Don’t wait for New Year’s resolutions to kick in in order for you to embark upon a healthier lifestyle. That advice is coming from the American Heart Association (AHA), whose Healthy for Good™ movement offers lots of recipes that provide better alternatives to those sugar, salt and fat-filled holiday favorites that find their way to festive tables.
“Don’t promise yourself a January health reboot in November,” said Annessa Chumbley, a a registered dietitian and AHA volunteer. “Instead, celebrate the season with no regrets by enjoying special occasion foods in moderation and swapping in healthier substitutions when you have control over the menu.”
Chumbley suggests taking small science-backed steps to change recipes while retaining their flavors:
- Look for “low-sodium” veggies or try the frozen varieties. About 70 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed, prepackaged or restaurant foods. Reading labels is a simple way to net healthy results, Chumbley said. “Compare the nutrition facts on similar foods, like cans of green beans, and go for the one with less sodium.”
- Replace salt with herbs and spices. “Lemon juice, citrus zest or hot chilies can add extra flavor without the added sodium,” Chumbley said.
- Choose canned fruits packed in juice or water rather than syrup. “Fruit is plenty sweet without added sugars,” Chumbley said. “Speaking of fruit, don’t throw away those unloved, overly-ripe bananas. They are perfect to bake with, adding just the right amount of moisture and sweetness.”
- Swap non-fat, plain Greek yogurt for sour cream. “You’ll be surprised how sneaky this switch is when it comes to texture and flavor. Be sure you choose non-fat, plain Greek,” Chumbley said.
- Instead of butter, use a healthier vegetable oil or substitute equal parts unsweetened applesauce when baking. “Cooking with unsweetened applesauce is one of my favorite recipe hacks, and I always keep it on hand for baking,” Chumbley said.
- Sneak in a vegetable like pureed sweet potatoes, carrots or cauliflower to boost nutrition. Chumbley recommends keeping frozen cubes of purred vegetables in the freezer so they’re ready to go.
- Go for half and half — half wheat and half white flour, that is. “Whole grains are a great nutritional boost and mixing the flours helps disguise the swap,” Chumbley said.
- Sip smarter by adding seasonal fruit to old fashioned H2O. “There are plenty of ways to jazz up your drink without adding alcohol,” Chumbley said. “Try infusing cranberries, pomegranate arils or orange slices into sparkling water.”
The AHA will host Eat Smart Month activities throughout November, which is, coincidentally, known as Eat Smart Month.
Download the Holiday Healthy Eating Guide at heart.org/eatsmartmonth.
The American Heart Association, @AHAlivehealthy, is hosting a #DietDilemma Twitter chat 1-2pm CT on Eat Smart Day, Nov. 7.