Stick to a healthy diet to better manage chronic conditions
The fall and winter holidays are full of F-words: fun, frolicking and fattening food. That last one is bad for everyone, but can be particularly dangerous for people with high cholesterol.
Around the holidays, we are all prone to let healthy eating habits slide, and that’s the worst thing you can do if you have a heart condition, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. One month of party noshing can put significant stress on your body.
Though going overboard on calories, sugar and sodium is easy, sticking to up simple lifestyle strategies can be almost as simple. Make these small tweaks to ensure your holidays are healthy, whether you’re trying to avoid weight gain to lower blood pressure or limit fats to lower your cholesterol intake:
- Plan ahead. Grab a healthy snack at home before your hit that co-worker’s holiday party. Try a handful of nuts or veggies and hummus dip. If it’s a pot-luck, bring a healthy dish so you’re guaranteed at least one low-fat, low-calorie option.
- Eat smart. You already know the sensible healthy-eating guidelines: Eat breakfast; don’t skip meals; eat small, frequent lighter meals; drink lots of calorie-free liquid. Since you’re on the go a lot during the holiday season, carry healthy snacks like fruits, veggies and low-fat yogurt. If you’re attending an event where holiday treats are being served, don’t arrive hungry. It’s too difficult to resist fattening party favors when you’re famished.
- Watch what you drink. You probably know eggnog is on the no-fly list if you have high cholesterol. But the same is true of any sugary beverage or whipped-cream-topped after-dinner drink; they’ll all up your calorie intake and jeopardize your attempts to lower cholesterol. Red wine has been shown to reduce cholesterol, but it still has calories, so drink it in moderation. One helpful strategy: Alternate a glass of red wine with a calorie-free beverage, like sparkling water.
- Go easy on the cheese. Did you know this dairy product is the No. 1 source of heart-unhealthy saturated fat in the American diet? Also skip fried foods, gravy or creamy sauces, and the skin from chicken and turkey. Choose high-fiber foods, veggies and white-meat chicken and turkey.
- Exercise. We get it: Your calendar is chock-full during the holidays. But that’s no excuse to neglect exercise, especially since it’s a good part of your program to lower cholesterol. Plus, working up a sweat can do double duty: It keeps weight gain at bay, and research shows a workout may help increase the amount of HDL (good) cholesterol.
You can still cut loose during this season of excess. Just do so in moderation. And remember the holidays are about more than fattening desserts and sugar-laden drinks. Focus on the sights and sounds—and the memories you make with family and friends.