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Did you know that our hearts beat around 100,000 times a day? So important to our health and wellbeing, this fantastic organ works ceaselessly to keep our bodies functioning and our spirit alive. When you think about how it takes care of us, doesn’t it deserve a little care and attention in return?

In February, registered dietitians and other healthcare professionals around the country will be promoting heart-healthy habits in celebration of Heart Month. But you don’t have to wait ‘til then to start taking care of your ticker. Try some or all of the following eating and lifestyle tips that will help you stay in good form throughout the holiday season – and heart healthy in the New Year:

Savor the moments. When we slow down and savor the texture and taste of our foods, we enjoy them more and generally eat less and feel fuller longer.

Enjoy more plant-based foods with each meal – even breakfast. Vegetables are great partners to egg dishes such as scrambled eggs and frittatas, and sliced or dried fruit is a perfect topping for whole grain cereals like oatmeal. Try to eat at least 3 to 6 servings of whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, barley and whole grain pasta, each day. These foods will fill you up and power you through your day, making you less likely to snack on sugary foods later on.

Make holiday parties more about sharing time with friends and family and less about the party fare. Visit the buffet table once and fill your plate with lots of vegetable and fruit options. Once you’ve served yourself, move away from the table and enjoy the company you’re with!

Add a healthy snack to your daily rotation. Snacks have a place in a healthy diet as long as they are nutritious and included in your overall daily calorie intake. If you’re craving something sweet, snack on a few dates, dried apricots, or an apple or orange. If you want something crunchy, a handful of almonds or walnuts are a great pick-me-up. Sliced carrots, celery and peppers are great dippers for hummus or almond butter. A light snack before a night on the town can help keep you from bingeing later on fatty or sugary foods.

Get moving. Add physical activity, a total of 30 minutes per day, to your daily routine. No time for a half-hour at the gym? There are other ways to fit it in: park your car a good distance from the entrance of your office or store; walk whenever possible, take the stairs, ride a bike, stretch in front of the television. You’ll be surprised how quickly it all adds up. Frequent movement throughout the day, in fact, may be even more beneficial than a half hour at the gym followed by sitting for eight hours.

Rest. Get at least 7 hours of sleep nightly. Studies have confirmed that getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night is a risk factor for heart disease. For a night of uninterrupted ZZZs, it’s recommended to avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol several hours before retiring, as well as spicy and hot foods that could cause acid reflux.

Hydrate. Drinking lots of water throughout the day keeps our bodies lubricated and functioning properly. Before grabbing a high-calorie treat, drink a glass of water. Often times, we think we’re hungry, but we’re actually dehydrated. That glass of water may just save you extra calories you really don’t want to consume! 

If you choose to drink alcohol, drink in moderation. It’s recommended that women drink no more than one glass of wine or beer, or one cocktail per day, 
and men no more than two per day.

Quit Smoking. Smoking harms not only the heart but nearly every organ in the body. Some people stop smoking by going “cold turkey,” or by reducing the number of cigarettes they smoke each day until they’re smoke free. If you would like help, talk with your healthcare professional for advice.

We can’t think of a better present than the gift of a healthy heart, filled with love and goodwill, and in the spirit of sharing, we invite you to check out the Oldways Nutrition Exchange “Heart Healthy” toolkit where you’ll find more research, recipes and heart healthy tips.

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season and New Year!

-Deborah


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