|By Ajwad (AJ) Farah, MS, PA-C, ProMedica Physicians
As we head into the holiday season, we’ll all be tempted by high-calorie, high-fat drinks, dishes and desserts at parties. But, that doesn’t mean you have to avoid social and family gatherings to maintain your heart-healthy lifestyle. Add these tips to your plan and you’ll stay on track through the New Year.
Don’t starve yourself. Rather than saving all of your calories for one large holiday meal, eat four to five small meals, including breakfast, that include whole grains, fruit and low-fat or fat-free dairy throughout the day. This will help to keep your metabolism working all day long.
Also, never go to a party hungry. Eating an apple or cheese stick before attending a social gathering can help curb your appetite and reduce your chance of overeating.
Bring a dish to pass. That way you’ll be sure that there is at least one heart-healthy dish you can count on.
Hide the salt shaker. Excess sodium can make your body hold water, causing swelling that strains your heart and blood vessels. Limit your use of the salt shaker by shaking salt in your hand first so you can see how much you are using. You may also try topping holiday dishes with fresh herbs and spices for a flavorful, salt-free kick.
Be aware: Many popular holiday dishes are high in sodium, including processed, cured and smoked meats such as ham; canned fruits and vegetables; and salty snacks. To reduce the amount of sodium this season, try swapping out high-sodium foods for fresh and healthy alternatives.
Quench your thirst. Before your first alcoholic drink, start with a calorie-free, non-alcoholic beverage to satisfy your thirst. This will decrease your consumption of empty calories while allowing you to enjoy the holiday fun.
Keep in mind: Moderate consumption for women is one drink a day; for men, it’s two drinks a day.
Treat yourself. In moderation, it’s okay. The holidays are known for having great desserts and it can feel punishing to completely avoid the dessert table at parties. Treat yourself to one small dessert each day to keep from overindulging.
Also, try sharing a dessert with a friend or loved one. You will still get to enjoy the holiday treat, but you’ll cut your caloric and sugar intake in half.
Dance away from the buffet table. The holiday season is about spending quality time with family, friends and co-workers. Push away from the dinner table and get moving – together. Challenge your nephew to a game of Wii bowling. Try the polka with your grandma. Go outside and build a snowman. Or, simply take a walk after dinner. Whatever you do, get your heart pumping and muscles working with your loved ones!
AJ Farah is a physician assistant with ProMedica Northwest Ohio Cardiology Consultants. He was the recent recipient of the ProMedica Physicians Service Excellence Award for his service and dedication to the health and well-being of patients and communities.