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A family shares a holiday dinner.

Heart-healthy holiday tips

Are you worried about overindulging during the holidays? Between extravagant family dinners, office cookie exchanges and friends’ holiday parties, you may be concerned about the toll the season might take on your body.

Piedmont cardiologist Meryl Braunstein, M.D., says people’s fears about overeating are often blown out of proportion. Most patients who are stressed about being unable to control their food and alcohol intake, she says, can give themselves a break.

“Realistically, there’s only so much food you can eat in a day,” she explains. Unless you’re on a special diet or follow a strict training schedule, you probably don’t have to worry too much about negative effects.

However, there are plenty of ways to make the season a little easier on your heart and the rest of your body. Dr. Braunstein reviews small steps you can take toward better holiday health.

  1. Follow the one-plate rule.

Going to a buffet dinner or party? Fill up your plate, but don’t head back for seconds, Dr. Braunstein says. You’ll be able to enjoy the food offered without overdoing it. Stay away from the chip 'n dip table too, she adds, and stick with a fruit dessert. 

  1. Don’t quit your exercise routine.

Exercise can seem daunting when the weather is cold and the sun sets early, but there are ways to remain physically active even in winter. Try taking walking breaks during the workday, which can also give your mind a much-needed reprieve. Or, join a gym and move those daily jogs from the pavement to the treadmill.

Dr. Braunstein recommends viewing your workout schedule as just another calendar appointment – not something to dread or something fraught with emotional baggage.

“Treat it like a business,” she says.

  1. Limit your alcohol consumption.

Drinking alcohol in large quantities is harmful, and not just because of the hangover you’ll be left with the next morning. Too many cocktails can hurt your heart and impact your long-term health, so enjoy in moderation or stick with non-alcoholic options. (And, of course, never drink and drive.) 

  1. Stay hydrated.

Keep drinking water, Dr. Braunstein says, especially if you’ll be at family functions that might become crowded and hot.

  1. Control what you can control, but don’t worry about the rest.

The holidays come just once a year, so you might as well enjoy yourself. Try to prepare healthy meals between feasts and take it easy on the alcohol, but don’t worry about the small stuff. (And maybe put off that diet you’ve been planning until the new year.)

“Don’t ruin your holiday by stressing out about having a piece of chocolate cake,” Dr. Braunstein says.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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