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The holiday season officially begins with Thanksgiving and ends after the New Year\’s celebrations leftovers are gone. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or any other winter holiday, this can be the hardest time of the year to follow heart healthy habits!

Here are some tips to help get you through the holiday season:

Heart Healthy Holiday Eating Tips:1) Do not go to holiday parties hungry to avoid overeating at the party. Eat regular meals before the party and do not skip meals. Drink plenty of water before you go.
2) Avoid talking and socializing around the buffet or in the kitchen.
3) Watch your portion sizes. Moderation is key.
4) Eat slowly! Put your fork down between bites. Eating slower allows you to feel full when you have eaten enough.
5) Avoid high fat items. Fill your plate with healthy choices like fruits and vegetables.
6) Bring a healthy meal or snack to a potluck dinner.
7) Take healthy snacks with you when you go food shopping. NEVER go food shopping when you are hungry.
8) If you are the cook, select healthy dishes prepared in a healthy manner.
a. Try to bake, broil or grill food. Avoid fried foods.
b. Use low fat sour cream and sauces. Avoid cream sauces.
c. When baking, try to use fat free sprays or lower fat ingredients.
d. Try to add beans to salads, casseroles and appetizers. Beans add fiber to the meal and helps you feel fuller.
e. Select whole wheat and whole grain products like crackers, bread and pasta. Avoid white flour.
f. Serve fresh fruit and vegetables. Include fresh fruit in dessert options with low fat cool whip or dark chocolate.
g. Offer bite-sized desserts that are low fat.
h. User smaller plates to encourage people to take smaller portions.
i. Serve fruit and vegetables as the main dish and meat as a side dish.
Heart Healthy Drinking Tips:
1) Limit alcoholic beverages to one or two servings per day.
2) Drink a glass of water in between alcoholic beverages.
3) Eat food prior to and while drinking alcoholic beverages.
4) Do not drink and drive.
5) Choose lighter options to cut back on extra calories. Try spritzers, lite beer or low calorie mixers. Avoid drinks mixed with cream and frozen drinks.
Heart Healthy Activity Tips:
1) Participate in outings that involve physical activity like skiing, sleigh riding, ice skating and walking.
2) At the shopping malls park in the furthest spot from the store to increase your walking.
3) Go window shopping and enjoy the holiday decorations. Take your pedometer with you and count your steps. Aim for 10,000 steps per day!
4) Dance at holiday parties.
5) Schedule exercise/physical activity into you routine. Exercise increases your energy level.
6) Take the dog for a walk and enjoy the holiday decorations in the neighborhood.
7) Go Christmas caroling.
8) Cut down your own Christmas tree.
9) Take the stairs whenever possible instead of elevators and escalators.Tips for Managing Holiday Stress:
1) Schedule some down time for yourself to relax and de-stress
2) Learn some relaxation techniques and use them throughout your stressful days. Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can be very relaxing.
3) Include a chair massage for yourself during holiday shopping trips.
4) Remember to have fun each and every day. Find some humor in every day life. Laughter is a great way to relieve stress.
5) Try to always keep a positive attitude and surround yourself with happy people.
6) Try not to focus on money issues every day. If you have made financial mistakes in the past, use it as a learning experience and avoid similar mistakes in the future.Heart Healthy Holiday Gifts Ideas:
1) Exercise items like pedometers; resistance bands; exercise mats; exercise balls; jump ropes; heart rate monitors; exercise tapes, videos and DVDs; sneakers, exercise outfits and hand weights, all make great gift ideas.
2) Heart healthy cookbooks, juicers, and popcorn machines.
3) Healthy foods: fruit baskets, fruit of the month clubs, assorted unsalted nuts, flavor-infused olive oils, red wines, herbal or green teas, dark chocolates and high fiber baked goods.
4) Stress relievers: gift certificates for massage or health clubs, aromatherapy candles, pillows, bath salts, Yoga or Tai Chi videos, tapes and books.
5) Give the gift of your time. Spend time with an elderly relative, neighbor or friend. Offer a ride to the store, pharmacy or doctor\’s office to those needing assistance.
6) Offer to be an exercise buddy to someone starting a new exercise program. It is more fun to work out with a friend and it will benefit both of you!For additional heart healthy information visit us at www.heart-strong.com.


Carolyn Strimike and Margie Latrella, www.heart-strong.com, are cardiac nurse practitioners with over 40 years combined experience. They specialize in heart health and wellness and have recently started their own health care education and consulting business called Heartstrong, LLC. Their first book titled Take Charge: A Woman\’s Guide to a Healthier Heart is due out December 2008.

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