American Heart Association

Holiday Healthy Eating

The holidays are all about family, fun and food! Below are some great tips to help you celebrate the season without putting your healthy habits on hold.

Watch our website later this week for heart healthy holiday meal recipes.

HEALTHY EATING

Here are some simple ways you and your family can eat healthy. Learn more at Eat Smart
INCLUDE

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Beans and legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fish, skinless poultry, and plant-based alternatives
  • Fat-free and low-fat dairy products
  • Healthier fats and nontropical oils

LIMIT

  • Sodium and salty or highly processed foods
  • Saturated fat
  • Sweets and added sugars, including sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Fatty or processed meats — if you choose to eat red meat, select the leanest cuts

AVOID

  • Trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils and excessive calories

TIPS

  • Choose wisely, even with healthier foods. Ingredients and nutrient content can vary by brand and preparation.
  • Compare nutrition information on package labels and select products with the lowest amounts of sodium, added sugars, saturated fat and trans fat, and no partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Watch your calorie intake. To maintain weight, consume only as many calories as you use up through physical activity. If you want to lose weight, consume fewer calories or burn more calories.
  • Eat reasonable portions. Often this is less than you are served.
  • Eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients your body needs.
  • Prepare and eat healthier meals at home. You’ll have more control over ingredients.</li
  • Look for the Heart-Check mark to easily identify foods that can be part of an overall healthy diet. Learn more at Heart Check

BE SMART ABOUT BEVERAGES

The holidays are chock full of delicious dishes, but they can come with extra calories and unwanted ingredients. Try these tips to enjoy your favorite winter beverages.

EGGNOG

  • Mix it up. Fill your glass with half- to three-quarter-parts of low-fat or skim
  • milk and one part eggnog. You’ll still get the flavor without all the calories.

  • Act like a kid. Take out the alcohol. This simple step will reduce the caloric content.
  • Cut the fluff. Pass on that big dollop of whipped cream to avoid the extra sugar and saturated fat.
  • Find an alternative. Try a low-fat or non-dairy version.

HOT CHOCOLATE

  • Lighten up. Try hot chocolate made with low-fat or skim milk, and without whipped cream.
  • Do some research. With instant hot chocolate, look for products marked “low-fat/fat-free” and use low-fat or nonfat milk or hot water. Choose options with less added sugars.
  • Go easy on the toppings. Use mini-marshmallows instead of large ones. Use low-fat whipped cream, or stick to less than one tablespoon. Try lighter toppings like grated cinnamon or nutmeg.

APPLE CIDER

  • Read the labels. When buying cider, check the added sugar content, which can increase your calorie intake and cause weight gain. Choose options with less sugar.
  • Do it yourself. When making cider at home, use unsweetened apple juice and a variety of spices (like cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg and whole cranberries). You’ll keep the flavor while cutting calories.

COCKTAILS AND OTHER ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES

  • Enjoy mocktails. Serve non-alcoholic versions of your favorite cocktails to lower the calories. Be sure to check the nutrition label, because sometimes products that are alcohol-free have more added sugar.
  • Break it up. Drink a glass of water or sparkling water between each beverage. This will help fill you up, leaving less room to overindulge.

MINDFUL MEALS

SODIUM

  • Limit your sodium. Did you know that many of your favorite holiday dishes may be packed with sodium? Breads and rolls, poultry, and canned soups are three common foods that can add sodium to your diet. When shopping for ingredients to prepare your holiday meal, compare the labels and choose options with the lowest amount of sodium.
  • Savor the flavor. Use herbs and spices, like rosemary and cloves, to flavor dishes instead of salt or butter.
  • Rinse away. When using canned beans or veggies, drain and rinse in a colander to remove excess sodium.

