For many, this time of year is exciting not only because of holiday-themed activities, but also the anticipation of delicious seasonal dishes and desserts.
While being festive includes holiday meals, weeks of overindulging often lead to sugar crashes and weight gain, and can damage your heart in the long run. Maintain a healthy lifestyle while enjoying the holidays with these five tips:
1. Prioritize foods you love over foods you just like
Allow yourself an occasional serving of something you love, while leaving the food you simply like alone. This makes your overall intake smaller and still lets you enjoy the treats you look forward to. There can be many holiday meals, so load your plate with plenty of healthy options including fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains for heart health, along with one or two treats you enjoy.
2. Don’t fall prey to holiday snacking
It’s easy to sit and chat at a party while mindlessly consuming calories. To avoid this, replace holiday snacking with some fun games and situate yourself more than an arm's length away from treats. At mealtimes, start with low-calorie foods like soup and salad before main courses and dessert, and eat slowly to avoid overdoing it on portions.
Controlling your portion sizes is one of the greatest ways to maintain heart health, so learn about how much food you really need as opposed to what you're used to eating. Also, make sure you stay hydrated so you don't misinterpret thirst for hunger.
3. Make physical activity a holiday tradition
While roasting marshmallows around the mantelpiece is cozy, going outside to play basketball or football can also be a great holiday activity. You can even do aerobics or have a dance party — whatever is fun for everyone. Encourage family to create holiday traditions that include physical activity, so you can all enjoy the season without regretting it when you make New Year’s resolutions. At the same time, you'll be promoting circulation and increasing your heart's health.
4. Avoid getting sick
Many people get sick during the holidays due to stress, lack of sleep and traveling. Take time to get the sleep you need and manage your stress. It is easy to over-commit yourself to multiple holiday parties and outings. Be realistic and if you aren't feeling well, consider staying home. It’s better to avoid spreading illness, and you’ll be glad you rested enough to enjoy holiday events you want to attend.
5. Travel smart
When traveling, wipe off your plane armrests and other public surfaces. Wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your face to prevent spreading germs. Don’t let traveling — a small part of the holidays — ruin the whole experience. In addition, manage your travel stress to keep your blood pressure low; this will protect your heart from unnecessary stress as well.
With these five tips, you can stay heart healthy throughout the holidays.
For more tips on how to live a heart healthy life, visit mayoclinic.org.