Heart-Healthy Holiday Eating

This blog was contributed by Dr. Robert Lancey, cardiothoracic surgeon with Cardiovascular & Thoracic Specialists at Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center.

A great thing about the holidays is getting together with friends, usually over food and drink.  Unfortunately, this can lead to a not-so-great thing about the holidays: the weight gain that goes along with it! We love to indulge and enjoy all of those great dishes that everyone brings – especially the tasty desserts – but the food we eat is often bad for our waistlines or our hearts.  We tend to take in too many calories, too much salt and sugar and too much fat and cholesterol.

You can enjoy the time together and have fun eating without overindulging, putting on extra weight and being unkind to your heart.  Here are my THREE TIPS for heart-healthy holiday eating:

  1. Don’t Fool Yourself!  How often do we eat very little during the day in preparation for the big holiday party that night? It may sound okay, but the small amount we limit ourselves to during the day is dwarfed by the LARGE amount we eat that night. Our body recognizes that we are not eating a lot during the day and produces hormones that encourage us to eat that night – often much more than we normally would.To avoid this, don’t starve yourself during the day. Eat a regular breakfast, a light lunch and, just before you leave for the party, eat two handfuls of walnuts or pecans.  They contain substances that drive down your appetite and will make you less hungry when you get there, making it easier to eat what you want and not what your body is telling you to eat.
  2. Choose your food wisely! Too often our “favorite foods” are the ones that are not the best for us. Try eating small portions of ALL the food you sample, not large amounts of what you like. This will allow you to leave room to try new foods and likely limit the amount of fatty and sugary foods in favor of more healthy varieties. Remember to eat slowly and talk a lot.  You’ll give the food you eat time to drive down your hunger and prevent those unnecessary second and third trips to the buffet table.
  3. Shop with your mind, not your stomach! When preparing meals for your family, start by selecting foods that are low in fat and cholesterol, but still tasty.  If it’s not in the house, it won’t end up on your table. Make a shopping list and stick to it. Never shop on an empty stomach.  Grab a handful or two of walnuts or pecans before you leave for the store.  It will help you to pick the right foods and avoid making choices out of hunger.Give your heart (and your waistline) a present this holiday season.  Have a Heart-Healthy Holiday!

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