FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OR AT WILL
Enjoy Heart-Healthy Holiday Eating
By Dr. Norman L. Lasser and Vera I. Lasser
(Dr. Norman L. Lasser is professor of medicine and director of the Preventive Cardiology Program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)-New Jersey Medical School, Newark; Vera I. Lasser, M.A., R.D., is a clinical assistant professor at the UMDNJ-School of Health Related Professions, and associate director of nutrition for the Preventive Cardiology Program.)
It's holiday time. Are you ready for another list of eating "do's" and "don'ts"? This is not your usual good/bad food list. Foods are neither good nor bad, but excess calories in any form can lead to weight gain, and saturated and trans fat can increase blood cholesterol.
Knowledge is power. It can help you control what you eat. Almost everyone knows what choices will help avoid weight gain, but knowledge alone is not enough. Being aware of what you eat enables you to make these choices, freeing you up to indulge in limited portions of higher fat, increased calorie foods on occasion without feeling guilty.
Awareness of what you're eating allows you to plan. Think about what you eat not only for a single party or a single day, but in larger blocks, such as a week. Practice keeping food records before the holidays to put you in the "awareness mode." Be flexible. Plan some splurges, but choose your splurges carefully and act on them at social occasions rather than at home alone.
There are at least two ways to eat "healthier" during the holidays. One is by controlling your portion sizes. You can eat fewer calories and fat by simply eating less, even when the food is high in fat and calories. The other is to choose foods that are lower in calories and fats when you can. Remember, commercially prepared fat-free foods are not calorie-free.
Most people equate fat and salt with more intense flavor, but you can bring out interesting natural flavors of foods through your cooking techniques, without added fat or salt. For example, you can:
- Roast root vegetables sprayed with olive oil and sprinkle them with lemon juice and fresh herbs after cooking.
- Caramelize onions, sauteeing them with a little chopped garlic until they are rich and brown, and sprinkling them with a little sugar and vinegar during the last few minutes of cooking,
- Use lower sodium broth when it is called for in a recipe, and consider using it in place of fat.
- Add spices and herbs for seasoning rather than fat and salt.
- Increase your intake of low fat, lower-calorie foods, such as vegetables and fruits. They add color, texture and nutrients to holiday meals and parties, and can help displace more calorically dense foods.
Remember, you can overdo fat, calories, and salt not just at meals, but at extracurricular events such as cocktail hours, and by sampling while cooking or cleaning up after a party. If you choose to eat a lot of appetizers at a party, eat less of the entree and dessert at the meal. If you have left-overs after the party, send them home with your guests. If you're a guest, don't take the left-overs home.
Here are some other heart-healthy ideas for your holiday eating:
- Small amounts of lox with dill and lemon-seasoned low fat sour cream and capers (rinsed) on low fat crackers
- Roasted red pepper dip with vegetables
- Chevre (goat cheese) on radishes
- Raw vegetables-remember raw beets and fennel (anise)
- Low-fat potato pancakes (latkes)
- Oven-baked, as opposed to fried, dishes (fish, chicken, vegetables)