The holiday season is upon us. As Thanksgiving draws ever-nearer, those with heart problems, health issues, or specific dietary needs may be looking at the holiday with as much trepidation as excitement. It’s hard to look at this season of indulgence and not feel a little worried about derailing all your health-focused progress. But if heart health, or continuing your healthy lifestyle, is a concern for you, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the holidays with the people you love without sacrificing your cardiovascular health or your waistline.
Letting spices take center stage for flavor over butter and other fats is a great place to start health-ing up your holiday. Rubbing your turkey with herbs and letting those rich flavors shine will keep your palate and your heart happy. And hey, when you go light on the saturated fats, that tryptophan nap might not hit quite as hard, either.
Load Up on Veggies
The turkey may be the star of the show at most Thanksgiving tables, but the sides deserve some serious consideration, too. When you’re focusing on your health, side dishes are the perfect opportunity to load up your plate with plenty of veggies. Roasted brussels sprouts, sweetened carrots, corn on or off the cob, sweet potatoes, green beans, and more. There are so many delicious and healthy ways to cook up these veggies that there’s no reason to have a beige-colored plate this Thanksgiving when you could be eating a whole rainbow that your body will thank you for.
Make Smart Carb Swaps
There’s no denying that a lot of Thanksgiving dinners are filled with carbs. Comfort food has so often been the name of the game for this holiday, but when your heart health is high on the list of priorities, swapping out some of those carbs for less heavy choices can be a smart choice. Consider swapping traditional mashed potatoes for a garlicky cauliflower mash, or trading the traditional dinner rolls for a gluten-free option.
Indulgence is frequently touted as one of the best parts of the holiday season, and believe it or not – we agree! To an extent. Everything in moderation. If your all-time favorite Thanksgiving tradition includes a heavy dish full of things you would normally never eat in the name of your health, that’s okay. Have a smaller portion than usual. Let yourself indulge just a little if it’s something that brings you joy. All you have to do is be smart about it. Don’t put your health in danger, but don’t be afraid to indulge.
Consider this – at the end of the day, what are your favorite memories of Thanksgiving? Is it the specific food on the table, or is that you’re in a room with the people you love most, sharing a meal? Focus on enjoying the holiday for what it is – a reminder to be grateful for everything (your health included) that you have in your life, a time to be surrounded with love, and make fond memories. The food that gets you there is far less important than the sentimentality attached to it.
And if you’re worried about how to craft a menu that suits your dietary needs and watches out for your cardiac health while keeping everyone at the table happy, chat with your cardiologist or primary care physician. They might have some great advice to get your creative kitchen ideas rolling.