Dr. Soo Park is a board-certified cardiologist with Franciscan Physician Network Indiana Heart Physicians with offices in Columbus and Indianapolis. He offers heart-healthy tips to enjoy the holiday season's festivities without feeling like you're sacrificing.
Q. Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the season where I overindulge on food, especially sweets. Is there anything practical I can do to keep things under control?
A: The holidays are all about family, fun and food. The period between Thanksgiving and New Year's is full of temptations for those trying to watch their weight. A large part of being successful during this time of year is to remember that you don't have to completely deny yourself. There are substitutions and strategies you can use to participate without completely throwing away your regular eating plan. Here are a few tips.
Enjoy Holiday Treats in Moderation
- If you can't wait for that first glass of eggnog or if your sister's fudge is the highlight of the season, plan ahead of time how much you will eat and stick to your plan.
- Try filling your glass with half low-fat or skim milk and one part eggnog. You’ll still get the flavor without all the calories.
- For desserts, try using the buddy system and split dessert with someone else. This cuts calories and fat in half, and you won’t feel like you missed out.
Make Smart Subsitutes
The American Heart Association suggests substituting ingredients in your holiday treats and meals.
- Instead of butter, use a healthier vegetable oil or substitute equal parts unsweetened applesauce when baking.
- Use low-fat or skim milk instead of heavy cream.
- Instead of just white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat.
- Instead of adding chocolate chips, use dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries.
- Use extracts like vanilla, almond and peppermint to add flavor, instead of sugar or butter.
- Use spices, fresh herbs and citrus juice to flavor foods and drinks instead of excess salt and added sugars.
Keep Up Healthy Habits
During the holidays, promise yourself you won't lose control. Write down the habits you want to keep. For example, promise yourself to do something active every day or promise to eat a healthy breakfast. If you are able to maintain some semblance of control you won't feel like you have to completely start over again in January.
- Know what to expect at holiday parties: Most office parties and holiday gatherings offer an assortment of less-than-healthy foods. If you’re the guest, eat a healthy snack before you go and avoid overdoing it at the party. Stand away from the food, and sip a glass of water.
- Stay active: The holidays are about spending time with loved ones. Aft er a holiday meal, take a light walk, take the family to the park or grab a basketball for some fun outdoor activities. Try not to focus the entire holiday event around food.
- Plan for the new year: After the activities settle down, try to reset yourself for the new year. Make healthy plans for the months ahead. Plan to start a walking routine or take a healthy cooking class.