The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year. With so much happening, it can be easy for nutrition to take a backseat. But cardiovascular disease doesn’t take a holiday vacation. Those at risk don’t have to replace every meal with kale and quinoa, but there are some simple ways to keep your heart happy and healthy this holiday season.
1. Hold off on sugary holiday drinks.
The holidays bring plenty of seasonal drinks that could give your heart trouble. Sugar-loaded apple cider is no exception. Studies have shown a link between high sugar diets and increased risk for cardiovascular disease. And while fresh cider is all natural, one cup can have between 20 and 30 grams of sugar. It’s best to consume apple cider as a treat instead of a regular part of your seasonal diet.
Eggnog is another seasonal favorite that should be enjoyed in moderation. Its rich flavor won’t do your heart any favors—the average brand of eggnog has 360 calories, 18 grams of fat and 42 grams of sugar in just one cup. If you can’t shake your eggnog craving, stick to the recommended serving size of half a cup.
2. Choose slimmer side dishes.
It can be easy to choose unhealthy sides if you’ve opted for a healthier main course. But making smart choices with snacks and side dishes is also important. Take the holiday classic: sweet potato casserole. Sweet potatoes have health benefits to go around, but too much butter and sugar can turn sweet potato casserole into a dessert. Try trading butter and some of the sugar for Greek yogurt. You’ll still have a sweet flavor while cutting down on sugar and calories. Try more of these easy holiday recipe swaps.
When snacking at holiday parties you should opt for the veggie tray instead of the chips. However, it’s also important you don’t erase the benefits of fresh veggies by loading them with high calorie dips. Standard ranch dressings can add 140 calories per 2 tablespoon serving. You don’t have to completely cut out your favorite dips, just be mindful of serving sizes and enjoy a healthier snack.
3. Be smarter with your sweet tooth.
It can be difficult to pass up a delicious holiday treat, but you can still snack smart when you’re craving something sweet. Luckily, there are plenty of heart healthy substitutes that will still satisfy your sweet tooth. Dried fruits like raisins and apricots provide plenty of sweetness and a reasonable amount of calories. A small box of raisins has 129 calories and 0.2 grams of fat. Dried fruit does contain a significant amount of sugar—so be sure to stick to a 1.5 ounce serving size.
For those at risk for cardiovascular disease, the holiday season comes with its challenges. So enjoy yourself this year—but remember that moderation and healthier substitutes are important to keep your holidays worry-free.