Australians can have their choccy eggs and their heart health, too, by taking up the Heart Healthy Eating Pattern this Easter.
The real treat will be the healthy habits you’re left with following the long weekend, which will help to significantly reduce your risk of developing heart disease in your lifetime.
Data shows that more than 90% of Australian kids and adults don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables.
The average Australian gets a third of their daily energy from discretionary foods – foods that are high in unhealthy fats, added sugars, and added salt.
So – how can people make small, effective and long-lasting changes to their eating patterns in a world where some of the most tempting foods are often the worst for our heart health?
The answer for most Australians may lie with the Heart Foundation’s Heart Healthy Eating Pattern.
And our senior dietitian, Jemma O’Hanlon, is here to help.
Introducing… the Heart Healthy Eating Pattern.
The Foundation launched the Heart Healthy Eating Pattern in 2019 in response to concerning data which shows that 95 percent of Australians are not eating enough fruit and vegetables.
Furthermore, the average Australian sources around one third of their daily energy from processed foods rich in fats, sugars and salt.
The Heart Healthy Eating Pattern is designed to support Australians to develop lifelong healthy habits, far more effective than fad dieting – and it’s free to take up from the Heart Foundation’s website.
A heart healthy eating pattern acknowledges that the whole of what we eat is more important than any single food in isolation, or on a particular day.
It’s more important to have a set of food groups that you can regularly choose from including wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats.
Eating from these groups regularly and only occasionally having discretionary foods will help you make positive and lasting changes to your own diet.
You can also use these groups to substitute a healthier ingredient into your favourite meals – whether it’s brown rice instead of white rice, olive oil instead of butter, or lentils to help bulk up your Bolognese and provide much needed fibre – the Heart Healthy Eating Pattern is easy to follow and fun to experiment with.”
Jemma O’Hanlon, Senior Dietitian.
And what about those choccy eggs?
Jemma explains that a Pattern trumps a fad diet because it focuses on creating good eating habits, and not excluding foods.
“Diets are like really hard video games: one wrong move and they tell you it’s game over,” she said, “and as a result you’re more likely just to give up than try again.
“A Heart Healthy Eating Pattern helps you to eat healthy more often than not in a world where holiday and birthday celebrations with discretionary foods is common.
“For the large majority of the year you’ll be eating the best possible foods to protect your heart, and don’t need to feel bad about enjoying a little chocolate at Easter, some treats at other festive times, and a piece of cake on your birthday.”
For those who have made the leap – it has been life-changing
For Melbourne woman Melissa McCartin, poor diet was a leading contributor to a heart attack and cardiac arrest in her 40s.
Ms McCartin introduced a heart healthy eating pattern as part of her recovery and has since, combined with regular exercise, changed her life to be fitter and healthier than she was before her heart event.
“Before my heart event, I was eating anything and everything, including plenty of highly refined carbs, microwaveable convenience meals and takeaway on a regular basis,” Melissa said.
“I was not having anywhere near enough vegetables or protein and was a comfort eater, frequently indulging in snacks like potato crisps and baked goods.
“Now, I enjoy a Heart Healthy Eating Pattern and it’s wonderful – the food is what I want to eat, and the ingredients are widely available. It’s really easy to swap things in and out.
“Best of all, I still get to enjoy a treat if I wish – although I’m really careful not to overdo it.”
Heart Foundation’s Top Five Tips for a Heart Healthy Easter:
In addition to taking up the Heart Healthy Eating Pattern, Jemma says there are smart ways to stay on track this Easter, with the Heart Foundation offering the following tips:
Shape your home environment
“It’s often the foods that we surround ourselves with that we tend to eat the most,” Jemma said. “This means we can feel empowered to design our home environment in a way that supports our heart health. Keep fresh fruit handy in a big bowl on the kitchen bench, and keep chocolates in the cupboard so you’re not constantly tempted by them.”
“Dark chocolate is the better chocolate choice as it’s higher in cacao, which is rich in antioxidants. “Try 70% or greater dark chocolate, it will give you a real chocolate hit and chances are won’t feel the need to eat too much in one sitting.”
Make a personal rule: pair with whole foods
“Serve a couple of small dark chocolate eggs on an entertaining platter with a range of vibrant coloured fruits, vegetables, cheese and nuts. You’ll get to enjoy a variety of delicious foods and the whole family can dig in and enjoy them together.
Sharing is caring
“Share chocolate with your friends, loved ones or work colleagues and you’ll still get to enjoy that blissful chocolate moment without feeling sluggish afterwards.
Cook with cacao
“Think about other ways to get your chocolate fix. Add a teaspoon of cacao powder to your morning porridge, or make a healthy hot chocolate by mixing a teaspoon of cacao into a cup of warm milk.