Holiday cooking can be challenging, especially when considering each individual’s unique preferences and dietary restrictions. Incorporating the necessary dietary modifications for loved ones with chronic illnesses or medical conditions requires careful planning. Many of us have heard that diabetics need modified desserts with reduced sugar. But what about loved ones who have heart failure, renal failure, celiac disease, and other medical conditions that require dietary modifications? One of the most difficult medical conditions to cook for during the holiday season is congestive heart failure, so we are providing dietary tips and mealtime ideas to help make the holidays a more enjoyable time for all.
The American Heart Association advises individuals with congestive heart failure to use caution during the holiday season and avoid foods high in salt. A research study performed in 2015 found that on average, more than 3 people with congestive heart failure were admitted to the hospital on Christmas Day. In the four days following Christmas, that number rose to 6.5 people per day. During the entire month of December, the average number of patients being admitted for heart failure was 5.5 per day, which is consistently higher than other times of the year, indicating a need for meal planning during the entire month of December.
It is recommended for people with heart failure to avoid salt, because it makes the body hold on to fluid. This strains the heart as it has to work harder to pump the fluid. In addition, too much salt can worsen symptoms like swelling and shortness of breath, as well as cause weight gain. If those symptoms become severe, the person may need to be admitted to the hospital.
According to one cardiologist, people with heart failure are at an increased risk for hospital admission during the holidays because they are not always aware of how much salt is in certain foods. As mentioned, consuming a large amount of sodium can lead to excess fluid that can exacerbate congestive heart failure. By changing the way you cook for your loved one and helping them monitor the food they consume during the holiday, you will greatly reduce their risk of hospital admission. More than that, it is important to educate friends and other family members who may not be aware of the necessary dietary modifications needed for a loved one with congestive heart failure. This is especially important when organizing potlucks, as it is important to have a variety of food that can be enjoyed by everyone.
A good rule of thumb is to remember that half of a meal should comprise of fruits and vegetables that are varied in color, and the other half should be equal parts whole grains and healthy proteins. Make your holiday meals festive and healthy with a variety of richly colored fruits and vegetables that includes herbs and spices. Seasonal vegetables can be easily incorporated in everything from soups to stews and casseroles.
We recommend the following holiday mealtime tips for people with congestive heart failure to help you get the most out of your holiday season:
- Substitute butter with equal parts cinnamon-flavored, no-sugar-added applesauce
- Replace sugar with a lower-calorie sugar substitute
- Substitute whole or heavy cream with low-fat or skim milk
- Substitute white flour with half white and half whole-wheat flour
- Substitute chocolate chips with dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries
- Use flavored extracts to add flavor, instead of sugar or butter
- Use vegetable oils instead of butter
- Use herbs and spices, like rosemary and cloves, to add flavor without adding butter and salt
- Use whole-grain breads and pastas
- Bake, grill or steam vegetables instead of frying
- Substitute whole milk or heavy cream with low-fat or fat-free/skim milk
- Use club soda instead of alcohol
- Substitute sugar in mixed drinks with 100-percent or freshly squeezed juice
- Substitute heavy cream or whole milk in dairy-based drinks with low-fat or skim milk
- Replace sugar with spices and fruit, like cinnamon or cranberries
Following these cooking tips will help reduce the amount of sodium in your holiday meal, and reduce the risk of hospital admission for a loved one with congestive heart failure.
If you or a loved one is living with congestive heart failure, NurseRegistry offers skilled care provided by a licensed nurse. Learn more about our skilled services at NurseRegistry.com/private-care.