Healthy Holiday Tips


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 We all know that the coming season is going to be full of eating, drinking, and being merry. Fortunately, it is possible make healthy choices this time of year. We’ve put together a few ideas to have a month of holiday cheer that keeps your heart healthy and your blood sugar under control:

  • Snacks: Go nuts! Many nuts have heart-healthy benefits. Almonds, for instance, have heart-healthy polyphenols (the same type of compound in green tea), and walnuts are full of essential omega-3 fatty acids. With a relatively low-glycemic index, this snack can be a great way to keep hunger at bay. Skip the salt, and these can be a great coffee table dish.

  • Dinner: Remember white meat beats dark meat in the heart healthy contest; and cranberry sauce beats the gravy (which is just fat, fat, and more fat flavored with crispy oxidized fats and carbos)! Choose white meat without skin whenever possible. Skip the butter on your roll (and better yet, skip the high-carb roll.)

  • Dessert: Consider using applesauce or xylitol as a sweetener, use whole-grain flours when possible, substitute yogurt for cream cheese...the list goes on. Check out this recipe for a whole grain apple pie crust from one of our favorite nutrition gurus, Cynthia Lair.

  • Exercise: For regular exercisers, finding time to stay in a routine can be tough. Even just getting out for a walk around the block can be helpful, as well as being a great stress-reliever. Walking immediately after meals is best, as it helps you use the food you just ate more effectively and helps lower blood sugar! If it's been a while since you've exercised, it’s a good time to get started, so ask your physician before starting something new. And watch out for ice!

  • Alcohol: Moderate intake of alcohol has heart benefits, but the “moderate” is critical; too much alcohol raises blood pressure, adds a lot of extra calories, and worsens sleep apnea! Research continues to show benefits from women drinking one drink per day, and men drinking two drinks. But consider the heart-healthy benefits of red wine versus the artery-clogging saturated fat in a boozy, egg-yolk rich egg-nog. We'd say the red wine wins. Of course...always have a designated driver, and please, seek help if alcohol is becoming a problem in your life.

  • Stress: Stress-reduction is especially important for people managing diabetes – short-term stress can lead to big swings in blood sugar, and chronic stress can make glucose management especially challenging. During the holidays, things can really get dicey with lots shopping, finances, family, cleaning....and expectations!! Do yourself and your family a favor, give yourself a break, try to be less critical of yourself and your family. Remember we all come together to laugh and share time, not to be tense and argue! A number of therapies exist to help with stress management, including the basics like yoga, hot Epsom salt baths, and walks outside in nature. Can you give yourself the gift of taking some down time?

  • Fun: We mention this last but by no means least. Enjoy this time! Whether the holidays are about family, faith, or service, remember to move through the next month with a light heart, open mind and try to regain some of that childlike eagerness for what’s next!

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