5 Tips to Keep your Heart Healthy this Holiday

a bowl of oatmeal with almonds, blueberries and sticks of cinnamon

By Carolyn Brown MS, RD

Holiday parties, family feasts, festive cookies, eggnog, hot chocolate…is your holiday spirit all wrapped up in a month-long, festive food coma? We say ‘tis the season for giving, but I would argue ‘tis equally the season of gluttony.

Don’t get me wrong, we all deserve some indulgences (I will gladly have mine in the form of pecan pie), but we all know overindulging only leaves you in couch potato mode and squeezing into your wardrobe. What’s happening on the inside matters too, and in the season of having a good heart, we want to keep yours in tip-top shape.

Healthy holidays sounds like an oxymoron, I know, but it only takes a little effort and planning. Your taste buds won’t know the difference, but your body certainly will.

  1. Make simple swaps into your staples. Trade white pasta and breads for whole wheat and whole grain versions to get the fiber and vitamin benefits. The insoluble fiber will help keep your blood sugar in check and keep your bathroom habits regular. Another simple swap: extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) in place of butter and more refined oils. EVOO is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, so serve it with (whole grain) bread and drizzle it on salads as a dressing.
  2. Eat breakfast, even on and after days you’ll be feasting - because showing up to a holiday dinner starving is recipe for overeating. It doesn’t have to be fancy; if you need something quick, easy and filling, oatmeal’s where it’s at. Try one of the Simple Truth® plain oatmeal packs and add your own nuts, apple slices or cinnamon. Oats are high in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and keeps you feeling full.
  3. BYO. Of course, not all holiday meals will be within your control. For those that are not, offer to bring a dish (I’d suggest a vegetable) to any party you’re going to. Hosts will usually appreciate it and you’ll know there’s at least one great thing you can put on your plate.
  4. Keep a food journal. Write down all your meals and snacks, all your cookies and cocoas (including adult beverages) once a day. It’s not fun, but accountability works wonders, even if it’s for your eyes only.
  5. Get moving! There’s nothing better for your heart, weight or mind than a little exercise. Make it a priority. One of my hilarious clients said she loves her holiday gym time because “it’s the only valid excuse she has to escape her husband’s family.” Whatever works!

The best part of a healthy holiday season: now your New Year’s resolutions won’t have to include a drastic diet or gym regimen. Happy Holidays, indeed!