Heart-healthy Nutrition for the Holidays

Enjoying a good meal with friends and family is an important part of many holiday celebrations. However, it can be a challenge to maintain a heart-healthy diet during this time. Here’s some tips to help keep your heart healthy during the holiday season.
Fill your plate with vegetables

Vegetables are full of important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help keep not only your heart, but your entire body, healthy. Root vegetables, like carrots and parsnips, can provide plenty of fiber, vitamin C, and carotenoids. Leafy greens provide vitamin K, potassium, calcium, and iron.1 Sweet potatoes are packed with antioxidants, potassium, beta-carotene, and vitamins A and C.2

Watch sodium intake.

Too much sodium intake can cause high blood pressure. Canned vegetables, processed/cured meats, brined foods, and soups and broths are some holiday foods that can contain large quantities of sodium. To cut down on the salt, swap canned vegetables for frozen or fresh or thoroughly rinse canned vegetables, opt for low-sodium versions of ingredients/foods when possible, and create your own herb and spice blends instead of using prepackaged blends or a brine.1,3 

Make smart substitutions.

Many traditional, less heart-healthy holiday ingredients can be easily replaced with healthier alternatives. For instance, yogurt and Greek yogurt are excellent substitutes for sour cream and heavy cream, and, when baking, oil can often be swapped for unsweetened applesauce.1,3 Unsweetened applesauce can also replace refined sugar. Coconut sugar, honey, and 100% maple syrup may also be a healthier alternative to refined sugar. Half of the required butter for a recipe can be swapped for mashed avocado. Whole milk can be replaced with nondairy varieties or 1%/skim milk and one tablespoon of vegetable oil.4

Don’t forget the fiber.

Opt for whole grain and whole wheat varieties for your sides and desserts to increase your fiber and micronutrient intake. If you make your own breads and desserts, incorporates whole wheat flour into your recipes or substitute half the white flour in a recipe for whole wheat flour.1,3

Avoid holiday heart syndrome.

Holiday heart syndrome is a term that refers to atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) that occurs due to excessive alcohol and salt intake. Symptoms include heart palpitations, dizziness, feeling overtired or lightheaded, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Limit your consumption alcoholic beverages and foods with a lot of salt, sugar, or cream.5

  1. MacPherson R. 9 ways to make your holiday meals more nutritious. Verywell Fit. Updated 16 Nov 2022. https://www.verywellfit.com/ways-to-make-your-holiday-meal-more-nutritious-5208789. Accessed 21 Nov 2023.
  2. UC Davis Health. 8 tips to help keep your heart healthy over the holidays. 20 Dec 2019. https://health.ucdavis.edu/blog/good-food/8-tips-to-help-keep-your-heart-healthy-over-the-holidays/2019/12. Accessed 21 Nov 2023.
  3. Repinski K. How to eat for a heart-healthy holiday. Consumer Reports. Updated 25 Nov 2019. https://www.consumerreports.org/healthy-eating/heart-healthy-holiday-eating/. Accessed 21 Nov 2023.
  4. AdventHealth. Heart-healthy ingredient swaps for your holiday recipes. 29 Nov 2021. https://www.adventhealth.com/hospital/adventhealth-orlando/blog/heart-healthy-ingredient-swaps-your-holiday-recipes. Accessed 21 Nov 2023.
  5. Cleveland Clinic. How you can avoid holiday heart syndrome. 3 Dec 2021. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-avoid-holiday-heart-syndrome/. Accessed 21 Nov 2023.   

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