Nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), so maintaining a healthy weight is especially important during the holidays- when it’s easier than ever to over-consume.

The first step is to determine your daily calorie intake with an app or online calculator, then adjust your daily calories into the healthy range. A good place to start is by eating more fruits and vegetables which are low in calories and high in nutrition.

“Many of the traditional foods served during the holidays can be healthy – the trick is to not load on the butter, sodium and sugar,” said Roufia Payman, DT, CDN, supervisor of Outpatient Nutrition Counseling, and diabetes lifestyle coach at Northern Dutchess Hospital. “Add color and nutrition to your plate with seasonal squash, roasted vegetables and fruit-based desserts.”

Party With a Healthy Plan in Place!
The AHA recommends healthy portions, limiting the empty calories in alcohol drinks and filling up on healthier fruits and vegetables first. Keep dessert temptations to small samples of your favorites instead of full servings, and eat mindfully to enjoy every morsel. Don’t stand near the party buffet and avoid mindless nibbling.

Plate-Up Health First
Be sure to pack your holiday meals with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, fish, skinless poultry, and plant-based side dishes and main courses.

When Cooking…
• Use vegetable oils such as olive oil instead of butter. Cook with unsaturated, healthier fats, and non-tropical oils. Eliminate trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils.
• Use herbs and spices, like rosemary and cloves, to flavor dishes instead of butter and salt.
• Bake, grill or steam vegetables instead of frying.
• Instead of whole milk or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or fat-free/skim milk.
• Use lower sodium versions of foods like broth, canned vegetables and sauces.
• Use whole-grain breads and pastas instead of white flour ones.

Baking Swaps
• Instead of butter, substitute equal parts cinnamon-flavored, no-sugar-added applesauce.
• Instead of sugar, use a lower-calorie sugar substitute.
• Instead of whole or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or skim milk.
• Instead of using only white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat flour.
• Instead of adding chocolate chips or candies, use dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries.
• Use extracts like vanilla, almond and peppermint to add flavor, instead of sugar or butter.

When Eating, Swap in Healthier Choices…
• If you choose red meats, select the leanest cuts. (A serving size of meat is 3 oz., about the size of a deck of cards.)
• When it comes to poultry, light meat is leaner than dark.
• Substitute fat-free and low-fat dairy products for the higher fat versions, like Greek yogurt for sour cream.

Healthier Beverages
• Instead of alcohol in mixed drinks, use club soda.
• Instead of adding sugar to mixed drinks, mix 100-percent juice with water or use freshly squeezed juice, like lime.
• Instead of using heavy cream or whole milk in dairy-based drinks, use low-fat or skim milk.
• Instead of using sugar to sweeten cider, use spices and fruit, like cinnamon, cloves and cranberries.
• Avoid the empty calories of sugar-sweetened beverages, particularly if you are going to indulge in small samples of desserts.

Of course, exercise is critical to weight management and overall health. Eating more? Walk more! A brisk walk before or after meals can help burn those extra calories.

The American Heart Association is offering its annual Holiday Healthy Eating Guide to help people navigate the holiday season in a healthy way, with tips, recipes and resources. The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit heart.org.

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Content created by the staff and hard-working team at Westchester Senior Voice.