The holiday season is all about family, friends and food! While it is tempting to eat the fatty foods that await you, it is important to be mindful of your cholesterol intake, especially if you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol.
Total cholesterol is made up of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides. If you have high cholesterol, you will need to lower your “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides, and raise your “good” cholesterol to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
If your doctor has advised you to watch what you eat because of high cholesterol levels, it doesn’t mean you have to avoid all your favorite holiday foods at dinners and parties. With a little know-how and creativity, you can enjoy most of the foods you like. You’ll find you can still take part in the holiday festivities while taking care of your health.
Here are some easy-to-follow tips to help you get through the holiday season while keeping your cholesterol in check:
- Outsmart the bird. Reach for the lighter pieces of meat; they have fewer calories and less fat than the darker ones. Another way to cut fat is to take off the skin.
- Watch out for the gravy train. Turkey usually comes with gravy, which can add excess fat. Limit gravy to a tablespoon, and don’t use it on other foods such as the stuffing.
- Judge it by its cover. If the stuffing is filled with fatty meats like sausage and pork, looks greasy or buttery or is made with white bread or sweet rolls, it may be best to pass. Better options would be stuffings that have whole grain or cornbread, lean or no meat, nuts (such as almonds or walnuts) and lots of veggies and fruits.
- What’s in it. Holiday casseroles are filled with fat, sugar and sodium. Your best bet is to limit yourself to a small spoonful of casserole and fill the rest of your plate with a serving of lean protein along with roasted or sautéed veggies and fruits.
- Treat yourself right. The best way to enjoy an occasional sweet without losing control is by sampling a selection or two, rather than having full servings. For example, have one bite of pie, half a cookie or one small square of fudge. Find a friend or family member who will stick to the sampling rule with you.
- Mix it up. Fill your glass with half- to three-quarter-parts of low-fat or skim milk and one part eggnog. You’ll still get flavor without all the calories.
- Cut the fluff. Pass on that big dollop of whipped cream and avoid the extra sugar and saturated fat.
- Find an alternative. This holiday classic has many low-fat or non-dairy versions.
If you’re the cook in the family, check out the New York State Department of Health’s Tips for Healthy Cooking. You will find shopping hints as well as ideas to help reduce cholesterol in the kitchen and at the table.