Keep your heart happy this holiday

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Print this page Email A Friend!

IT'S easy to get carried away this Christmas with eating and drinking when you're in a celebratory mood. One glass of eggnog and slice of Christmas cake can quickly turn to four, and those pounds you worked so hard all year to take off can return to stay like an unwanted, unexpected visitor.

This extra weight can cause serious effects, such as heart attack, stroke, or cardiac arrest. Yet, maintaining good health and a happy heart during the Christmas season is easier than we think. The key is moderation with realistic holiday goals because, let's be honest, the strict, all-or-nothing approach rarely works when you're surrounded by Christmas cookies by the tin!

The Jamaica Observer's Your Health Your Wealth sat down with Dr Andrene Chung, cardiologist at Partners Interventional Centre of Jamaica (PICJ), to get some easy and helpful tips so that you can eat, drink and be merry all holiday long!

Alcohol consumption

Liquid calories count more than you know! And many of these calories come in the form of sugar from your favourite glass of rum-filled sorrel, wine or spiked eggnog. A serving of alcohol is 100 to 150 calories, and that number drastically increases in the cocktails or festive drinks we love this time of the year. For instance, a cup of eggnog may contain as much as 340 calories, and when 1.5oz of rum is added, it may contain a whopping 440 calories. So, here are some tips to help you sip smartly during the holidays.

• Drink water between alcoholic drinks. This will help keep you hydrated but will also slow down your drinking, so you'll drink less and avoid the hangover the next day.

• Use low-calorie mixers, such as no-calorie soda or tonic water or lemon and lime wedges, to help reduce added calories. You can also use healthier ingredients without sacrificing flavour. For instance, use low-fat milk in your eggnog and cut the amount of cream in half — or skip it entirely! We promise you won't miss it!

• Practise moderation. Enjoy and savour your drinks by sipping slowly. Stick to no more than one standard drink a day for women of all ages and men older than 65, and up to two standard drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.

• Keep the focus on family and friends and not what you're giving up. Remember the reason for the gathering to celebrate with those you love.


Dieting can be tough during “party season”. You may find it's more manageable to shift your focus from weight loss to weight management during the holidays. Use this mantra: “Maintain, don't gain.”

• Look for healthier food and beverage choices. For example, replace sugar-sweetened beverages with sparkling water, and replace some high-calorie foods with fruits and vegetables. Alcohol may increase appetite and lead to eating more. so steer clear when you can.

• A little planning can go a long way when you're in the mood to munch. Fruit and veggies with dip are always good options to have on hand. Lightly buttered popcorn, nuts and wholewheat crackers with cheese are also good snack staples and make great cocktail additions when you're entertaining.

• Homemade is best! Making your mashed potatoes and mac and cheese from scratch saves a lot of calories and provides more nutrients than the processed options.

• Skipping meals before holiday parties or meals is not recommended. Under-eating in the hours leading up to a social eating event typically leads to overeating at that event – not to mention the discomfort and irritability that skipping meals can bring. Instead, consider having small, sensible meals and snacks in the hours leading up to the event. Include a protein and fibre source regularly throughout the day to avoid losing your sense of control at holiday events.

• Make smart swaps - You'd be surprised how many of your favourite Christmas dishes have recipes that swap one ingredient for a world of a difference. For example, try adding pureed cauliflower to your mashed potatoes to replace some of the potatoes. Doing so will cut calories and add more fibre to your dish — and your guests likely won't know the difference. Instead of mixing the potatoes with butter, use milk and serve butter on the side so your guests can add it in themselves. Also, for a healthier stuffing use wholewheat bread instead of white and add lots of veggie, such as carrots, celery, onions and mushrooms.

Take control of the situation

When you can't control the menu, such as at a friend's party or office celebration, bring a healthy dish to share, such as a fruit plate or a colourful salad. This will ensure there is at least one dish at the party you can use to fill up half of your plate. Also, don't take full servings of all your favourite high-calorie foods. Instead, take just a few tablespoons of each. The calories saved will be significant and you'll still get to enjoy all the foods you've waited for all year. Other techniques to control portions are to use smaller plates and consume only one plate of food.

Also, make an effort to stay active. Stand when you'd rather sit. Walk at least 7,000 steps daily, and have the family join in! You can use the time in-between meals to take a walk with family or play an active game or sport together!

If you feel chest pain, don't ignore it or decide to wait until you have the time to check it out. Make the time; your health is a priority. Call PICJ at 1 876-613-0165 or visit them at 18 Tangerine Place at the first sign of chest pain.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at




1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

comments powered by Disqus



Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon