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Spotlight: Watching your Food Intake During the Holidays

separator With Christmas and New Year celebrations ahead, it’s important to keep a watch on the food you eat. Cardiac deaths are highest during the winter. Researchers have had different theories about the reason. Some suggest cooler temperatures play a role, because the cold is harder on your heart. Others suggest that fewer hours of daylight may be the culprit. Still others indicate that increased intake of food, alcohol and salt could be the cause.

Food at parties is typically full of salt, unhealthy fat and too much sugar. Keep these things in mind this season:

  • Eating generous amounts of creamy, cheesy, buttery, sugary foods is going to use up more calories than you should probably eat in a day.
  • Red meat is high in fat and calories too. A small slice of roast beef has just over 200 calories.
  • A slice of cheesecake has 372 calories.
  • Chips are full of salt and saturated and hydrogenated fat. One serving, the size of a small bag, has about 160 calories.

Keep in mind that it’s important to limit salt
Many studies have shown that for people who already have hypertension, decreasing salt intake is important. Here are some of the facts:

  • The daily recommendation for sodium intake for the average person is no more than 2,400 milligrams.
  • You really only need 500 milligrams to help your body carry out its basic functions.
  • If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may have recommended keeping your daily salt intake under 1,500 milligrams.

If you’re at a party, you can go overboard on the salt in no time at all. Look at the sodium counts of some of these common party foods:

1 dill pickle     1,731 milligrams of salt
1 slice of American cheese 406
1 ounce of cured ham    837
½ cup Alfredo pasta sauce 1,080
1 tablespoon Teriyaki sauce 690

Most food isn’t salty in its natural state
When you’re at parties and other gatherings, go for the food that’s close to its original state, such as

  • Raw vegetables and fruit
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Poultry and fish, if that’s available
  • Pasta with fresh vegetables

Some good strategies
To keep yourself on the right track, consider taking the following steps:

  • Offer to bring a healthy dish to parties. That way you know you’ll have something there you can eat with a clear conscience.
  • Buy a book that lists food values and familiarize yourself with the foods you’re likely to eat. When you really know what’s in a food, you’re more likely to avoid it if you should.
  • Talk with a nutritionist or a dietitian if you feel overwhelmed with all the information that’s out there
  • Don’t keep your efforts to yourself. Tell your friends and family about your need and desire to make healthier choices.

Be sure to check out this issue’s dessert recipe, Chocolate Angel Torte
Circulation, 11 October 1999; R. Cicala; The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Association, “Your Guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure.”; The Heart Disease Source Book. Lowell House/Contemporary Publishing Group, Inc. Los Angeles, California 90067, 1998.

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