Tips to Stay Healthy This Busy Time of Year

Melissa Hayes • 7 December 2023

Tips to Stay Healthy This Busy Time of Year

If you have heart failure, the holidays can pose a challenge. The tempting food and lots of activities can cause excess stress. Here are some tips to stay healthy this busy time of year.

  • Enjoy your holidays. If it makes you smile it probably reduces stress.
  • Pace yourself. Everything does not need to be done in one day. Do a little each day. Sometimes a busy schedule cannot be helped. If you have a busy schedule, try to rest a little more the day before and the day after.
    Heart failure patients tolerate activity better and retain their strength when activity is spread out.
  • Watch your diet. A lot of holiday food is high in sodium and we all splurge more around the holidays. Find some healthy eating tips below under "Enjoy Delicious Food – Sensibly."
  • Continue your medications as prescribed. Plan ahead so you don’t run out over the holidays.
  • Avoid stressful situations if possible. Sometimes family gatherings can be very stressful. It is OK to remove yourself from these situations.
  • Retain your normal sleep pattern if possible. Sneak in an extra nap – you have permission!
  • Continue your exercise program if possible. Take a walk as a way to take a break from family and all of the holiday hustle and bustle.
  • Play table or card games with family members as a way to socialize and share time that doesn’t focus on food.
  • Be watchful of your symptoms and weight.

​A Toast to Good Health

Try club soda with a splash of orange juice as a refreshing and sparkling alternative to an alcoholic beverage. Be sure you discuss alcohol intake with your doctor; an occasional drink may be allowed. Remember: One (1) drink is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.

Enjoy Delicious Food – Sensibly

Special occasions and holidays are typically associated with food and a time of over-indulging. Don’t let eating too much or salty foods land you in the hospital by following these tips:

  • If sharing a meal with friends and family, be sure to bring a low-sodium, healthy dish to share.
  • Steer clear of ham, brined, smoked or pickled meats, gravies (unless prepared with a low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth), sauces, dressing, boxed mashed potatoes, canned vegetables, casseroles, and macaroni and cheese. If you must eat any of these foods, have just a tablespoon for taste.
  • Stick to fresh turkey breast, fresh vegetables, and baked white or sweet potato. Fill half your plate with fruit and fresh vegetables.
  • When snacking, avoid the deli, olive and pickle tray, along with salty chips and dips/salsa.
  • You may want to budget your food choices during the day if you know you are going to be tempted with a large meal later in the evening. Eat primarily fresh fruits and vegetables during the day so you can enjoy a few higher sodium content items at the party.
  • Remember that holiday leftovers count in your sodium budget! Get back to eating your normal diet as soon as possible.

Holiday Food Sodium Content

sodium level










Delicious Recipes to Enjoy During the Holidays

Marissa Varni, RD, Clinical Dietitian at Northern Nevada Medical Center, has adapted the following recipes for healthy eating.

Low-sodium Herb-rubbed Turkey (Adapted from Taste of Home)

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours

6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons pepper
½ teaspoon each ground allspice, ginger and mustard
1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 turkey-sized oven roasting bag
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 small carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 small potato, sliced
1 turkey (14 pounds)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. In a small bowl mix garlic, herbs and spices until blended. Sprinkle flour into oven bag, shake to coat. Place bag in a roasting pan. Add vegetables and sprinkle with 5 teaspoons of the herb mixture.
  2. Pat turkey dry. With fingers, carefully loosen skin from turkey breast and rub half the remaining herb mixture under the skin. Secure skin to underside of breast with toothpicks. Rub remaining herb mixture over inside of turkey. Tuck wings under turkey; tie drumsticks together.
  3. Place turkey in bag over vegetables, breast side up. Close bag with nylon tie. Cut six ½- inch slits in top of bag; close with tie provided. Bake 2 to 2.5 hours or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 170-175 degrees.
  4. Remove turkey from oven bag to a serving platter; tent with foil. Let stand 20 minutes before carving. Strain contents of oven bag into a small saucepan, discard vegetables and skim fat from cooking juices. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water until smooth, gradually whisking into cooking juices. Bring to a boil, cook and stir 2 minutes until thick. Serve with turkey.

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions and Almonds (Adapted from The Food Network)

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

3 pounds of green beans, trimmed of stem end
½ cup skin on sliced almonds
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, sliced thin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Fill a large high-sided skillet with water, adding enough to be just shy of the rim of the pan (about 1 inch).
  2. Place over high heat and bring water to boil.
  3. Add the green beans.
  4. Cook for about 5 minutes, the beans should still be crisp.
  5. Drain the beans and then run them under cold water to stop them from cooking.
  6. Place beans to the side while you start the onions.
  7. Return the skillet (same one from the beans) to medium heat.
  8. Add the almonds and toast, stirring every now and then until golden - about 3 to 5 minutes.
  9. Remove the almonds from the skillet and place to the side.
  10. Return the skillet to medium heat and add butter and olive oil until the butter has melted.
  11. Add the onions, season with pepper and cook. Stir frequently until the onions caramelize about 20 to 25 minutes.
  12. Add the thyme and cook for another 5 minutes.
  13. Last, add the cooked and cooled green beans and almonds. Stir well to combine.

Heart Healthy Turkey Stuffing (Recipe from Northeast Georgia Health System)


6 cups cubed bread (no salt toasted) – about 8 slices
½ cup unsalted butter
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped mushroom
2 cups chopped apple
½ cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon savory spice blend
½ tablespoon sage
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 cup apple juice


  1. Sauté the cubed bread, butter, onion, celery, mushroom, apple and pecans.
  2. Add the savory spice blend, sage, thyme, pepper, and garlic powder and apple juice.
  3. Bake in a pan at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Post written by Posted by Janie Gomez, BSN, RN, PCCN, CHFN