Avoiding the Cardiovascular Roller Coaster this Holiday Season
The holidays are a tough time of year for those on a diet. Food temptations are everywhere, and if you are focusing on your cardiovascular health, attending a holiday party can feel like walking into battle. From eggnog, to casseroles, to sugar cookies, it can feel overwhelming to keep your diet in check. Some people try to put their diets “on hold” and start back up again when they feel they are able. However, frequently stopping and starting, or “yo-yo dieting,” can put your health on a roller coaster of sharp peaks and long downward plummets.
This type of dieting won’t do your heart any favors. In fact, stopping and starting a diet can cause you to eat even more “off-limit” foods in a short period of time. And when it is your heart health on the line, being a disciplined eater may be the only thing keeping you from a serious heart condition. Avoid sporadic dieting this holiday season by following these simple tips.
Bring Your Own Heart-Healthy Dish
When attending a holiday party or feast, it is a good idea to bring along a couple of heart-healthy dishes to avoid any potentially awkward encounters with the host. This way, you won’t have to worry about failing on your diet, and you can share your nutritious recipes with your relatives and friends. Try making a green bean casserole with sautéed onions instead of creamy mushroom soup and fried onions. Or, bring sweet potatoes spiced with cinnamon instead of traditional mashed potatoes.
In addition to parties, another situation where you may want to pack your own healthy meal is when traveling on the road. The holidays can be full of long road trips to visit family and friends, which tend to make it difficult to make good eating choices. It may be tempting and convenient to stop for fast food, but your body will thank you if you bring along some tuna sandwiches with fresh vegetables to snack on instead.
Skip the Eggnog
If you are going to indulge in an alcoholic beverage during the holidays, avoid the spiked eggnog. Eggnog on its own is full of fat and has over 200 calories per cup. Additionally, the rum, brandy, or whichever liquor you choose to put in will leave you feeling sluggish, dehydrated, and craving sweets. Instead, choose a light-colored spirit to mix with some club soda. Or better yet, have a glass a red wine, which contains antioxidants and is proven to help prevent heart disease.
After a big holiday meal, it can be tempting to take a nap on the couch. However, getting your heart rate up with some light exercise can be a great way to burn unwanted, extra calories and feel better after a heavy meal. Consider getting out of the house and taking a walk with some family members. Long walks can be a great way to catch up with family and get your blood pumping, or, strike up a game a basketball with the kids. When you arrive back inside, you will be in a better mood and feel re-energized.
Don’t Let Your Busy Schedule Get in the Way
The holidays tend to be the busiest, most stressful time of year of everyone, and all of the jam-packed schedules can lead to some unhealthy lifestyle habits. Staying up all night to finish those fourth-quarter workloads can result in increased coffee consumption, unnecessary snacking, greasy takeout, and lack of sleep. Although it may be impossible to avoid a busy schedule due to work, holiday traveling, or other life events, it is possible to prevent it from ruining your diet. Be sure to always get enough sleep and avoid pulling all-nighters if feasible; refrain from putting fatty creams and sugars in your coffee; cook healthy meals at home instead of ordering in; and pick any of the numerous healthy snacking options available.
If at First You Fail, Try Again
Avoid the roller coaster by getting back on your diet even if you make a mistake or two. Don’t beat yourself up for having a slice of pie; enjoy it, and then be sure to choose heart healthy foods for the rest of the month. Most importantly, remember why you are doing this. Choosing heart-healthy foods can help prevent a serious heart condition later, which means you will be around for the holidays for years to come.