TURKEY

  • Outsmart the bird. Reach for the lighter pieces of meat; they have fewer calories and less fat than the darker ones. Another way to cut calories and fat is to take off the skin.
  • Keep portions in check. A serving size of meat is 3 oz., about the size of a deck of cards. So, be conscious of how much you put on your plate, and pass on that second helping. If you’re also having another meat, like ham or lamb, take smaller portions of each.
  • Watch out for the gravy train. Turkey usually comes with gravy, which can add excess saturated fat, calories and sodium. Limit gravy to a tablespoon, and keep it off other items, like the dressing.

DRESSNG

  • Call it what it is. Dressing is intended to be a complement to your meal, not an entrée. Limit servings to about 1/4 cup or one spoonful.
  • Judge it by its cover. If the dressing is filled with fatty meats like sausage and pork, looks greasy or buttery, or is made with white bread or sweet rolls, it may be best to pass. Better options include dressings made with whole grain or cornbread, lean meat (or no meat), nuts (like almonds or walnuts), and lots of veggies and fruits.

APPETIZERS/SNACKS

  • Skip the extras. Make sure everyone has an appetite for the meal by skipping appetizers and serving lighter snacks like cut-up fruits and veggies.

ADDED SUGARS

  • Treat yourself right. Try bite-sized or half portions of desserts, or split servings with others.
  • Sip smart. Instead of soda or sweet tea, which can add a lot of sugar to an already indulgent meal, serve sparkling water or tea sweetened only with a bit of 100% fruit juice.
  • Lighten up. Reduce the amount of sugar you use in sides like sweet potato casserole and cranberry sauce. Use herbs and spices for flavor instead.

HEALTHY HOLIDAY PARTIES

‘Tis the season of celebrations. Whatever the event, these tips can help you stay
healthy while having fun.

APPETIZERS AND HORS D’OEUVRES

  • Get involved. Whether potluck or not, offer to bring a dish. You can make a healthier item, giving yourself at least one good option to enjoy.
  • Come prepared. If the party is during lunch, eat a healthy breakfast followed in mid-morning by a high-fiber snack, such as an apple or a small handful of almonds. If the party is at the end of the day, enjoy a protein packed lunch like grilled fish or chicken with a salad and then later in the afternoon have another high-fiber snack. If you’re not too hungry when you go to the party, it will be easier to avoid overeating.
  • Go easy. Avoid loading up on foods that are fried, buttered or have a lot of cheese and cream. Even though the portions may be small, these fat-laden bites can really pack a punch. Look for fruit, veggies and dip, whole-grain crackers, and baked or grilled items.

DESSERTS

  • Use the buddy system. By splitting a dessert with someone, you can cut the calories and fat in half and avoid being wasteful. It’s a win-win!

BEVERAGES

  • Mix it up. If alcohol is being served, alternate each glass with a glass of water. This will help reduce your thirst while filling your stomach and you’ll consume fewer calories.
  • Watch seasonal drinks. Many holiday beverages have so much added sugar, they may as well be a dessert. Keep in mind what else you’ve eaten; it may be best to enjoy these drinks on another day.

MAKING TRADITIONS HEALTHY

Keep your holiday traditions, and make small changes and smart substitutions where you can.

  • Instead of butter, use a healthier vegetable oil or substitute equal parts unsweetened applesauce when baking.
  • Use a lower-calorie sugar substitute.
  • Use low-fat or nonfat milk instead of whole milk or heavy cream.
  • Instead of only white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat flour.
  • Instead of adding chocolate chips or candies, use dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries.
  • Use extracts like vanilla, almond and peppermint to add flavor, instead of sugar or butter.
  • Use vegetable oils or soft margarine instead of butter.
  • Use whole-grain breads, rice and pasta instead of white.
  • Bake, grill or steam vegetables instead of frying.
  • Compare labels of your holiday ingredients, and choose products with lower amounts of sodium and added sugars.
  • Use spices, fresh herbs and citrus juice to flavor foods and drinks instead of excess salt and added sugars.

 

MOVE MORE. BE WELL.

If your holiday traditions all seem to revolve around eating, liven things up with some opportunities to be physically active with family and friends.

