Here’s to Healthy Holidays!

The American Heart Association provides 10 tips for leading a heart-healthy lifestyle during the holiday season.

By: Erin Wilder

The holiday season is often an excuse to overindulge and let our healthy habits go. We eat too much holiday ham, have a second helping of Aunt Jeannie’s famous butter crust pie and forgo any exercise shy of shuffling back-and-forth from the couch to the fridge.

It’s a recipe for disaster: While the average American only gains a pound or two between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, it tends to stick around and become a permanent weight gain. High levels of sodium, sugar and saturated fats wreak havoc on your body. And a few days of overeating and under-exercising can leave you feeling bloated, stressed out and miserable.

Here are 10 tips from the American Heart Association on leading a heart-healthy lifestyle; pick a few that are easy to implement, and cruise through the holiday season feeling energetic and bright!

1/ Control your portions. You may not want to hear it, but your dinner plate at a special holiday meal should look like any other dinner plate; ideally, that’s half vegetables and fruits, one quarter starches like potatoes or rice and one quarter lean protein. Fill up on the healthy options first.

2/ Put it on a plate. At a party, don’t eat passed hors d’oeuvres from your hand or pile cookies on a napkin; it’s hard to keep track of how much you’re actually eating. Resolve to put it on a plate.

3/ Eat mindfully, not mindlessly. Slow down, pay attention and really savor the indulgences you do choose. Don’t eat in front of the TV or with other distractions. You’ll find you’re satisfied with less when you practice mindful eating.

4/ Stay hydrated. Imbibe wisely. When it comes to adult beverages, choose red wine over sugary cocktails or make smart substitutes (for example, club soda and fresh limejuice over lemon-lime sodas). And always make sure to drink plenty of water.

5/ Stay active. Getting in even 10 to 15 minutes of physical activity daily can reduce stress during the holidays. Take a brisk walk after dinner. Do household chores energetically. Play ball in the yard with the grandkids. Just move!

6/ Wear layers, and protect your extremities. Even in South Texas, it can get cold out. When doing any outdoor activities, dress in layers to avoid getting overheated in heavy clothes. Wear thin gloves and a headband or hat to keep your hands, ears and head warm.

7/ Laugh! Laughing makes you feel good, and it can protect you from the harmful effects of stress. Don’t get so wrapped up in the demands of the season that you can’t enjoy it.

8/ Wash your hands often. This is one of the best ways to avoid catching a cold or passing sniffles on to someone else.

9/ Get some shut-eye. Most adults need six to eight hours of sleep each night. Appropriate rest can reduce your risk for cardiovascular issues.

10/ Take time for yourself. In the hustle and bustle of family, friends and a busy social calendar, be sure to carve out some “me time.” Ten to 20 minutes of yoga, meditation, reading a book or doing anything that makes you truly content can reduce stress, increase positive feelings and lead to a healthy and happy holiday.

Erin Wilder is the executive director for the American Heart Association – Corpus Christi. For more information, visit www.heart.org/corpuschristi.

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