Hacking a few of your traditional recipes this holiday season is smart for your heart. To help, the American Heart Association's Healthy for Good is providing its latest recipes and science-backed health tips.
As part of Eat Smart Month in November, the American Heart Association, the leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives, aims to educate consumers on the importance of healthy eating.
"Some studies suggest that eating well may improve your mood," said Annessa Chumbley, a registered dietitian and American Heart Association volunteer. "Instead of looking at holiday eating as a wellness obstacle, try looking at it as an opportunity. Even the subtle shift from negative thinking to positive thinking can be a holiday stress-buster."
Chumbley suggests taking small steps and avoiding one common mistake: putting good habits on hold.
"Don't promise yourself a January health reboot in November," Chumbley said. "Instead, celebrate the season with no regrets by enjoying special occasion foods in moderation and swapping in healthier substitutions when you have control over the menu."
To be at your peak this holiday season, try these eight American Heart Association-approved recipe hacks and find more at heart.org/eatsmartmonth.
1. Look for "low-sodium" veggies or try the frozen varieties. About 70 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed, prepackaged or restaurant foods. Reading labels is a simple way to net healthy results, Chumbley said. "Compare the nutrition facts on similar foods, like cans of green beans, and go for the one with less sodium."
2. Replace salt with herbs and spices. "Lemon juice, citrus zest or hot chilies can add extra flavor without the added sodium," Chumbley said.
3. Choose canned fruits packed in juice or water rather than syrup. "Fruit is plenty sweet without added sugars," Chumbley said. "Speaking of fruit, don't throw away those unloved, overly-ripe bananas. They are perfect to bake with, adding just the right amount of moisture and sweetness."
4. Swap non-fat, plain Greek yogurt for sour cream. "You'll be surprised how stealthy this switch is when it comes to texture and flavor. Be sure you choose non-fat, plain Greek," Chumbley said.
5. Instead of butter, use a healthier vegetable oil or substitute equal parts unsweetened applesauce when baking. "Cooking with unsweetened applesauce is one of my favorite recipe hacks, and I always keep it on hand for baking," Chumbley said.
6. Sneak in a vegetable like pureed sweet potatoes, carrots or cauliflower to boost nutrition. Chumbley recommends keeping frozen cubes of purred vegetables in the freezer so they're ready to go.
7. Go for half and half -- half wheat and half white flour, that is. "Whole grains are a great nutritional boost and mixing the flours helps disguise the swap," Chumbley said.
8. Sip smarter by adding seasonal fruit to old fashioned H2O. "There are plenty of ways to jazz up your drink without adding alcohol," Chumbley said. "Try infusing cranberries, pomegranate arils or orange slices into sparkling water."