  • Go for a walk or run. Instead of heading for the couch after the big meal, bundle up and head outdoors for some fresh air. Walking is an activity the whole family can do together, even the dog!
  • Play to win. Start a new tradition of an annual family game of touch football, basketball, mini-golf or whatever your family’s favorite sport is.
  • Make it move. Add movements and gestures to your favorite card or board games.
  • Play in the snow. Go sledding, ice skating, skiing or snowshoeing. Build a snowman or snow fort. Team up for an epic snowball fight.
  • Break up the binge-watching. In between bowl games or your favorite holiday movies, take a walk or do something active.

If the holidays sometimes leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed, take care of yourself to stay well.

  • Keep up healthy habits. Make a commitment to yourself before the holiday season begins. If you don’t completely give up your healthy habits, you won’t  feel like you have to start all over once the holidays are in the rear-view.
  • Fit in fitness. Try not to skip workouts, but when a full social calendar gets in the way, sprinkle some healthy activity like walking into your daily routine.
  • Give yourself the gift of peace. When the invitations pile up, don’t be afraid to say no to some of them. If you need some down time to recharge for the next party, take a break. Do something that relaxes you, like yoga, meditation, reading, a warm bath or spending time in nature.
  • Get your ZZZs. Aim for 7–9 hours of sleep each night to stay in the healthy zone. Don’t let your wake-up time and bedtime get too far off your regular schedule. Nap when needed and ditch the digital devices at night.

For more tips, visit Healthy For Good.


Why is physical activity so important for health and wellbeing?

There are so many reasons why regular activity boosts your health.

Learn what those are and how you can incorporate exercise into your day.

We know that staying active is one of the best ways to keep our bodies healthy. But did you know it can also improve your overall well-being and quality of life? 

Here are just a few of the ways physical activity can help you feel better, look better and live better. Because, why not? It’s a natural mood lifter.

Regular physical activity can relieve stress, anxiety, depression and anger. You know that “feel good sensation” you get after doing something physical? Think of it as a happy pill with no side effects! Most people notice they feel better over time as physical activity becomes a regular part of their lives.

It keeps you physically fit and able.

Without regular activity, your body slowly loses its strength, stamina and ability to function properly. It’s like the old saying: you don’t stop moving from growing old, you grow old from stopping moving. Exercise increases muscle strength, which in turn increases your ability to do other physical activities. 

It helps keep the doctor away.

Stand up when you eat your apple a day! Too much sitting and other sedentary activities can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. One study showed that adults who watch more than 4 hours of television a day had an 80% higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
 
Being more active can help you:

  • lower your blood pressure 
  • boost your levels of good cholesterol
  • improve blood flow (circulation)
  • keep your weight under control
  • prevent bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis

All of this can add up to fewer medical expenses, interventions and medications later in life!

It can help you live longer.

It’s true, 70 is the new 60… but only if you’re healthy. People who are physically active and at a healthy weight live about seven years longer than those who are not active and are obese. And the important part is that those extra years are generally healthier years! Staying active helps delay or prevent chronic illnesses and diseases associated with aging. So active adults maintain their quality of life and independence longer as they age.

Here are some other benefits you may get with regular physical activity: 

  • Helps you quit smoking and stay tobacco-free.
  • Boosts your energy level so you can get more done.
  • Helps you manage stress and tension.
  • Promotes a positive attitude and outlook.
  • Helps you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.
  • Improves your self-image and self-confidence.
  • Provides fun ways to spend time with family, friends and pets.
  • Helps you spend more time outdoors or in your community.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. You can knock that out in just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. And every minute of moderate to vigorous activity counts toward your goal.

So, this is easy! Just move more, with more intensity, and sit less. You don’t have to make big life changes to see the benefits. Just start building more activity into your day, one step at a time.

Learn more about heart healthy living at American Heart Association


Hate Exercise? 5 Tips That May Change Your Mind

Try these tips from the American Heart Association to add some physical activity to your life that you may end up liking.

