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Throwing a heart healthy party
Little smokies, egg nog…holiday parties are filled with good cheer and eating, but is there room for healthy food? It’s easy to over-indulge on high calorie treats. These extra calories are quickly converted into additional pounds, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Consider throwing a heart-healthy holiday party. The challenge? “Serving foods that are healthy, yet appealing and tasteful to guests,” says Palmetto Health Heart Hospital dietitian Roberta Jupp.

Here are Jupp’s basic guidelines for a healthy party:

Keep it simple
“Offer just a few food options that are calorie-dense, along with a good variety of low-cal foods,” says Jupp. “If less food selections are available, the guests may eat less and slowly savor everything.” Jupp recommends planning ahead by using recipes that allow some pre-preparation, then chill or freeze foods until needed. Also consider offering food choices for different diet preferences, such as low-carb or vegetarian.

Provide color and variety
Veggie trays with low-fat dip and fruit trays with yogurt dips are bright and appealing. Place colorful veggies on trays with high-fat items to encourage guests to add nutritional balance to their plates.

For hors d’oeuvres or cold cut platters, choose the low-fat processed meats that do not have preservatives, such as white turkey breast and roast beef. Also arrange whole-grain breads, crackers, and bagels together and serve with flavored low-fat cream cheese.

Cut the fat and sugar
To cut fat, consider serving vegetarian “meatballs”, “chicken” nuggets, and hot “wings” in lieu of the real, higher fat variety. But if you insist on meat, marinate chicken or lean beef for kabobs. For meatballs, use white meat ground turkey instead of hamburger. As for fried foods, prepare only with canola oil and make sure the food is well-drained on paper towels before serving.

For baked goods, you can cut sugar by one third without compromising taste. Jupp recommends substituting the Splenda® brand sweetener for sugar, which can be used cup-for-cup.

Drink light
Consider limiting alcohol. Offer a variety of diet sodas and seltzer waters. “My patients love a drink of equal amounts Diet Sprite and Raspberry Crystal Light. Freeze some of this mixture into ice cubes and serve in drinks to avoid dilution,” recommends Jupp.

After your party, jot down things that could be done differently, as well as what worked well so that you will be prepared for your next healthy holiday party

According to researchers, dark chocolate (not white or milk chocolate) can help to lower blood pressure and increase antioxidant activity in the blood.

“Americans, however, tend to think that if a little bit is good, then a lot is better! Not so!” says Roberta Jupp. “Dark chocolate can be used in the diet in moderation. Remember that a dark chocolate bar can add 400 or more calories to the day’s intake, so it’s best to use dark chocolate to replace other high-fat and high-sugar foods in the diet.”