Heart happy health tips to see you through Advent

The Irish Heart Foundation’s expert health promotion team has created a handy Advent calendar of motivational tips and helpful reminders to steer the nation through the indulgent festive season without piling on the pounds and to stay healthy this December.

1 Wrap up warm and get that heart pumping with an invigorating winter walk.

2 Have a happy cholesterol this Christmas: swap full cream for crème fraiche or natural yoghurt.

3 Easy on the booze – try not to binge and keep to a max of 11/17 standard drinks a week for women/men.

4 Remember to have breakfast or you will be snacking on mince pies by mid morning.

5 Before you snack, grab a plate and make a portion so you can see exactly how those tasty nibbles add up.

6 Watch out for hidden salts in party food that may increase blood pressure - steer clear of crisps and salted nuts.

7 Indulge in Brussels sprouts, a festive favourite packed with vitamins and goodness.

8 For maximum enjoyment this party season, have a healthy meal before you hit the town to keep up your energy and cut down snacking.

9 Guilt-free indulgence: pile up your plate with seasonal vegetables at every meal to keep fibre and vitamin levels high this Christmas.

10 When every other night is a Christmas party night, try alternating every other drink with a non alcoholic one.

11 If you feel the stress building, take 30 minutes for yourself and go for a brisk walk.

12 Help Santa with his Christmas shopping and make sure some active gifts go into your loved one’s stocking.

13 Remember an extra 500 calories every day will result in a pound of weight gain every week! If you eat more, try to exercise more too.

14 Another Christmas lunch out with friends? Order a salad with your meal and ask for dressing on the side.

15 Fancy a sneaky bite of pre-Christmas pudding? Make the custard with skimmed milk for a lighter option.

16 Stick on some Christmas tunes and dance for ten minutes. Not only will this make you feel great, but it will count as one third of your daily exercise needs.

17 Don’t miss seasonal favourites like white cabbage, brussels sprouts, carrots and parsnips.

18 Keep hearts beating: take a few minutes to refresh your CPR and defibrillator skills especially if children and older people will be around.

19 Make sure you are fully stocked with blood pressure/cholesterol medication as pharmacies may close for the holidays

20 With a New Year around the corner now is the time to make plans to quit smoking.

21 If you over-indulge, don’t give up. Today is a good day to start choosing healthy again.

22 You can have your gravy and eat it – just leave it to settle for a few minutes so you can skim away excess fat.

23 The average person will have 4,000 calories on Christmas Day - twice what they need. The more meals you make yourself, the easier it is to be healthy.

24 Baking cookies for Santa? Get the kids involved and give a classic recipe a healthy twist– think carrot cake muffins for Rudolph.

25 As you tuck into turkey today don’t forget to savour the flavours, chew slowly, and enjoy your food.

For 120 heart healthy recipes don’t miss your chance to own the Irish Heart Foundation’s ‘I Love Good Food’ cookbook available at www.irishheart.ie or in all good bookshops.

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