The holiday season is upon us, a wonderful time to rest, reflect on the year it’s been, spend time with family and loved ones, and yes: eat a whole mess of food. It’s not uncommon to overindulge a little bit during traditional holiday meals, with Americans gaining a pound on average over Thanksgiving and Christmas. You should be able to relax and enjoy yourself during this time of year, but letting yourself go during holiday meals can do a number on more than just your waistline. If you have cholesterol or high blood pressure, it’s important to make healthy decisions to limit your calories and protect your heart.

If you’re concerned about managing your cholesterol during your celebration this year, be wary of these holiday staples.

Mashed Potatoes & Gravy

This trusty starch is a foundational part of many people’s holiday feasts, but mashed potato recipes often include a glut of milk and butter that might leave your arteries feeling not so merry after the meal. Matters are compounded if you’re slathering your mash with fatty, greasy gravy. Be mindful of portions and use lower calorie ingredients, like chicken stock and skim milk, when possible.

Turkey Skin/Dark Meat

Dark meat has a higher fat content than white meat, and turkey skin is unhealthier still, being much higher in saturated fats than any other part of the bird. In contrast, turkey breast or white meat is relatively lean and heart-healthy.

Stuffing

Your mileage may vary depending on what’s going into your recipe, but stuffing very frequently uses a lot of butter and meats that are high in fat and cholesterol. You can mitigate the artery-clogging effects of this holiday go-to by avoiding prepackaged stuffings and using healthier, lower-fat ingredients in its preparation. Do a search online to find appealing alternatives.

Alcoholic Beverages

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine during your holiday celebration (in limited amounts, red wine can actually help reduce cholesterol), but be careful not to overdo it. In addition to the inevitable hangover, too much alcohol consumption is bad for your heart. Beer and many mixed drinks are also often very high in calories. Take your time with the booze and make sure to at least drink a glass of water or seltzer in between each alcoholic beverage.

Pecan Pie

This dessert is an absolute staple of the holidays for many families, but in addition to the nuts (pecans aren’t so bad by themselves – full of healthy fats!), that slice of pie is also packed with butter and sugar. If you don’t want to skip dessert, stick to a small slice or go with pumpkin pie instead.

 

While keeping all this in mind this holiday season, please don’t forget to relax and enjoy yourself. This time of year is supposed to be about sharing gratitude and happiness with loved ones, so try not to stress out. Keeping healthy habits shouldn’t stop you from having happy holidays!

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