Heart-Healthy Holiday Nutrition for Louisianans

Holiday heart healthy nutrition

Saying that Louisianans love good food is akin to saying the sky is blue – it’s just a given.  From gumbo to crawfish to boudin, there’s a lot of dishes that our little pocket of the south is known for.  Unfortunately, few of our favorite specialties are good for the heart and many are major players in our state’s ongoing fight against obesity and heart disease.

According to the latest research, Louisiana has the fifth highest death rate from cardiovascular disease in the nation*.  It’s a frightening statistic, but it is also one that makes sense when we consider where much of the state’s population stands on some major risk factors.  Consider the numbers in the following chart, all of which impact individual risk for heart disease and major cardiovascular events:

Risk Factor



Adults who are obese



High schoolers who are obese



Adults who smoke



Adults who have had a previous heart attack



Adults who have had a previous stroke



Adults who have been previously diagnosed with heart disease




Heart-Healthy Eating Choices for the Holidays

A major concern for maintaining a heart healthy diet during the holiday season are the sheer number of parties and meals that surround the festivities.  While you’ll certainly want to congregate with friends and enjoy this special time of year, it can take a lot of will power and presence of mind to not overindulge.  Here are a few tips to help you enjoy all of your upcoming gatherings while maintaining a healthy balance of your heart and waistline:

Everything in Moderation – Assuming that your medical condition allows, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying some holiday sweets here and there.  The important thing is to do so in moderation.  So, instead of going back for seconds or trying multiple dessert options, decide on one to satisfy your craving.  In fact, giving in on occasion has been shown to keep you on track more so than denying yourself entirely.  Just make sure that you keep these indulgences to a minimum and save them for what you really want.

Add Some Color to Your Plate – Loading your plate with colorful fruits and veggies is not only a great way to ensure you are eating a healthy, well-balanced meal, it also allows you to feel fuller for longer, helping you avoid later temptation.  Furthermore, the colors on your plate have been shown to have a psychological component as well.  Red and orange, for instance, stimulate the senses, including appetite.  On the other hand, green is associated with health and has a relaxing effect, while blue is an appetite suppressant. 

Make Healthy Substitutions – It may not always be easy to find healthy substitutions when someone else has prepared the meal.  In such cases, it is best to focus on moderation and avoid foods you know to particularly heavy in calories, saturated fat, sugar, or sodium.  When cooking your own holiday dinners, find easy swaps via a nutritionist, physician, or online guide to make in your own recipes that can keep your dishes both healthy and delicious. 

Focus on Activity – Being physically active is one of the best steps you can take to remaining healthy at any time of year, including the holidays.  While it may be an easy time to take a break from your fitness routine, it’s important to continue to focus on remaining active.  Research has shown that exercise has a favorable impact on virtually every component connected to cardiovascular disease.  While it isn’t a substitute for healthy eating, getting the right amount of exercise can go a long way to keeping your heart healthy.

Regardless of the state of your heart health, you can still enjoy family gatherings and holiday dinners, without the guilt or negative consequence.  Just keep the above in mind, and you’ll be sure to have a holiday season that you and your loved ones will thoroughly enjoy.

Concerns about the current state of your heart health or your risk of cardiovascular disease?  Contact any location of Cardiovascular Institute of the South, and request a consultation with one of our many skilled cardiology physicians.

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CIS Staff

Written by CIS Staff