Tips for a Heart-Healthy Holiday Season

by Elisa Olivier-Nielsen, MA, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, EON Consulting

Ainticipation is in the air, and the prospect of seeing old friends and family members may bring a smile to our faces. However, the holidays also come with certain challenges that may ultimately impact our health.

During this holiday season, avoid some of the common pitfalls related to overconsuming certain rich foods and desserts, expanding your waist line and increasing your blood sugar levels.

Main dishes:

  • Make a dish you know is heart friendly.
  • Make your own lower-sodium stuffing.
  • Stay away from the salt shaker.
  • Have available sodium-free seasonings, such as Benson’s and Mrs. Dash®.
  • Try to create as many dishes from scratch as possible.
  • Avoid ham, corned beef, self-basting turkey, sausage and other processed, smoked or cured meats and seafood.
  • Instead, choose fresh, natural meats and seafood, such as turkey, chicken, lamb, beef, pork, shrimp, clams and fish.
  • Add vegetables as side dishes or incorporate into main dishes.


  • Serve nondairy whipped topping with desserts instead of ice cream.
  • Choose a low-calorie dessert.
  • Add fruits to desserts.
  • Use lower-fat ingredients.
  • Swap regular sugar with coconut sugar, stevia or monk fruit.


  • Avoid alcoholic beverages.
  • Choose heart-friendly beverages such as apple cider, lemon-lime soda or cranberry juice, seltzer water with citrus or berries, carbonated apple or grape beverage, flavored water (mint leaves, fruits, cucumbers, etc.) and iced tea.
  • Make your own alcohol-free eggnog with nondairy creamer.


  • Avoid salty snacks such as chips, olives, pretzels and pickles.
  • Choose heart-friendly appetizers such as vegetable sticks with cream cheese, unsalted popcorn or pretzels, deviled eggs and fresh fruit.
  • Serve unsalted nuts and seeds.

Finally, ask family and friends to support you and help you stick with your heart-healthy diet. Let them know ahead of time what foods you can and cannot have and offer to bring your own heart-healthy dish or dessert.

You are on your way to a stress-free and healthy holiday season.

So, enjoy it!