Tips for Eat Smart Month - keeping your tastebuds & waistline happy in November

SAGINAW -- (11/14/2017) -- When you think of November and holidays, one of your first thoughts is Thanksgiving. Your second thought may be stretchy pants - but ABC12's Christina Burkhart has a few tips that may keep you wearing your elastic waistline sweats for only a couple days, rather than weeks.

Everyone can plan on indulging a little on Thanksgiving, but ABC12 spoke with American Heart Association representatives and a dietician at Covenant Healthcare, and they had some easy tips to help keep yourself on track through the holiday season.

"November is Eat Smart Month for the American Heart Association," said Stacy Sawyer, the Senior Communications Director for the Midwest American Heart Association. "It's a time when we're encouraging everyone to eat a little bit smarter, make some smarter choices when it comes to your food."

And it's not that hard to do. For starters - don't fill up at the appetizer table.

"The one important thing is to eat something earlier in the day," said Ann Hoffman, RDN, CDE, CSO, a Clinical Dietician at Covenant Healthcare. "I think a lot of times if we're going to a holiday party, we might try to save ourselves for later in the day, but then when we see the appetizer table we may choose and eat a lot more than expected."

Limit your alcohol - that can be empty calories. Instead, at least alternate with sparkling water or sugar-free beverages. The AHA recommends only six teaspoons of sugar a day for women and nine for men, and about a half of a teaspoon or less of sodium.

"A lot of us don't realize how much sugar and sodium is in a lot of our foods, and that leads to high blood pressure, weight gain - lots of times when we make poor food choices it can lead to cardiovascular disease and stroke," said Sawyer.

Try to make sure you're still getting the needed nutrients.

"I try to encourage a lot of fruits and vegetables in the dishes that we're eating - even if you're having fruit with your pie! Still just try to incorporate those wholesome foods into the diet," Hoffman said. "And certainly be active - take a family walk or do something active as a group after dinner."

Watch for what may only seem to be the better choice for your diet.

"A lot of commercial gravy will actually have no fat in it," said Hoffman. "So compared to what you might make from scratch, if you can skim off some of the fat and use the meat drippings you can reduce the fat somewhat, but you're still really adding the thickened fat back into the mashed potatoes. Sodium - if you make homemade you might not add any salt to it, whereas if you buy it from the store, you might have more sodium."

Keep an eye on portion size - for instance, try to only have a cup of eggnog at a time, or look into low fat or soy and almond varieties. Swapping for almond milk can mean less protein, but just as much calcium as regular milk. Try exchanging the fried chicken for baked chicken, the pecan pie for pumpkin.

"We have a great substitution recipe for green bean casserole," said Sawyer. "It's really simple to do - just replace the milk with low fat sour cream, and replace your regular cream of mushroom soup with low sodium cream of mushroom soup. You still get the same taste, but you've cut the calories and fat content. That is what the AHA is encouraging - make some simple, smart changes that will have a true impact on your overall health."

The AHA website has many more of the holiday recipe swaps to keep your tummy - and waistline - happy. They also recommend the buddy system for leftovers - split that piece of pecan pie with a friend & you'll cut that 503 calories and 27 grams of fat easily in half.

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