5 heart-healthy festive swaps

Heart Foundation

Try these smart swaps and tasty Heart Foundation recipes to help protect your heart and your waistline this festive season.

Heart Foundation dietitian, Maria Packard, said, “While we’re all tempted to over-indulge during the festive break, heart-healthy habits shouldn’t stop at the Christmas table.

“We’re encouraging people to make some simple changes that will make their hearts happy by adding more vegetables to their plates, swapping salt for spices or herbs to flavour dishes and using healthy fats and oils for cooking or spreads on bread or crackers.

“It’s also important to be mindful of portion size, or else risk those Chrissy-kilos creeping into the New Year. As a tip, half your plate should be filled with vegetables, a quarter with wholegrains and the other quarter with proteins like fish, lean poultry or smaller amounts of lean red meat.

“Break up your day with some exercise like a brisk walk. While we recommend at least 30 minutes on most days, a short walk between mains and Christmas pudding can help energise festivities.”

Excess weight and poor diet are leading risk factors for heart disease, the single leading cause of death in Australia.

“Taking these steps to protect your heart health will set you and your family up for a healthy start to 2021,” Ms Packard said.

Swap salt for spice to boost the Christmas flavour

Spice up your dishes with nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger or use herbs like rosemary, sage or thyme to add flavour to your festive meals and avoid using the salt shaker.

Ms Packard said: “Too much salt in our diet is linked to high blood pressure, which can put you at risk of heart attack or stroke. We recommend eating less than a teaspoon of salt a day (5g per day) by cooking and eating fresh, healthy foods and cutting down on highly processed foods like chips, processed meats, fried foods and biscuits.”

Swap one traditional meat meal for a vibrant veggie dish to add colour to your table

Christmas lunch or dinner can often be a meat-heavy meal. Make veggies the colourful star of your table (and keep your vegetarian guest happy) by replacing one meat dish with a vegetable-based recipe and add a healthy salad.

Ms Packard said: “Nine in ten Australians don’t eat the recommended five serves of vegetables a day for good health. Adding a rainbow mix of red, green, purple, orange or yellow vegetables to your meals will help boost essential vitamins and minerals in your diet.”

Swap refined white grains for heart-healthy whole grains

High in healthy fibre, wholegrains like brown rice, wholemeal pasta, bread and whole oats have been linked to reduced (bad) LDL-cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.

Ms Packard said: “What you might be surprised to know is a diet low in wholegrains can be attributed to 17% of the total burden of deaths from heart disease.”

Swap cream, sour cream for natural, unflavoured or Greek yoghurt in savoury and sweet dishes

Do your arteries and heart a favour by limiting cream. Swap it for unflavoured natural or Greek yoghurt to accompany sweet or savoury dishes.

Ms Packard said: “Unflavoured milk, yogurt or cheese is part of a heart-healthy eating pattern. Greek or plain unflavoured yogurt is a flexible heart healthy alternative that can be used in sweet or savoury dishes and has a similar texture to cream.”

Swap butter for healthy olive oil and vinegar on bread or use spreads like hummus, guacamole or bean-based dips

Dip your bread in olive oil and vinegar. Or spread it with hummus, bean-based dips, avocado or unsalted nut butters to pack a flavour punch to accompany your dishes.

Ms Packard said: “Butter should be limited, in preference to oils rich in monounsaturated fats, like olive oil, especially for anyone with high blood cholesterol.”

Find your festive with some Heart Foundation heart-healthy recipes

For more recipes and heart-healthy festive tips, download our latest recipe booklet Celebrating with Heart: recipes for the holiday season.

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