Find your jam.

Instead of forcing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy, find ways to exercise that fit your personality. If you’re a social person, do something that engages you socially – take a group dance class, join a recreational sports team, or start a walking group with friends. Connecting with your peeps is a great way to stay motivated and avoid working out alone. If you’re more of a lone wolf, running or swimming might be a better fit. And if you’re not a morning person, you’re not likely to get up at the crack of dawn to make a boot camp class.

Give it time.

It can take a while for a new behavior to become a habit, so give yourself time to get into a regular routine. One way is to try to be active around the same time each day. Exercise can become addictive in a good way. Once it becomes a habit, you’ll notice when you aren’t doing it.

Build it in.

Build activity into your schedule and lifestyle so it doesn’t feel like a chore. There are many ways to fit exercise into your life, and it doesn’t mean you have to give up something else, like time with family and friends. Get active together as a family, you’ll all benefit. And if you just can’t imagine life without your daily phone chat with your BFF, take that call for a walk around the block.

Break it up.

It’s OK to fit in physical activity when you can. The American Heart Association recommends a total of at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, but if that sounds overwhelming, try adding two or three short activity sessions most days of the week. It all adds up! You could do a quick yoga routine when you wake up, take a brisk walk after lunch at work, and if you commute with public transportation, get off a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way home.

Keep going.

If you miss a day or a workout, don’t worry about it. Everybody struggles once in a while. Just make sure you hit it again the next day. And if what you’re doing just isn’t working for you, revisit this list. You may need to try a different activity or a different time of day. Don’t give up!

Click on the link below for more information on healthy living and fitness

AHA Healthy Living and Fitness


Eat Healthy on a Budget by Planning Ahead

Eating healthy – lots of fruits and veggies, lean protein, whole grains – doesn’t have to be more expensive. If you shop smart and plan ahead, you’ll be surprised at how much goodness you can haul without breaking the bank.

The reality is, many of those ready-made, super-fast, prepackaged foods actually cost MORE than homemade foods. And they tend to have more calories, saturated fat, sodium and added sugars.

So drop the excuses because scoring those nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods your body needs is easier – and cheaper – than you think.

Planning ahead is key to success.

Preparing menus and grocery lists ahead of time can keep you from making impulse food choices, which often aren’t healthy. With a little planning, you can make the healthy choice the easy choice.

  • Plan out one or two weeks of healthy meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Take a few minutes over the weekend to go through your favorite healthy recipes and map out your meal plan. Update your go-to list as you come across new recipes, and don’t be afraid to try new things!
  • Use a grocery list or meal-planning app with a grocery list feature. This will help you quickly grab the ingredients you need for your healthy meal plan.
  • If your work week is crazy, cook over the weekend and store pre-portioned meals in the fridge or freezer. Now this is a real time and money saver! Just thaw and reheat for hassle-free lunches and dinners.
  • Cut up fruits and vegetables and keep them handy in the fridge, or pre-pack individual servings for when you’re on the go. You’ll have ready-made healthy snacks and meal ingredients at your fingertips.

Shop smart to save big.

  • Knowing how to navigate the grocery store can save time and money.
  • Keep an eye out for specials. Stock up on frozen and canned produce when it’s on sale.
  • Use coupons and join store rewards programs. You’ll be more aware of what’s on sale and able to work it into your meal planning.
  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season. For example, blueberries cost less in spring and summer, when they’re in season. You’ll pay more in the fall and winter when they’re shipped from warmer climates.
  • Skip the ready-made foods and individually-packaged snacks. The convenience may be tempting but it’s usually healthier and cheaper to prepare these same foods at home. So aim your cart in another direction.
  • Buy local at a farmer’s market. The produce may be fresher because it wasn’t picked before ripening to travel on a truck long-distance to get to you. You’ll know where your food is coming from and help your local economy. You can save money by buying in bulk and splitting the cost with friends or family.

Practices makes perfect.

