Holidays are all about spending time with family, but what would a family get-together be without lots of tasty food? For people who are trying to live a heart-healthy lifestyle, getting through a holiday season can be a major accomplishment. It helps if you’re cooking the meal, or bringing a dish or two, because you can make healthier versions of those dishes you love best. When it comes to heart health, this means cutting back on trans fats, saturated fats, and sodium, and adding more fruits, vegetables, and soluble fiber to each dish.

Sweet Potato Casserole

This tasty treat is usually filled with tons of butter and covered with gooey melted marshmallows. Sweet potatoes are such a healthy vegetable, why ruin them with bad ingredients? Flavor mashed potatoes with honey and lemon zest, then top them with a mixture of chopped pecans and whole wheat flour. The cobbler-like topping adds a tasty crunch that complements the natural sweet potato taste.

Cornbread Stuffing

What’s a turkey without the stuffing? If you have to have this favorite side dish, skip the fatty cornbread stuffing baked inside the bird and opt for a healthier wild rice stuffing cooked on the side. You’ll get the same basic flavor with a fraction of the fat and calories.

Green Bean Casserole

Invented by the Campbell Soup company and designed to push sales of canned cream of mushroom soup, this dish has become a holiday classic. Get your green bean fix by steaming healthy fresh beans, then mixing them with slivered almonds for the crunch you’d get from those canned fried onion strings.

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is a holiday favorite, along with its southern cousin, the sweet potato pie. Both of them are filled with fat and calories, with half of them in the crust alone. Cut them down into reasonable desserts by creating pumpkin or sweet potato parfaits. Layer cooked pie filling with lowfat whipped cream in pretty glasses, then top with a spoonful of chopped pecans or crumbled graham crackers for crunch.

Holiday Cake

Whatever flavor cake you like, this one is worth a try. Pumpkin caramel spice cake is simply a box of spice cake mix mixed with a small can of plain pumpkin and 1/2 cup of water. Bake the cake, let it cool slightly, then top with caramel ice cream topping. Decadent and low calorie, all at the same time.

For other advice on lifestyle changes you can make to improve your AFib symptoms through the holidays and beyond, schedule an appointment for a consultation with Dr. Dilip Mathew at his Venice or Sarasota electrophysiologist’s office. Dr. Mathew serves patients throughout the Sun Coast including Tampa Bay, Bradenton, Sun City Center and Port Charlotte.