5 cardiologist-approved tips for heart-healthy holidays

There may have been fewer trick-or-treaters at your door this year, but Halloween still marks the first holiday of a season that can make it extra challenging to stick to your heart-healthy eating plan.

And I’m not just talking about fun-sized Skittles: A Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte contains 50 grams of sugar — that’s about as much as what’s in two full-sized Snickers bars!

So here are my tips for staying the course and avoiding a two-month slide into bad dietary habits:

  1. Switch your mindset. There are plenty of seasonal treats to look forward to that also happen to be health-promoting. Here are a few of my favorites:
  • Fall-flavored soups (butternut squash, potato leek, mushroom barley).
  • Instant Pot applesauce (toss apples, water and cinnamon in your pressure cooker and your house will smell like an orchard within minutes).
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds (get creative with spices).
  • Warm breakfasts (this is the time of year I switch from Sprinkles with yogurt and blueberries to Blueberry Oatmeal).
  1. Plan healthy ways to indulge.  Eating real food, not too much, mostly plants is always the right answer, but consuming colder weather favorites such as cheese, chocolate, red wine and even meat is possible on a heart-healthy diet so long as portions are reasonable and are part of a predominantly whole food plant-based dietary approach. 
  2. Remember that eating healthy isn’t one big choice.  It’s a series of small, smart choices. Look at what happens when you replace that Pumpkin Spice Latte or Snickers bar with Step One Foods. Keep in mind, these benefits accrue over an entire year. That’s why it’s so important to simply move on after you overindulge.
  3. Keep my 5-point strategy for feast days in mind. It IS possible to enjoy everything you love to eat on Thanksgiving Day so long as you’re intentional about how you go about it. 
  4. Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up if you do overindulge.  It is NOT the beginning of a slide; it’s simply one bad day. Treat it as such and start fresh the next day.

As a final thought, we’ve probably all experienced personal challenges related to the COVID pandemic this year.  And our holiday traditions are likely to be affected too, testing each of us even more.  So maybe the greatest gift we can give ourselves is to emerge more resilient on January 1, 2021. 

That means not giving up on physical activity, social connections, joy and purpose — and eating in a way that supports heart health — between now and the end of the year. 

So, here’s to the next two months! It doesn’t have to be a slide. Instead, it can be a metamorphosis.

Editor’s Note: The results of a $100 million dollar study were recently presented to the American Heart Association. The verdict? Heart procedures don’t seem to help people with stable heart disease avoid heart attacks more than drugs and lifestyle changes do. So before you submit to any heart treatment, discover the truth you won’t find at your doctor’s office: Read this FREE report

Dr. Elizabeth Klodas MD, FACC

By Dr. Elizabeth Klodas MD, FACC

"Diet is a major driver of high cholesterol, but instead of changing the food, we prescribe medications. This never seemed logical to me.” Dr. Klodas has dedicated her career to preventive cardiology. Trained at Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins, she is the founder and Chief Medical Officer for Step One Foods. Dr. Klodas is a nationally sought out speaker and has an active role at the American College of Cardiology. Her clinical interests include prevention of heart disease and non-invasive cardiac imaging and she has published dozens of scientific articles throughout her career. Dr. Klodas has been featured on CNN Health for her mission to change how heart disease is treated. An independent study performed at leading medical institutions affirmed the ability of Step One Foods to deliver measurable and meaningful cholesterol-reduction benefits in the real world. The results of the trial were presented at the 2018 American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions. Dr. Klodas has also authored a book for patients, "Slay the Giant: The Power of Prevention in Defeating Heart Disease," and served as founding Editor-in-Chief of the patient education effort of the American College of Cardiology. In addition to her practice and her duties at Step One Foods, she also serves as medical editor for webMD.