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American Heart Association says void the holiday jelly-belly by making holiday traditions healthy

American Heart AssociationNashville, TN – The holiday season is about family and food – and all too often, adding a few extra pounds to our waistlines. Break The Tradition!

Are you a mindless eater? Mindless eating is consuming food just because it’s there. It’s eating while distracted – watching TV, working at a computer or texting on our smartphones. It’s eating for emotional comfort instead of for hunger. Simply put, it’s not paying attention to what we eat which can lead to being overweight and even obesity.

Make this holiday a healthy one.
Make this holiday a healthy one.

“Mindless eating has always been an issue,” said Riska Platt, M.S., a registered dietitian and certified nutritionist for the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. “The key to mindful eating is awareness. Just by paying more attention to what you eat, you’re more likely to make beneficial changes.”

Here are ways to avoid the jelly-belly.

Smart substitution strategy

Baking

  • Instead of butter, substitute equal parts cinnamon-flavored, no-sugar-added applesauce.
  • Instead of sugar, use a lower-calorie sugar substitute.
  • Instead of whole or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or skim milk.
  • Instead of using 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.

Cooking

  • Use vegetable oils such as olive oil instead of butter.
  • Use herbs and spices, like garlic, rosemary and thyme, to flavor dishes instead of butter and salt.
  • Use citrus, like a squeeze of lemon juice, or even a dash of vinegar, instead of salt.
  • Use whole-grain breads and pastas instead of white.
  • Bake, grill or steam vegetables instead of frying.
  • Instead of whole milk or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or fat-free/skim milk.
  • Try fat-free Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

Beverages

  • Instead of alcohol in mixed drinks, use club soda.
  • Instead of adding sugar to mixed drinks, mix 100-percent juice with water, use freshly squeezed juice, like lime, or crush in a little fresh mint.
  • Instead of using heavy cream or whole milk in dairy-based drinks, use low-fat or skim milk.
  • Instead of using sugar to sweeten cider, use spices and fruit, like cinnamon, cloves and cranberries.

Pay attention to your food! Your scale will thank you
When you pay attention to what you’re eating, you can make small changes that make a big difference. Here are some tips toward a more mindful approach:

  • Control portions. Especially during the holidays, know that you’ll have more opportunities to eat festive snacks and desserts. You don’t have to deprive yourself, just eat smaller portions and less often.
  • Eat when you’re hungry. Just because the clock says noon doesn’t mean you have to eat. If you’re not hungry, wait until you are – just don’t wait until you’re famished because you might overeat. Also, don’t eat just because the food is available. Learn more about why you might be eating when not hungry.
  • Plan. Prepare healthy snacks throughout the day. If you tend to get hungry between meals, bring along a 200-calorie, whole grain, high-fiber snack. Fiber keeps you feeling full longer. Learn how a little planning helps your heart, and your budget.
  • Slow down. Enjoy each bite and put your fork down while chewing, then take a drink between each bite. This gives your body enough time to trigger your brain that you are satisfied (not necessarily full).
  • Eat the healthiest items on your plate first. Fill up on the steamed vegetables, the green salad, to take the edge off.
  • Pay attention. Do not eat in front of the TV or computer, or while standing in the kitchen or talking on the phone. When you do these things, you’re more likely to lose track of how much you’ve eaten.
  • Use technology. As we continue to become increasingly distracted by modern technology, our focus on health can fall to the back burner. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “We can actually use our smartphones and other electronic devices to help us,” said Platt, a volunteer with the American Heart Association. “There are now apps that manage food records, count calories, help you track what you eat and even provide guidance on healthy food choices at the grocery store and restaurants.”
  • Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat, look at it, then identify why you ate it – was it hunger, stress, boredom? Then look for areas you can make adjustments and incorporate healthy changes. “Keeping a food diary is really key to awareness,” Platt said. “Most people are surprised at all they’ve consumed when they review what they’ve eaten.”
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