The holidays can be a challenging time to maintain healthy habits. There are presents to buy, social functions to attend, and plenty of obligations at the end of the year, so time is limited. Also, along with socializing comes food that you may not otherwise include in a healthy diet.
Next thing you know, it’s the beginning of January, you haven’t exercised regularly in weeks, you may be carrying a few extra pounds, and as a result, you’re feeling sluggish.
You can enjoy the holidays and not let your health lapse at the same time. The tips below will help you maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle without missing out on the magic of the season.
It can be tempting to overindulge in the treats around the holidays, but with the right steps, you can still enjoy festive foods while maintaining heart health. Pay attention to your portions and take time to savor every bite. This way, you properly digest food, and you’ll be satisfied even though you are eating less.
Before you head to any parties, eat a high-protein snack such as nonfat yogurt and a piece of fruit. The protein will give you sustainable energy and make it easier to pass up party foods high in saturated fat and salt, and the fruit will fill you up and help give you the vitamins you need.
While you are at the party, socialize away from the food. If you’re standing next to the dessert table while you converse with others, you’re inevitably going to keep giving in to the sweet temptations.
Finally, if you are in charge of cooking, prepare healthier dishes, or swap out some traditional holiday carbohydrates for vegetables. For example, instead of pasta, use zucchini or squash and mash up cauliflower instead of potatoes. When everyone has finished eating, put all the food away to prevent snacking after meals.
The holidays are often a time when people consume more alcohol, and excessive drinking is harmful to health in many ways. In addition, many holiday beverages like eggnog, punch, and mixed cocktails are high in sugar, affecting blood glucose levels and heart health.
Participate in the annual toast or have a small glass of wine with dinner, and then switch to water. There are also plenty of festive non-alcoholic drinks that will keep you ‘merry’, such as hot apple cider, cinnamon tea, peppermint tea, tea lattes, and hot cocoa.
Our routines tend to get disrupted over the holidays, but if there is any way to maintain your exercise routine, it is a wonderful stress reliever and beneficial for your heart. Instead of making exercise a New Year's resolution, fit in small bits throughout every day, using a walk or a trip to the gym as an opportunity to catch up with friends or get some much-needed time to yourself.
Shoot for at least 30 minutes on most days, and incorporate exercise into your holiday errands. While shopping or returning holiday gifts, instead of cramming into the elevator, take the stairs. After meals, grab the dog and take a walk around your neighborhood to look at lights!
The holidays are fun, but they are also a time of year that causes occasional stress for many. You are not a superhero, and nobody expects you to be. Having too much on your plate can lead to occasional exhaustion, anger, and emotional stress, all of which are not doing your heart any favors.
To help reduce everyday stress during the holidays, cut down your to-do list and enlist others to help get chores and errands done. Set a time limit on visitors, set up dinners in potluck-style to reduce the burden on just one person, create a holiday spending budget and stick to it, plan shopping trips in advance, and account for peak travel times.
You also need to make time for yourself to do things you enjoy. Take a walk after meals to soak up some crisp winter air. Schedule time for a holiday movie or book or get the whole family together for holiday-themed puzzles.
No matter how hectic the holidays get, everything is more manageable when you are rested. Skipping sleep doesn’t just leave you feeling exhausted; it can negatively affect your blood pressure and heart health. Additionally, how well we sleep is linked to how often and how much we eat. Restful sleep can make it a little easier to avoid tempting foods.
For a restful night’s sleep, adults should aim for between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. It is helpful to establish, and stick with, a bedtime routine. Plan for a winding-down time of at least 30 minutes before you go to bed, including turning off electronics. You’ll fall asleep sooner, sleep more soundly, and be rested and energized for the next day.
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‘Tis the season to be heart healthy. Even with the best intentions, it can be tempting to overeat, and with all the parties and family visits, who has time for exercise? But, with these heart-healthy tips, you can still enjoy the festivities and maintain a healthy lifestyle and holiday season.
So, give your heart the gift of care this season with these simple tips and the comprehensive support of 1MD Nutrition’s heart-health supplements.
Dr. Heather Shenkman
Dr. Heather Shenkman is a board certified interventional cardiologist. She completed a six year program at Albany Medical College, graduating at the age of 23. She completed her residency at Henry Ford Hospital, cardiology fellowship at the University of Rochester, and interventional cardiology fellowship at the esteemed Tufts Medical Center in Boston.