The holiday season is here, and with it comes all the usual temptations – rich desserts, creamy casseroles and buttery rolls. From holiday parties and client gifts to family dinners, sweet and savory treats are everywhere. It”s hard to not indulge and avoid the delicious food.
However, the experts say there are healthy ways to indulge and even heart healthy choices can be a part of the holidays.
According to Registered Dietician Amy Tella of Gwinnett Medical Center (GMC) — Lawrenceville, “there are some tips to incorporate into your diet, that won”t sacrifice health. However, it”s important to realize that trying to lose weight during the holidays may be self-defeating.”Tella encourages weight maintenance rather than the all-or-nothing mindset.
Medical professionals at GMC realize and embrace the far-reaching impact of dietician services. In January, the new Heart & Vascular Center will open.# Open heart patients and their families will have access to education materials and modules that provide details on low sodium and low fat diets. Tella and her team of dieticians will review materials with patients to ensure success.
“To find heart healthy foods, there”s no better place than the grocery store,” said Tella. “The American Heart Association has an online tool to help make heart-healthy choices at the grocery before leaving home.”
When it comes to preparing meals, Tella recommends fat-free evaporated milk in mashed potatoes and even low-sodium chicken broth for more flavor.
“Stuffing mixes are holiday classics and they can be more heart-healthy by simply mixing in dried cranberries, raisins and apricots instead of meat,” she said. “Skip the prepackaged gravy mixes, cakes and cookies and pumpkin pies and go for lower fat, homemade versions using low-sodium broth and skim milk for a more heart-healthy gravy. Crustless pumpkin pies or angel food cakes with berries are tasty alternatives.”
Overall, Tella stresses reading food labels to avoid trans and saturated fats. Aim for foods with more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like canola, olive, soybean and sunflower oils. “Remember, trans fats are contained in foods listing partially hydrogenated oils as an ingredient,” she said.
Parties can lead to caloric overload. But, Tella has some no-fail tips that will allow anyone to leave a party feeling positive about their diet.
She recommends unsalted nuts, fiber-rich crackers and raw vegetables with low-fat dressing or hummus rather than cheese that is loaded with saturated fat. “Buy the low-fat or fat-free version of eggnog or mulled apple cider is an even better choice,” she said.
“When you arrive at a party, avoid rushing to the food and opt for conversation first,” recommends Tella. Then, once you are ready, “make one trip to the party buffet and use a small plate – you”ll eat less. Even hold your glass in the hand that you normally eat with to make finger foods less accessible.”
When you”re done, use a mint or stick of gum as a deterrent for additional trips. Even by simply positioning yourself away from the buffet table or food trays will help prevent overeating.
Other additional party tips from Tella include:
- Don”t go to a party hungry. Eat a light snack before going out.
- Choose only the foods you really want and keep the portions small.
- Remember that there are a lot of “empty”# calories in eggnog, beer, soda, and wine, so be careful to limit these.
- Drink plenty of water.
Don”t let deprivation of special holiday foods or guilt when you do enjoy, plague your special season. A simple strategy can promote wise choices during this holiday.
The following are a few healthy holiday side dishes Tella recommends:
About Gwinnett Medical Center
Gwinnett Medical Center is a not-for-profit healthcare network with acute-care hospitals in Lawrenceville and Duluth that provide award-winning healthcare services. GMC”s 4,200 associates and 800 affiliated physicians serve more than 400,000 patients annually. To learn more about how GMC is transforming healthcare, visit gwinnettmedicalcenter.org or follow us at facebook.com/gwinnettmedical, twitter.com/gwinnettmedical or youtube.com/gwinnettmedical.