  • Don’t give up! Putting a new healthy routine in place doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t give up!
  • Make healthy changes one step at a time. You and your family won’t feel blindsided or deprived of all of your favorites if the changes are gradual.
  • Involve the whole family. Kids can help with meal planning, grocery shopping and even cooking. Let each family member be chef for a day and take charge of a particular meal. Encourage older kids to make a game of reading food labels at the grocery store. Let younger kids pick out new types of fruits and vegetables to try. Get more budget-friendly tips online. The AHA has got your back in the grocery store and the kitchen. 

Learn more about healthy eating from the the American Heart Association link below.

Healthy Living – Healthy Eating


Your heart-healthy recipes will taste even better with seasonal produce

Seasons of Eating

Your heart healthy recipes will taste even better with seasonal produce


How the Heart-Check Food Certification Program Works

The Heart-Check mark makes it easy to spot heart-healthy foods in the grocery store or when dining out. Simply look for the name of the American Heart Association along with our familiar red heart with a white check mark on the package or menu. But not all red hearts you see are from the American Heart Association; look for the AHA name to be sure. 

When you spot the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark, you’ll instantly know the food has been certified to meet our nutrition requirements. It’s a good first step in creating an overall sensible eating plan.

A research study finds that choosing foods that meet Heart-Check certification requirements linked to better diet quality.

The American Heart Association Heart-Check Food Certification Program is designed to help consumers make informed choices about the foods they purchase. The nutrition requirements are food-based and intended for healthy people over age two. The Heart-Check program is not a dietary solution for any particular condition or disease. People with medical conditions or dietary restrictions should follow the advice of their healthcare professionals.

Food manufacturers participating in the program pay administrative fees to the American Heart Association to cover program operating expenses. No donations are used to support the program.


Managing Blood Pressure with a Heart-Healthy Diet

What are the benefits of heart-healthy eating?

Eating a heart-healthy diet is important for managing your blood pressure and reducing your risk of heart attack, stroke and other health threats.

Aim to eat a diet that’s rich in:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole-grains
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Skinless poultry and fish
  • Nuts and legumes
  • Non-tropical vegetable oils

Limit:

  • Saturated and trans fats
  • Sodium
  • Red meat (if you do eat red meat, compare labels and select the leanest cuts available)
  • Sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages

Be sure to work with the “chefs” in your household and plan together for any dietary changes that are needed. When cooking at home, try heart-healthy recipes. When dining out, look for healthy options.


Read the labels
By adopting the habit of reading food labels, you can choose foods more wisely. Watch for foods that have saturated fat or trans fat — factors that can raise your cholesterol. Eating foods that are high in sodium (salt) can increase blood pressure. Generally, the higher your salt intake, the higher your blood pressure.


Look for the Heart-Check mark
With so many marketing messages being thrown at you in the grocery store, it can be difficult to know what is truly healthy. To make it easier, the American Heart Association (AHA) developed the Heart-Check mark. When you see this symbol on food packaging, it means that the product meets AHA criteria for saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium for a single serving of the food product for healthy people over age 2.


The DASH eating plan
As its name implies, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan is designed to help you manage blood pressure. Emphasizing healthy food sources, it also limits:

  • Red meat
  • Sodium (salt)
  • Sweets, added sugars and sugar-containing beverages

In addition to being easy to follow, delicious and varied, the DASH eating plan is proven effective. Download a PDF of the complete DASH eating plan.


Craving a cup of joe? What does the research say about coffee and your health?

  Coffee. Cup of joe. Java. No matter what you call it, millions of people worldwide wake up and fuel their day with it. And though consumers might be jittery about the recent court battle in California over cancer warnings, experts say most of the science actually indicates coffee could have health benefits.

“The overall picture is quite clear,” said Dr. Frank Hu, chair of nutrition at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “There is no long-term increased risk of major chronic disease, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease or even cancer.”

