It’s a fact. Christmas rolls around and most people end up eating more than they should. Sometimes it catches up with us in the way of a few extra pounds — on average, we gain one to two pounds during the holiday season, but for those with dietary restrictions, there’s even more at stake than the number on the scale. Holiday eating extravaganzas may be putting your health and life at risk particularly if you have kidney disease, high blood pressure or diabetes.
Here are some holiday eating dos and don’ts to help you navigate the buffet table this holiday season.
ENJOY holiday favorites in moderation.
Don’t eat ham or other highly processed meats because they are high sodium culprits.
The average three ounce portion of ham has approximately 1,000 mg of sodium. It’s recommended that healthy adults consume a maximum of about 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day, which amounts to roughly a teaspoon of salt. The recommendation is even less for those with high blood pressure or kidney disease. Don’t be intimidated by product packaging and marketing claims. Read nutrition labels to compare different brands and find meats that are low in sodium.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF UNSPLASH/JED OWEN
HAM is high in sodium because salt is used to cure the meat.
Do dine on lower-sodium proteins, fresh cuts of meat and naturally contain less sodium.
An average three ounce portion of these meats contains around 100 mg of sodium. Poultry can also be a good option if they aren’t injected with a salt broth or brine.
Don’t assume that desserts and sweets are low in sodium and salt. Often, the sweetness of desserts masks the saltiness. Desserts that contain baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can be high in sodium as there is approximately 160 mg of sodium in 1/8th teaspoon. Baking powder also contains sodium bicarbonate in addition to sodium aluminum sulfate. Baking powder is lower in sodium with approximately 65 mg of sodium in 1/8th teaspoon. However, it also contains monocalcium phosphate, so be mindful if you have kidney disease and need to limit your phosphorus intake.
Do modify dessert recipes to make them lower in sodium. For example, when making fruit pies, it’s easy to just omit salt when following the recipe for crust and filling. Beware of recipes needing baking soda or baking powder. Low sodium baking powder may not be a good alternative if you are on potassium restriction (it contains potassium in place of sodium).
Don’t dismiss the calories and sugar
content in many holiday drinks such as fruit punch.
Alcoholic drinks are typically high in sugar and calories, so remember that these calories add up even if they don’t fill you up. Also, alcohol can affect your judgment and your ability to make other healthy and safe food choices.
Do opt for water-based beverages. If you have a party or holiday meal to attend and need to limit your fluid intake, take this into account when making drink choices earlier in the day so that you can “save” some of your fluid intake for the festivities.
Don’t be afraid to prepare meals for yourself.
These dishes should be eaten and enjoyed while dining with the rest of your family. By doing this, you will know it is healthy and meets your individual dietary restrictions. If someone else is cooking your Christmas lunch or dinner, ask ahead of time if they can prepare something that is in line with your dietary needs.
Do eat a healthy snack before your “big meal.
” This way, you won’t be as tempted to consume food and drinks that may not be healthy for you. Portion control is key, so enjoy holiday favorites in moderation and don’t be afraid to say “No, thank you” to seconds.
Remember, while the holidays and food tend to go hand-in-hand, spending quality time with loved ones doesn’t require eating. In addition to tackling dietary restrictions during the holidays, focus on catching up with those you care about because conversation is calorie, salt, fat and sugar free!
Happy and healthy holidays to you and yours!
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