3 Smart Ways To Look After Your Heart Health This Holiday Season

Melanie Thomassian Health Pro
  • Perhaps you're already bracing yourself for the inevitable weight gain of the holiday season.


    It's true most of us will spend a lot of our Christmas holidays eating too much food, and sitting around more than we should.


    If this is a regular cycle for you, why not challenge yourself to break that bad habit?


    Let's be clear, a diet of deprivation is not heart-healthy. However, there should be a few limits in place, to help you keep your health in order, and avoid the 1-5 pounds many Americans gain over the Christmas period.  


    So, what can you do to keep your heart fit and healthy this holiday season?

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    1. Eat The Right Foods


    It's tempting, when you have a big party at night, to starve yourself all day in an attempt to save a few calories for later. But, that's the last thing you should do.


    Begin your day like you would any other day, by eating a healthy breakfast (I recommend a protein-based option like eggs), a light lunch, and healthy snacks (nuts, seeds, fresh fruit) throughout the day.


    That way you won't arrive at the party absolutely famished, and ready to eat everything in sight. 


    Keeping things pretty normal throughout the day will help you to avoid taking in more calories than you need, and will help you to control overeating.


    Try to focus mostly on the healthier options available to you, for example raw veg crudites, salads, nuts and fresh fruit. But, do allow some room for a special treat, too. Completely avoiding what you love isn’t good for stickability.


    When it comes to Christmas dinner, the main thing to remember is portion control. Don't pile your plate high with food, but do allow yourself a small taste of everything on offer, then fill up with lots of lightly steamed veg.


    If you feel like going for seconds, remember to wait at least 10 minutes before you refill your plate. That will allow time for your satiety levels to signal, and can help you to avoid overeating.


    Another way to cut a huge amount of unnecessary calories from your diet, is to take care with drinks. This includes all soft drinks, alcohol and fruit juices.


    Water is undoubtedly your best option, and avoiding those empty calories will mean you can afford to be a little more relaxed with the Christmas cake, or chocolates.


    2. Manage Stress Levels


    If you have a heart condition, managing your stress levels is extremely important. One of the best ways to do that is to understand what makes you feel particularly anxious, and then try to avoid it.


    The holiday season tends to be extremely busy for most people, and it can get overwhelming, if you take on too much. Prioritizing your activities using a to-do list may be particularly helpful. 


    Also remember that it's okay to say no if something doesn't suit you. It's also okay to ask for help, if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of things you need to get done.


    3. Make Time For Exercise


    Physical activity may be the last thing on your mind at this time of year. But, it can be a refreshing break from the busy routine of Christmas preparations.


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    If you are inclined to feel stressed, making time for exercise is an absolute must, as it will help you to relax and refocus.


    If you are a social excuser, you could try joining a local exercise class. One of the most enjoyable classes I've ever taken part in was a pre-natal pilates class in my last pregnancy. It was wonderful to be around other mums-to-be. Finding a class which suits your individual needs makes all the difference in helping you commit to a workout plan.


    Another option is to start a family workout routine. Whether it's a DVD at home, or cycling in the park, exercising together can be a truly bonding experience, and a lot of fun, too.


    If you're extremely busy, break your exercise sessions down into two 15-minute workouts each day. That way, you may be more likely to find the time to exercise. The key is to make those 15 minutes count, though.


    If you are already working out, make an effort to stick with your existing workout schedule throughout the holiday season. It can be really difficult to get back to exercise after a break, so don't let the holidays upset your routine so much that you have to motivate yourself all over again.


    Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian, health writer, busy wife, and mum. Her goal is to promote good health and better lifestyles in the online community. For more healthy eating tips, check out her blog.

Published On: December 13, 2011