The java confusion stems over an eight-year court case. A Los Angeles-based judge’s preliminary decision last month requires cancer warning labels because of concerns about acrylamide, a chemical produced during the roasting process. Acrylamide also is present in some fried or roasted starchy foods, including french fries, potato chips, breakfast cereals and toast. It’s also found in cigarette smoke. The judge gave the coffee industry a few weeks to file appeals and could issue a final ruling late this month.

But there’s little evidence acrylamide levels in food cause cancer in humans. Studies have found no consistent evidence acrylamide exposure in food is associated with cancer risk, according to the National Cancer Institute. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer reviewed more than 1,000 human and animal studies and issued a statement in 2016 that “found no conclusive evidence for a carcinogenic effect of drinking coffee.”

“The California judge’s decision to label coffee as a cancer risk is really inconsistent with the scientific literature,” Hu said. “It’s very misleading and has already caused a huge amount of confusion in the general public. The health outcomes have been remarkably consistent.”

Hu was senior author of a 2015 study in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation that concluded people who regularly drink moderate amounts of coffee daily — fewer than five cups — experienced a lower risk of death from heart and neurological diseases.

About four years ago, the U.S. government gave coffee its OK, too. The Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines for all Americans, published every five years as a go-to source for nutrition advice, said three to five cups a day, which can be up to 400 milligrams a day of caffeine, can be part of a healthy diet. The AHA suggests that people who have an arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm, talk to their health care provider about caffeine intake.

“This guidance on coffee is informed by strong and consistent evidence showing that, in healthy adults, moderate coffee consumption is not associated with an increased risk of major chronic diseases (e.g., cancer) or premature death, especially from cardiovascular disease,” the federal guidelines say. “However, individuals who do not consume caffeinated coffee or other caffeinated beverages are not encouraged to incorporate them into their eating pattern.”

More recently, a review of more than 200 studies published last fall in the BMJ concluded three to four cups a day may be “more likely to benefit health than harm.” It found a lower risk of liver disease and some cancers in coffee drinkers, and a lower risk of dying from stroke.

All of that should be good news to the people around the world who drink more than 1.1 billion cups of coffee each day.

But it’s still easy to be confused. A quick search for coffee and health online yields hundreds, even thousands, of results.

Studies abound – some funded by the coffee industry. For example, a European Journal of Nutrition study investigated the effects of coffee and its antioxidant properties and found no effect. Researchers took blood samples of 160 volunteers who drank up to three to five cups of coffee or water each day for eight weeks.

“Up to five cups of coffee per day had no detectable effect, either beneficial or harmful, on human health,” that study concluded. It was funded by Kraft Foods, which makes Maxwell House coffees.

Of course, “no one is talking about coffee as a magic bullet,” Hu said. He and other experts say it’s important to keep track of the bigger picture, with the focus on moderation and dietary patterns.

“You can’t pin anything on any one specific lifestyle behavior, particularly with diet,” said Alice Lichtenstein, a senior scientist and director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston and past chair of the AHA’s nutrition committee.

“When we talk about diet, it should really be about the whole package, not single items. Right now, the majority of the evidence suggests there may be a health benefit from drinking coffee and there doesn’t seem to be any disadvantage. Of course, with a caveat that you don’t want to add a lot of cream and sugar, or to use it as an excuse to have a few cookies or a pastry. Then, there is a downside,” said Lichtenstein, a professor of nutrition science and policy who also was an advisor on the federal dietary guidelines.

“We have a tendency to focus on one or two specific foods or beverages, and that’s when the whole floor falls out from under us.”


Simple Steps for the Whole Family to be Heart Healthy

  

Making time for a heart-healthy lifestyle can seem overwhelming. But the good news is that making a few small simple lifestyle changes can lead to heart-healthy habits that require little thought or effort.


No Time for Exercise? Here Are 7 Easy Ways to Move More!

 

Too busy to add more exercise to your busy schedule? When you can’t seem to make time for a full workout, try these no-sweat ways to simply move more. 


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