Healthy Holidays! Eat thoughtfully and be merry!

BHC healthy holiday eating main.jpgCookies, turkey, pie and candy are as much a part of holiday tradition as trees and presents.

That makes the season a dangerous time for people who are on restricted diets or managing chronic illness.

Less sugar, less salt and less fat mean fewer familiar options at the traditional holiday table. But there are ways to enjoy without overindulging or getting off track.

Patients with specific conditions should consult their doctor about staying healthy and eating healthy through the holiday season. If you are a caregiver or visiting someone with a chronic or life-limiting illness, here are some basic tips for healthier holiday eating:

  • Diabetes – Keep tabs on the starches and sugars consumed throughout the day. Scheduled, healthy snacks will help keep blood sugar where it needs to be and help avoid impulsive binges on bad choices. Pass on mediocre, everyday offerings (bread and rolls) and savor holiday favorites (a bite of apple strudel). Avoid Skip sauces and gravies that are full of salt and fat. Peel the skin off that turkey and choose broiled or baked meats over fried.
  • High blood pressure – Sweets may get all the love, but salt is everywhere during the holidays, too. Sodium increases blood pressure and retains fluid, making the heart work harder. Stay away from deli and relish trays; ham; turkey and chicken that have been injected with salt water; gravies and stuffing and chips and dip. They are all way too high in sodium for even a nibble. Help yourself to baked potatoes, fruit, vegetables and dark chocolate. And watch out for hidden sodium in desserts, especially store-bought sweets.
  • Kidney disease - Avoid the same processed, pickled, salty foods listed above for high blood pressure patients. Trim the fat from any cuts of meat and avoid creamy dishes and casseroles along with fried foods. If you are monitoring your fluid intake, plan for special events and travel.
  • COPD – Over-indulging is a significant risk for COPD patients because it puts pressure on the stomach and diaphragm, making it even more difficult to breathe. Avoid big, sit-down holiday meals and instead have smaller meals throughout the day. Monitor fluid intake, so you don’t fill up on beverages instead of nutritious meals.

So how can the holidays still be fun and delicious with all these rules? It takes a little effort and creativity, but everyone will benefit from healthier options. Focus on fresh foods. Fresh produce, flavorful bakery bread and homemade sauces can all offer more texture and flavor with fewer additives than their canned, mass-produced counterparts.

  • Skip the salt and season foods with rosemary, sage, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, turmeric, chilies and other spices that add lots of flavor without sugar, salt or fats. Keep an eye out for any flavors or combinations that cause digestive issues such as heartburn.
  • Choose beans over meat. Beans are a savory, satisfying base for winter comfort foods like soups and stews and bright sides like three-bean salad. They also lend themselves to a wide range of seasoning ideas, from garlic to chilies. Beans, lentils and peas are high in fiber and protein, low in fat.
  • Avoid pre-prepared foods such as canned soups and sauces, dishes and baked goods from pre-prepared box mixes, jarred spaghetti sauce and mass-produced baked goods can be sources of surprisingly high levels of sodium and sugar.

Healthy holiday tips for everyone:

  • Eat regular, healthy snacks, so you aren't driven by hunger when there are fewer healthy options.
  • Use a smaller plate to help control portion size.
  • Limit or eliminate alcohol consumption.
  • Remember that “just one bite” and “it’s only once a year” still count against your good health if you are on a restricted diet.
  • If someone declines a food or beverage, it may be for health reasons. Respect their request and don’t pressure them to indulge.

If you have any questions about what is and isn't allowed, consult your loved one's doctor, nutritionist or dietician.
Belvedere Home Care can help your loved one stay on track with healthy meal preparation according to your doctor’s care plan. For more information about our flexible home health care programs, call 518-694-9400 or