Mastering a heart-healthy diet is not always easy. It’s easy to get off track fast when you add to it the complication of lots of delicious, rich holiday foods. For most people, the motivation to make healthy choices is strong. We want to live as long as possible, remain strong and agile, and stick around to watch our kids and grandkids grow up. The holidays often feel like a choice between enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with your kids or avoiding it to protect your heart. We’re here to tell you that you won’t need to choose with a robust framework and a few critical decisions.

The most important factors of a heart-healthy diet are knowing what to eat and how much to eat. These are also some of the biggest hurdles during the holidays. From the office breakroom to the family gatherings, there is usually no limit to the amount of food you encounter. And what are you to do when you’re faced with plenty of unhealthy food options and portions? If you’ve established a good holiday eating plan, you’ll breeze through with no problem. If not, get ready to struggle through the next few months.

No one wants to be the person who asks everyone around them to accommodate their dietary needs. But there are things that you can do to support your own heart health goals without feeling like you’re putting anyone else out. Here are some things you can do this time of year to maintain progress toward your goals.

Bring A Dish

Depending on the kind of gathering you’re attending, it might be appropriate to bring a dish. While it’s tempting to get that family recipe that’s a favorite to crowds but not to your cardiologist, take this opportunity to come up with a new dish that fits in better with your long-term goals. If you’re usually the chili guy or the chocolate cake lady, surprise everyone by using lean ground turkey or swapping cake for fruit salad. If you want to go crazy, why not make a salad? Everyone else is facing the same dietary temptations as you are, so they might appreciate a healthier option.

It’s Okay To Be Picky

If bringing a dish isn’t an option, remind yourself that you don’t have to eat everything available to you. If you’re a food lover, this might be a hard habit to break. It’s ok for you to choose to skip some of the options that are not the best for your heart health. Opt for coffee without sweetener, let the breadbasket pass you buy, or even leave some of the less healthy items on your plate. To make good food choices, you must be particular about what you eat, even when you’re a guest in someone else’s house.

Eat Before You Go

Sometimes it’s easier to avoid the buffet table altogether than to be faced with temptation. Eat before you come if you feel like eating healthy will be hard at your company holiday party. It’s a great excuse, and a full belly helps curb cravings, so you don’t have to fight against your appetite. 

Drink Lots Of Water

There’s something about the holidays that makes people desire unhealthy drinks. Hot cocoa, mulled cider and wine come to mind. While you’re focused on saying no to cakes and cookies, you may be surprised to learn how much of an impact your sugary drinks are having on your health. According to research, there is a link between the overconsumption of sugary drinks and the increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Sugary drinks are the hardest thing to quit for many people because they drink them throughout the day, not just on special occasions. Acquaint yourself with drinking water, and you’ll see the impact on your health.

Another benefit to drinking plenty of water – aside from the health benefits is that it keeps you filled up and makes it easier to avoid foods that might otherwise be a temptation. The goal here is not that you don’t enjoy food at all, but that you learn to instead enjoy food in moderation.

Be Kind To Yourself

It’s easy to get caught up in the desire to be a better version of yourself. That can drive a person mad, and when you make a mistake or give in to temptation, your extremely high standards can make you feel like a failure. As you continue on your heart health journey, you must remember to have some grace with yourself. This new way of eating is not for the short term. It’s a set of habits that will help you live a healthy life for the rest of your life.

For the next few weeks, you will have so many opportunities to make new choices and enjoy the holidays in a way you might never have before. You might feel like you’re missing out on your favorite foods from the holidays, but we encourage you to think about it differently. You have the chance to make some relatively simple choices that will make a long-term difference in your life. If you’re concerned about your heart health or would like to learn how to make better choices for your heart, call our office today.