite moderated so you don’t overindulge on less healthy options.
2. Choose Healthy Fuel
In tip one, we told you to eat. But what should you eat? During the holiday season, choose the same tried-and-true components of a healthy diet as you did the rest of the year.
Provide your body with the energy it needs by eating fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins, like chicken or fish. At a party, fill your plate with these items on your first trip through the buffet line—they’ll help you feel full and satisfied (before going back for seconds).
3. Don’t Drink Your Calories
There are so many tempting drinks this time of year, whether you’re an eggnog lover or prefer toasty hot chocolate. One thing most of those drinks have in common: They’re high in calories.
The tricky thing about calories is that they’re the same whether you eat them or drink them. But the calories in food will keep you full, whereas the ones in a drink will leave you wanting something else to eat.
4. Take Along a Healthy Option
Worried you won’t find something at a party that fits within a healthy diet? Prepare a delicious but good-for-you option and take it along!
You won’t be the only person at the event who benefits from a healthier food, so why not help yourself and others? Even if you don’t feel like cooking, a veggie tray or shrimp cocktail can be perfect.
5. Eat Only Until You’re Satisfied
It’s easy at parties to multitask and overeat as a result. When you aren’t paying attention, you may be shoveling in large quantities of food without noticing.
If you can, sit down to eat. Eat slowly, drinking sips of water in between bites. Pay attention to your body’s cues that you’ve had enough to eat, and stop when you’re full.
6. Thoughtfully Indulge
Now back to Grandma’s chocolate cake. Yes, you can eat it! After you’ve filled up on healthy options, like veggies or lean protein, serve yourself a small portion of your favorite treats.
Eat these treats slowly and savor them. You want to fully experience the flavors, and by eating them slowly, you may find you only need a bite or two! If you’re still left wanting more, try and wait until the next day to enjoy it – if you’re still craving it, you can enjoy it then.
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