Cardiovascular diseases are among sleep apnea‘s most serious complications. Sleep apnea treatment can reduce your risks, but if you want to reduce them even further, lifestyle changes can really help. Changing your diet to lose weight and incorporate more heart-healthy foods is a challenge, especially around the holidays. But it’s not impossible.

If you’re suffering with post-Thanksgiving regret, here’s some advice to make sure the rest of your holidays are healthier.

Portion Control

Everything is good to eat in appropriate quantities. The most important thing you can do to make your meals healthier is to eat less. There are a lot of ridiculous suggestions out there about taking steps to dramatically reduce your portion control (the American Heart Association in this publication actually suggest that you “have one bite of pie, half a cookie or one small square of fudge”), but it’s important to be realistic to stay in control.

If you know you ate too much at Thanksgiving, vow to eat 25% less at Christmas, New Year’s, or other holiday dinner. No matter how much your mom, aunt, or grandma urges you, don’t get that second plate. Select a smaller slice of pie. Split a dessert. Skip the whipped cream.

Healthy Cooking

If you’re preparing the holiday meal (or even just a part of it), you can take steps to make it healthier. If you’re getting ready to throw out that turkey carcass, boil it down for stock. Skim the fat and you have a flavorful, low-salt alternative to boullion or store-bought broth.

While you’re at it, half the salt in all your recipes. Most people won’t notice the difference, but if they do, they can add salt (as many would do anyway, even before tasting it).

When making dressing, don’t add too much broth or salt, and use low-fat and low-salt stock. Instead of adding a meat like pork sausage or ham to your dressing, use nuts, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices to add flavor.

Skip the store-bought pre-made ingredients whenever possible. Making your own gravy from drippings is tastier and healthier (if you skim the fat).

Remember not to overwhelm healthy ingredients like sweet potatoes with so much fat, sugar, and butter that they’re not healthy anymore.

Healthy Eating

In addition to portion control, make sure you’re picking out healthy foods to eat. Sweet potatoes are a great choice–if they’re not dripping in butter and covered with marshmallows. Look for other fall vegetables like brussel sprouts. For pre-meal or between-meal snacking, pick at a vegetable tray instead of going to the cookie jar. Try the hummus instead of ranch dressing for dipping your veggies.

Healthy Drinking

There are many festive drinks that can be good for you, but also many that can be bad. Egg nog is very high in fat, so try to pick up a low-fat version, if you’re throwing the party, and if not, try to have a smaller portion. Skip whipped cream in your hot cocoa (or, again, have a smaller portion), and have fewer marshmallows. If you’re buying cocoa at a place like Starbucks, read the label. A 16 oz. cocoa (grande, for you regular Starbuckers) has nearly 400 Calories and 16 grams of fat with 2% milk and whipped cream, but that drops to about 250 Calories and 2.5 grams of fat if you have it made with nonfat milk and no whipped cream.

Remember, alcohol has a lot of calories (and if you drink too much it makes it harder for you to follow your diet rules). Don’t add alcohol to drinks that don’t need it (such as egg nog). Avoid mixed drinks with a lot of sugar in them. Instead, go with red wine and dark beer that have heart-protective effects, although in the long run all alcohol has similar heart health effects.

No matter what you’re drinking, alternate it with water. This will reduce your calorie intake, improve your hydration, and reduce the risk of intoxication (which can be especially problematic at a work party).

Positive Results

Hopefully, you can work these heart-healthy and lower-calorie strategies into your holiday so when it’s time for resolutions, losing weight doesn’t have to be one of them! And hopefully you will notice a difference in your snoring and sleep apnea.

But if you still have sleep apnea symptoms, and want to learn more about treatment options, please contact the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha.