How to make holiday feasts happy and healthy.
Heart health doesn’t take holidays. That means planning ahead to have happy holiday meals.
This does not mean starving yourself before and after an overindulgence. Nor does it mean you or your guests have to go on a diet. It does, however, mean thinking about how to avoid potential pitfalls.
That’s easier than it might sound, thanks to this eight-point plan from Kathy McManus, director of the nutrition department at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
1. Plan ahead
Find out when the meal will be served. If you know the holiday feast is at,
say, 3 p.m., eat your usual heart-healthy breakfast and have a little snack before going to the event. Snacks that include a small amount of protein and some carbohydrate can keep you from being overly hungry and may prevent you from overeating.
Enjoy important holiday foods
2. Limit appetizers
Most appetizers are high in saturated fat and sodium. As a guest, bring a colorful plate of raw vegetables (such as broccoli, carrots, red and yellow peppers, cucumbers, and peapods). Have a healthy dip such as hummus, homemade salsa, or nonfat plain yogurt with dill.
3. Eat favorites, skip the rest
Many holiday meals are buffets or served family-style. Check out which foods are being offered and choose a small amount of the ones that are really important for you to have at holiday time. Skip the foods you can have any time, such as rolls and butter.
4. Savor the flavor
Once you have chosen your food, savor each bite. Talk with friends and family at the table—that’s really what it’s all about. Don’t rush through your meal. It should take at least 25 minutes for you to finish your meal. If you want seconds, wait at least another 10 minutes before having small additional portions.
5. A little goes a long way
Take a small piece of your favorite dessert. Even better, split a piece with a family member. If dessert isn’t really important to you, just have a nice cup of tea or coffee.
6. Watch the alcohol
If you decide to have a drink, be moderate. Alcohol adds calories—and might make you lose your focus on your healthy eating plan.
7. Walk away from leftovers
Don’t sit around the table if there is still food readily available. Get up and help with the dishes or see if anyone wants to take a walk.
8. Stay active
Just because it is a holiday doesn’t mean skipping your physical activity routine. Try to get some movement in before your holiday meal. Arrange some fun activities to enjoy over the holiday with the people you love.