ROBBINSVILLE — For many of us, more than half of annual weight gain occurs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Some studies say the average American puts on up to 5 to 7 pounds in these few weeks. And it’s no surprise when you count up the cookies, cakes and cups full of eggnog we politely (and eagerly) accept at holiday parties. While we’re chatting away and filling ourselves with holiday cheer, we’re also filling up with calories…one sweet nibble at a time.
Obesity is on the rise in the U.S. with 66.7% of U.S. adults (age 20 and older) considered overweight or obese. One out of three children is also considered overweight or obese. Obesity now tops the charts as the No.1 health concern among parents-and it should be as it is a major risk factor for heart disease – the number one killer of Americans.
When you consume more calories than you burn in a day, you will gain weight. When people eat too many calories, or too much saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, their blood cholesterol levels often rise – also a risk for heart disease.
This holiday season, the American Heart Association encourages you to make it a goal to “maintain, don’t gain.” Here are some tips to help keep off those extra pounds:
- Eat a heart healthy breakfast. Studies show people who skip breakfast consume more calories during the day than those who start off with a bowl of high-fiber cereal, for example.
- At holiday parties, eat something healthy beforehand so you’re not likely to overindulge.
- Fill the plate with fruits and veggies first, then add small amounts high-calorie foods.
- Interact away from the buffet where it’s easy to graze mindlessly. Serve yourself and walk away.
- Watch your liquid calories and reach for a tall, slender glass. A Cornell University study showed adults who drank from tall, slender glasses drank about 19 percent less than those who drank from short, wide glasses.
- Add exercise to the menu. Add a pre-lunch and post-dinner walk to your mealtimes. Studies show that for every hour of brisk walking, life expectancy may increase by two hours.
- Remember to control sodium in food preparation. Use fresh or frozen, not canned veggies, and low sodium broths & mixes. Aim below the recommended limit of 1,500 milligrams per day (the average American gets 3,436 milligrams of sodium per day. That’s more than double the American Heart Association’s recommended limit!).
- Cook smart. Try heart-healthy spread instead of butter and reduce sugar in baked goods or use a sugar substitute. Heart healthy recipes can be found at www.heart.org/nutrition.
- Choose assorted unsalted nuts, fiber-rich crackers and raw vegetables with low-fat dressing or hummus for quick snacks or appetizers at a holiday party. These are great alternatives to a typical cheese platter that’s loaded with saturated fat.
- Practice portion control. Cut cakes and pies in smaller slices. Take one piece and walk away. One slice of pecan pie can be as much as 900 calories!
- Rid your home of leftovers by having festive gift containers for everyone to take home. They will have a festive meal the next day and you will save the calories!
Keeping the extra pounds off this holiday season is easier than you think and is a great start to getting on the path to a healthier heart.
For more information on preventing heart disease and stroke through simple lifestyle choices, visit www.heart.org.
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