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A heart-healthy holiday eating the foods you enjoy

GEHA | December 14, 2021

Tips to help keep your blood pressure in check.

For many people, the holidays mean parties, festivities, extra food and extra pounds. If you take statins for your blood pressure, here are some tips that can help keep your blood pressure in check.

Make healthy choices:

      1. Slash added sugars. Consuming too much added sugar is associated with higher blood pressure, which can lead to higher risks of heart attack and stroke. When cooking, consider reducing the amount of sugar you add to your dishes by up to 25 percent. Substitute sugar with bananas or applesauce in recipes.
      2. Know your sodium. High sodium intake can also increase blood pressure. Many foods at holiday meals may be loaded with sodium – ham, olives, salad dressings, condiments, canned veggies and soups, bouillon cubes, cheeses, crackers, chips and salted nuts. Frozen veggies are a good alternative to canned. Use more spices in place of salt.
      3. Benefit from fiber. Getting sufficient fiber can help you maintain healthier blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Keep whole grains, such as brown rice, and whole-wheat breads and crackers, fruits and veggies on your holiday menu. When baking, use half whole-wheat and half white flour for a nutritional boost.
      4. An alternative to sour cream. From dips and salad dressings to casseroles and cakes, many holiday recipes call for sour cream. Substitute an equal amount of plain Greek yogurt. Stir in a bit of maple syrup or honey to sweeten it, along with a little vanilla or almond extract to add flavor.
      5. Don’t slack on veggies. Fill half your plate with veggies that aren’t laden with butter or marshmallows. Roasting is an easy and delicious way to prepare veggies. Lightly coat veggies with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast until tender at 425° F or 450° F in the oven.
      6. Eat more fish. Include more fish with healthy fats, such as salmon, mackerel and lake trout into your meals. These contain omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. For the most benefit, prepare fish by poaching, baking or grilling rather than frying.
      7. Choose heart-healthy fats. Instead of butter, shortening, lard and hard-stick margarine, use vegetable oils such as canola, corn and olive. If you’re baking, you can substitute an equal amount of applesauce for oil.
      8. Sip it. Alcohol can add a surprising number of calories, especially if you’re sipping sugary drinks such as eggnog. Too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. So indulge mindfully and consider alcohol-free options.
      9. Take care of you. Don’t let holiday busyness crowd out physical activity. Being active can help reduce stress and make up for eating more than usual. Also be sure to get enough sleep. Aim for seven to eight hours per night to guard against mindless eating.

“How to Eat for a Heart-Healthy Holiday.”, Consumer Reports, 25 November, 2019.
“5 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays.”, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 December 2020 (last reviewed June 20, 2022).