LEXINGTON, Ky. — A year of unexpected stress has caused at least one dietitian to see more patients with significant weight gain and heart disease, which she warns could become worse over the holidays.
University of Kentucky Gill Heart and Vascular Institute Cardiopulmonary Rehab Dietitian Shorus Minella said the pandemic has caused weight gain to become an issue with more and more people to remain indoors and be more inactive than usual.
Minella said an easy tip to staying healthy is to keep healthy foods on hand for snacking.
She also shared her trick for practicing moderation
"When you do feel like you want to snack and you're feeling stress to help pull back how much you're actually eating," Minella said. "I love potato chips so I make sure I put them in a little small bowl. Take the bowl away from the kitchen and away from the bag and once I'm done eating them out of that container that bowl, I'm done with my chips."
With the season for special holiday treats in full swing, Minella explained how everyone can keep within their diets.
"You don't want to deprive yourself of the things that you possibly wouldn't get day-to-day all year round," she said. "So I like to say, save the calories for the little special things that you usually don't have. So if you don't usually have those Christmas gingerbread cookies, make room for them have room for them, maybe cut out some soda or sweet tea that you usually would have, and save your calories on the special things that you wouldn't get all year round."
She encouraged those preparing food to trade out healthier options like low-fat milk for whole milk on a recipe.
With heart disease ranking as the leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2019 and with obesity numbers on the rise throughout the country since 1999, Minella said small changes like making a bit of time for exercise can go a long way.
"If you can't go outside because of the weather, making sure to do chair exercises, or I like to remind people just marching in place, counts as well," she said. "So just something to get moving a little bit more. And then when you do feel like eating, think about if you're bored or not, or if you're hungry and think about those hunger cues as well."
Minella encouraged everyone to try a heart-healthy diet that tries to reduce the amount of saturated fat by focusing on lean meats like chicken, turkey and fish.
"If you're paying attention to what you're eating, you're paying attention to enough to, I don't want to say feel 'bad,' but you're paying attention enough to have those feelings and that's great start," she said. "So be gentle with yourself every day is a new day and just try to practice this mindful eating."
This story was originally published by Claire Kopsky on WLEX in Lexington, Kentucky.