Keep Your Heart Healthy Over Thanksgiving

Healthy Thanksgiving tips

By Lizzie Meyers

Sure, a day devoted to eating those savory, homemade dishes we wait for all year seems pretty ideal in theory. However, the unfortunate reality of Thanksgiving comes with the adverse effects the typical feast has on heart health. In fact, the American Heart Association has reported that the risk of a heart attack quadruples in the two hours after eating a particularly heavy meal. Those special holiday dishes are extra delicious for a reason: they tend to be chock-full of fat and sodium, two of your heart’s worst enemies. That’s not to say that the entire buffet table is off limits. Let’s get real, that would be downright torture! Certain Thanksgiving dishes are more detrimental to your heart’s health while others fair relatively safe. To determine what falls where, here’s a heart-healthy guide of dos and don’ts for a happy Thanksgiving:

The Bird

  • Do opt for the white meat of the turkey because it is much lower in cholesterol than the dark meat on the leg and thigh.
  • Don’t eat the skin. No matter how crispy it looks, remind yourself that the cholesterol and saturated fats that come with it are certainly not worth it.
  • Don’t drench your meat in gravy. This sauce, if made traditionally, essentially consists of the excess grease and fat from the turkey. Needless to say, it can be hard on the heart. Try to resist this topping, or at the very least, limit yourself to just one tablespoon for the whole meal.

The Side Dishes

  • Do load up on veggies. The brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and salad are the safest bets in keeping your heart happy throughout the meal. Try to make sure there are more colorful veggies than anything else on your plate, and skip the fat/sugar loaded casseroles.
  • Do enjoy some cranberry relish as long as it is homemade. Cranberries have been found to have some heart health benefits, but the amount of refined sugars that tend to be added to canned relishes simply counteract the berries’ health benefits. While the homemade sauces may require some sugar, they  likely contain less simple sugar and the real cranberries will give your heart a boost.
  • Don’t overdo the stuffing. I know that’s easier said than done, but the chicken broth, white bread, and sausage in the traditional version make for a sodium and fat-packed concoction that can send your cholesterol skyrocketing. Your heart will thank you if you allow yourself just a spoonful with your meal.

Dessert

No matter how stuffed we are after the huge feast, it’s somehow still impossible to resist the wide selection of desserts that follow. Before taking a slice of (every) pie, remind yourself of these tips.

  • Do eat that slice of pumpkin pie, guilt free, if your sweet tooth has you screaming. The pumpkin filling is naturally full of fiber and one slice of the delectable treat is much lower in calories and fat than any of the other contenders.
  • Don’t indulge in a big hunk of pecan pie. One slice can contain up to 27 grams of fat and enough sugar to practically supply a household skittles factory.

Are you the chef this Thanksgiving? If so, EatingWell.com provides a few helpful tips and recipes to make this the heart-healthiest Thanksgiving yet! 

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