Spice up Christmas festivities with some delicious and heart-healthy baking treats, as eager Aussies share meals with family and friends post-pandemic lockdowns.
The Heart Foundation has released its free Holiday Treats recipe booklet as vaccination rates rise and COVID-19 restrictions ease across the country in the lead-up to the festival season.
Heart Foundation dietitian Maria Packard said that after 18 months of living with the coronavirus pandemic, Aussies are keen to ditch the track pants, kick up their heels and celebrate.
To avoid stacking on the summer kilos, Ms Packard urged people to try the Foundation's delicious heart-healthier, home-baked recipes rather than cooking traditional Christmas treats or buying highly processed cakes or puddings packed with lots of salt, unhealthy fats like butter and palm oil, sugar and additives.
"We know families and friends are eager to get together this holiday break, so why not cook and share delicious heart-healthy festive favourites that curb the kilojoules but spice up the flavour," Ms Packard said.
"While occasional treats are enjoyable and part of festivities, what matters most for overall good health is regularly eating a wide variety of heart-healthy foods and being mindful of portion size.
"As we look forward to celebrating, it's easy to ignore that poor diet and excess weight are leading risk factors for heart disease, the single leading cause of death in Australia. These risks also increase your chance of suffering from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes."
As part of a healthy eating pattern, the Heart Foundation encourages people to fill up on plenty of colourful veggies, fruits and wholegrains, and healthy proteins like fish, seafood, beans and lentils. Choose smaller amounts of animal-based foods and use healthy fats like avocado, seeds, nuts and their oils for cooking.
"For a lighter sweet treat, why not try cooking the Heart Foundation's easy wholemeal Christmas Fruit Cake or our spiced vanilla cheesecake with summer peaches and strawberries. Not only will these recipes add to your recommended two serves of fruit a day, but they're a tasty heart-healthier addition to any table," Ms Packard said.
"A few simple changes to recipes like using wholemeal flour or adding in-season summer fruits or healthy nuts and keeping portion sizes in check can boost the healthiness of baked treats.
"Swapping cream cheese for lighter ricotta or using Greek yogurt instead of cream is an easy change. For people with high cholesterol or heart disease, we recommend using reduced-fat dairy.
"Moderation is key for a healthy ticker. While we all enjoy indulging occasionally, people shouldn't abandon any healthy eating and exercise habits they may have built up during lockdown or working from home, as it makes it harder to get back on track in the new year."
For festive inspiration, download the Heart Foundation's free Holiday Treats recipe booklet or visit heartfoundation.org.au for heart health and nutrition advice.