Even the best intentions to make healthy food choices during the holidays can be derailed, the American Heart Association cautions.
Eating a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy grains is one of the most important ways to reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke, the association points out.
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid moments of weakness when dining out or going to gatherings, said Rachel Johnson. She is a nutrition professor at the University of Vermont and past chair of the association's nutrition committee.
When dining at a restaurant, the first step is to look at the menu with blinders on.
"Don't even let yourself look at that [unhealthy] section of the menu," Johnson said in an association news release. It's a lot easier to order a salad when menu options loaded with fat and calories aren't up for consideration, she added.
At home, it's also important to anticipate unhealthy cravings. Many people make unwise snack choices when they are relaxing after dinner, said Johnson. Instead of giving in to those cravings, take a walk or call a friend on the phone, she suggested.
It's also a good idea to plan ahead and anticipate food temptations. To increase the chances of making healthy choices, Johnson offers the following tips:
- Store unhealthy foods out of sight. Put these foods away in a cabinet or container that's not transparent. --Keep a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter instead of a cookie jar.
- Buy smaller or individually wrapped portions. Instead of buying a half-gallon of ice cream, choose individually packaged low-calorie frozen treats.
- Brush your teeth right after you eat. Having minty fresh breath will make sneaking another treat less tempting.
- Stock up on sugarless gum. The sweetness of chewing gum can calm cravings for treats with sugar and more calories.
- Don't overdo it. If you do give in to temptation, do so in moderation. Have a small portion and share the rest, or put it away.
The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides more tips for healthy dining.