Skip the Salt – Heart Healthy Holiday Cooking Tips

The holidays are sneaking up on us again, and with those looming gatherings of loved ones comes menu plans filled with some of the richest foods and most massive meals we consume in a year. If you’re battling heart health issues, in the midst of recovery from a heart-related incident, trying to reduce factors for heart disease, or just are trying to make sure you’re proactive in keeping your cardiac health in tip-top shape, there are ways to keep those holiday dinners on the lighter side without sacrificing any of the flavor. Here are a few of our top tips for making your holiday meals just as delicious as always without the added fear of hurting your heart’s health.

Spice it up

Seasonings are the key to delicious flavor, and they can open a whole new world of tastes, from savory to sweet and combinations thereof, to all of your favorite dishes. If you use seasonings well, you’ll be surprised at all the heart-harming ingredients you can take out. You can lessen your use of fat, and, as we’ll discuss in our next tip, salt. Plus, there are added benefits of certain spices and seasonings that can help promote overall health, for your heart and beyond.

Skip the Salt

If you’re watching your heart health, or have been struggling with it, this is the number one tip we can give you – skip the salt! Americans traditionally over-consume sodium on any given day anyway, and when you add up all the sodium in those beloved holiday dishes, you get a whopping 2,000 mg or more of sodium on average from a single meal. It’s recommended that people with heart issues not consume more than 1,500mg in a day. Luckily, if you’re leaning into the other seasonings in your cabinet, you can decrease the amount of salt used in your dishes, or eliminate it entirely! It also helps to make as much from scratch as possible, to control the sodium levels in each meal.

Think Fresh

Who says Thanksgiving dinner has to be all about starchy carbs and fatty meats? Rethink that menu and add some fresh dishes to the spread, focusing on things that have plenty of fruits and vegetables. That classic green bean casserole? You can make it a side dish of green beans with a little bit of butter and almond slices. Cranberry sauce can become a fresh cranberry/blueberry crisp, or a fresh fruit salad. The more greens and colors you can incorporate into the meal, the better off you are! Kiss that classic beige spread goodbye and find a whole new world of delicious flavors to indulge in that do your heart good this holiday season.

Roast Those Veggies

Butternut squash, acorn squash, even pumpkin, are great gourd choices to roast up alongside brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. You can season all of these things to be sweet or savory, or a little bit of both depending on your preferences. There’s also the added benefit of vitamins and minerals in squash that is phenomenal for you – and you’d be surprised at how roasting brussels sprouts can transform them from the veggie everyone loved to hate growing up to a delectable side dish you can barely keep on the table.

Just because you’re watching your heart health doesn’t mean you should have to sacrifice the best parts of the holiday season. Try some of these healthier dishes, and keep in mind that if you’re generally healthy, it’s probably okay to indulge a little. As long as you don’t go overboard and get back to your typical style of eating after the celebrations are over. If you’re worried about what your heart can and can’t handle this holiday season, don’t hesitate to schedule a checkup with your cardiologist or physician.