Small choices that add up to better health
With the holiday season in full swing, the American Heart Association, a global force for longer, healthier lives for all, reminds people of the importance of maintaining a balanced approach to healthy eating during the upcoming festivities.
“It is possible to enjoy special occasion foods in moderation and maintain an overall eating pattern that supports health,” says American Heart Association Syracuse Board President, Peggy Thomas, deputy director of nursing at Upstate Community Hospital. “The stress around trying to eat healthy comes from an all or nothing mindset. Instead, find the simple ways you can make healthier choices and add in more nutrient dense food when possible.”
The American Heart Association’s latest dietary guidance offers tips to keep in mind for maintaining a heart-healthy diet this holiday season.
• Sip smarter: Ditch sugary drinks and, if you do drink alcohol, limit alcohol consumption during meals. And choose still or sparkling water with fresh fruit for a festive twist.
• Be picky about fats: Opt for liquid non-tropical plant oils such as olive oil when cooking your favorite holiday recipe. A recent study highlighted the benefit of plant-based fats, linking higher intake of vegetable and polyunsaturated fat to a 12 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those eating less of these kinds of fats.
• Think lean when it comes to protein: Plant proteins like nuts and legumes, fish or seafood, low fat or non-fat dairy, and lean cuts of meat are the best bet when picking protein. Research shows that replacing red and processed meat with other protein sources is associated with lower death rates from cardiovascular disease.
• When in doubt, add color: Choose a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to include during holiday celebrations.
• Keep moving: Balance food and calorie intake with physical activity to maintain a healthy weight. Take a walk with loved ones after a holiday meal or play fetch with your pet.
Thomas says what’s most important is for your overall eating pattern to be healthy. “An occasional indulgence during the holidays isn’t something to stress about. Making huge, calorie laden meals your go-to is the real problem. Look at the big picture and savor the season in moderation.”
Whether you are preparing your own meals, visiting loved one’s or eating takeout, keep these tips top of mind for a healthful holiday season. For more healthy eating tips, visit heart.org/eatsmart.