Family holiday traditions include trimming trees, lighting candles, and making traditional foods and sweets we know and love. But it is also a time when adults and children can overindulge. And today, with about one in three American kids and teens overweight or obese, it is more important than ever to make smart, heart healthy choices for the entire family.

The American Heart Association has tips to keep your family and your meals healthy during holiday celebrations and keep stress at a minimum.

Try healthy substitutes. Family recipes can taste just as good when you try these simple tricks:

During Baking:

Instead of butter, substitute equal parts cinnamon-flavored, no-sugar-added applesauce.

Instead of sugar, use a lower-calorie sugar substitute.

Instead of whole or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or skim milk.

Instead of using only white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat flour.

When Cooking:

Use vegetable oils such as olive oil instead of butter (even in your mashed potatoes).

Use herbs and spices, like rosemary and cloves, to flavor dishes instead of butter and salt.

Use whole-grain breads and pastas instead of white.

Stay Active:

The American Heart Association recommends that healthy children, age 2 and older, participate in an hour of moderate to vigorous activity every day. Finding activities the entire family can participate in such as a family walk can become a healthy holiday tradition for the entire family.  For every two hours of vigorous activity, adults can add one year to their life expectancy. So make sure and keep your scheduled time at the gym.


Stress can be at its highest level when you are trying to take care of the family, cook, clean and prepare for any guests. To keep stress to a minimum try some of these tips:

Plan ahead to help manage your time.

Focus on one task at a time

Get the kids to help with chores

Take time to relax

Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep can impact your heart health. The American Heart Association recommends adults get six to eight hours of sleep per night. Over the holiday, get into bed early to give yourself enough time to wind down after your day and to fall asleep faster and more soundly. Also, a recent sleep study of teenagers found that greater variability in day-to-day sleep habits was associated with higher calories consumed throughout the day. So try and keep a child’s scheduled bedtime the same when possible.

For more tips and information on keeping your family healthy during the holidays go to


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