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Top ‘holiday heart hacks’ for healthier festive feasting

Holiday Heart Hacks

Australians can satisfy their tickers and their tastebuds this holiday season by utilising the Heart Foundation’s top Holiday Heart Hacks for festive food and nutrition.

From canned pears in puddings, to loading up on muesli in the morning, the Heart Foundation is here with a series of tips to help Aussies enjoy their festive feasting in a heart healthy manner.

The holiday season can be a challenge for some Australians who may wish to protect their heart health by not indulging in too much sugar, alcohol and saturated fat.

The Heart Foundation’s senior dietitian, Jemma O’Hanlon, today shared the organisation’s top five Holiday Heart Hacks to help teach Australians that they can have their pudding and eat it, too – satisfying their tastebuds while sticking to heart healthy eating habits.

Heart Hack #1 – Add canned pears in place of butter for a better Christmas pudding If you’re one of the many Aussies on dessert duty, but didn’t start the pudding preparations weeks ago, that’s okay!

The Heart Foundation is challenging Aussies to give its very own Baked Christmas Pudding a go. Ms O’Hanlon said the Baked Christmas Pudding tasted amazing and was a much healthier alternative to a traditional steamed pudding. The secret ingredient? Canned pears.

“First and foremost, it takes less than two hours to prepare – that alone is a great reason to try it when most puddings take six hours plus,” she said.

“It uses wholegrains instead of refined grains and also uses the natural sweetness from canned pears which are the perfect substitute for butter that is found in a standard pudding.

“When using canned pears in the Heart Foundation recipe, they reduce the saturated fat content and keep the pudding moist.

“Also, standard puddings soak their fruit in alcohol, whereas ours uses the juice from the canned pears and is alcohol free.

“You can flavour the pudding with spices that are usually already in the pantry; like cinnamon, mixed spice and vanilla.”

Beware the temptation to overindulge, though.

“Rather than having ‘seconds’, save a small slice for the next day so you and your heart can enjoy your festive feast that little bit longer,” Ms O’Hanlon said.

“Our pudding can also be cooled and served as a cake, and any leftovers will keep for up to four days in an airtight container.”

Heart Hack #2 – Fuel up at the start of the day

O’Hanlon points out that most festive feasts happen at lunch or dinner – making breakfast yours to own, and the perfect opportunity to load-up on energy for the day.

“Start your day with a heart-healthy breakfast like natural muesli, yoghurt and fresh berries – when you fuel your body well at the start of the day, you’ll be more likely to stay on track for the rest of the day,” Ms O’Hanlon said.

“Of course, aim for three heart-healthy meals a day and snack on fresh fruit and vegetables, and protein-rich foods like cheese and unsalted nuts.

Heart Hack #3 – Make time for exercise now, not in the New Year.

O’Hanlon said with most Aussies taking time off they should try to incorporate physical activity into their holiday season routine.

“We recommend at least 30 minutes on most days. That can be accumulative – so fit in a short walk between meals and join in on that game of backyard cricket,” she said.

“Another tip is when catching up with friends to celebrate the end of the year, rather than organising a night out on the town or coffee and cake, suggest a walk in the park, a stroll along the beach, or a game of backyard sport.”

Heart Hack #4 – Load up on healthy foods before end-of-year functions

O’Hanlon said end of year parties were notorious for a combination of alcohol, sweets and deepfried food.

“If you know you’re going somewhere where it will be hard to eat healthy, you can enjoy a heart healthy meal or snack before you arrive at the function. This will help you manage your appetite.

“Best of all, if you satisfy you hunger beforehand you can focus your attention on the social engagement of the event, move around regularly – and even have a dance if you want to contribute to those 30 minutes a day of activity.

“Water is by far the healthiest drink to consume, so be sure to stay hydrated and actively seek it out while at the event.”

Heart Hack #5 – Fill your platters with lots of fresh produce

O’Hanlon advises that if you’re hosting a festive event, you are able to set the tone.

“Where possible, avoid the temptation to fill your platters with bags of chips and cream-based dips. They might taste great but are often packed full of salt and saturated fat, and aside from being unhealthy are often unsatisfying. These foods encourage overindulgence,” she said.

“Instead aim to incorporate fresh fruits like grapes and strawberries, as well as veggie sticks, olives, nuts, cheese, wholegrain crackers, and healthier dips like hummus and tzatziki. You’ll feel fuller longer and your heart will thank you.”

BONUS Heart Hack – Support the Heart Foundation and help to protect your friends and family.

O’Hanlon called upon Australians to support ongoing heart research and programs that help Australians understand and adopt heart healthy eating habits.

“The aim is to keep families together so they can enjoy each other’s company during important times like the holiday season,” she said.

“Sadly, cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest killers of Australians, and yet it is mostly preventable through physical activity and nutrition.

“That’s why our final tip this holiday season is for Aussies to make a donation to the Heart Foundation either from themselves or on behalf of their loved ones as part of holiday campaign.

“The types of research that are funded by this support have the potential to drive incredible advances in the prevention, treatment and management of cardiovascular disease.”

If you found these Heart Hacks helpful and would like to donate to the Heart Foundation Holiday Appeal please visit

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