LANSING –The food and drinks may be one of the best parts of the holiday season, but overindulging could pose a serious threat.
According to the American Heart Association, the holidays have more cardiac and non-cardiac related deaths than any other time of year.
Even people who usually eat healthy diets, exercise and take other precautions are at risk of sabotaging their health during the holidays.
Some possible causes for the uptick in deaths include stress, less physical activity and changes in diet and alcohol consumption.
To help minimize risk of a “holiday heart attack,” follow these healthy eating and drinking tips.
• Make healthy swaps: Learn where excess calories, sodium, saturated fat and added sugars are hiding in traditional holiday foods and beverages. There are some easy swaps you can use to avoid them.
When baking, use healthier vegetable oil or equal parts unsweetened applesauce instead of butter. Use whole grain breads, rice and pasta instead of white with your dinner.
• Watch portion size: Practice moderation, not deprivation. It is easy to lose track of how much you are eating while you snack. Use a plate when grabbing some hors d’oeuvres.
This will help stop mindless munching while making repeated stops by the snack table. At dinner, opt for a small plate to help keep portion sizes in check.
• Ditch the sodium: There’s no shortage of salty snacks this time of year. Too much sodium has been shown to increase blood pressure.
As reported by the American Heart Association, high blood pressure is the leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke and usually has no outward symptoms.
Excessive sodium holds excess fluid in the body, placing an added burden on the heart. Limit sodium intake by using herbs and spices, like rosemary and cloves, to add flavor to your favorite holiday dish.
• Stay hydrated: If alcohol is being served, alternate each glass with a glass of water. This will help reduce the number of calories consumed.
Also, swap club soda and lemon or lime instead of a sugary lemon-lime soda. Remember, non-alcoholic drinks are often loaded with extra sugar.
Keep in mind what else you have eaten and decide if it would be best to enjoy these drinks on another day.