It’s not necessary to put healthy habits on hold during the holidays. One good way to stay on target with heart-healthy eating is by following the DASH diet, developed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
DASH, which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension, follows heart-healthy guidelines to limit salt, saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. It focuses on increasing the consumption of fruits, vegetables and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. It also is rich in whole-grain products, fish, poultry and nuts.
Try these tips during the holidays to battle weight gain and keep your heart happy:
• If you eat only one or two servings of vegetables per day, try adding one serving at lunch and another at dinner until half your plate is full of fruits and vegetables for two meals per day.
• Gradually switch to fat-free or low-fat milk and reduce servings of soda or other sweetened beverages.
• Drink two glasses of water with each meal and one glass with each snack.
• Trim the fat off meat. A portion size should be the size of your palm. Choose baked, grilled or broiled preparation methods when possible.
• Choose whole-grain foods, such as whole-wheat bread or whole-grain cereals to get added nutrients like minerals and fiber.
• When shopping, read the nutrition label on foods to find sodium content. Choose the items that are lowest in salt or sodium. Adults need no more than 1 teaspoon of salt per day or 2,500 milligrams).
• Start with a simple 15-minute walk during your favorite time of day and slowly build up to 30-60 minutes of exercise on most days.
• Don't worry about a slip. Start again and be sure to celebrate successes with non-food rewards.
The DASH guide is available online at http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/yourguide/.
To promote healthy habits all year long, here are some holiday gift ideas to help your family and friends:
• Typical food gifts encourage unhealthy eating during the holidays. Instead of giving a box of rich chocolate, try something more nutritious, such as a basket of fresh fruit. You also can distribute gift boxes of almonds, walnuts and other unsalted nuts.
• You can find nutritious food gifts in health-food stores or online. Many websites will ship them directly to the recipient. Some come in reusable metal boxes that will serve as a reminder of your thoughtfulness for years to come.
• Another option is to prepare something yourself. You might put together a soup mix in a mason jar. Or give gift cards to health-food stores and let your friends and relatives pick out what they like.
• Give a healthy-foods cookbook.
In addition to eating healthily, it is important to stay active during the holidays. Sports equipment makes a great gift for children. Even something small — a flying disc, boomerang, football or soccer ball — can provide hours of healthy family fun.
Exercise clothing — particularly outdoor gear for cold-weather activities — makes a good gift, as do accessories, like a pedometer, which is an inexpensive device you clip to your belt to measure how many steps you take per day. Aim for 10,000 steps or 5 miles per day. If you’re not sure what a friend or relative would like, consider giving a gift card for an outdoor or sports shop so they can pick out an item or two.
A CD of soothing music, candles or organic soaps and gift certificates for massages or spa treatments all are good gift ideas, and massages help to reduce muscle tension, blood pressure and promote good circulation.
It’s not necessary to spend a lot money on healthy gifts. Try making a coupon to join a friend for a run, bike ride or a workout together.
Anyone who is interested in taking the healthy habits challenge can call Army Public Health childhood obesity prevention manager Sandra Durrence at 435-5071 for more information.