A table set for an Australian christmas lunch spread with ham, prawns, salad, vegetables, fruits and mince pies.

Heart-friendly holidays

Have yourself a heart-friendly Festive Season

16 December 2022

Christmas is fast approaching and with it comes festivities, fun and plenty of food.

Whilst there’s nothing wrong with a bit of over-indulging - it’s the festive season after all - too much of a good thing can leave you feeling bloated.

The good news is, you can still have your cake and eat it by following these heart-friendly Christmas tips.

Start the day with a nutritious breakfast

Christmas Day lunch may be the star of the show, but breakfast is the best way to start your celebrations on a nutritious note.

If you love a hot breakfast, swap high-saturated fat foods like bacon for foods high in healthy unsaturated fats, like poached or boiled eggs and avocado.

Pair with high-fibre multigrain breads and top with your favourite heart-friendly vegetables, seeds and herbs including tomato, pumpkin seeds, spinach leaves, red onion, and basil to create a breakfast that’s as tasty as it is nutritious.

If a sweet breakfast is more your style, high-fibre muesli with yoghurt and fresh fruit will have you feeling satisfied and less likely to overindulge at lunch.

A woman's hand holds a delicious-looking slice of avocado on rye bread topped with seeds

Consider your portions

If there’s one time of the year when you’re more likely to go big on the portions, it’s Christmas. With all that great food on offer it’s tempting to overdo it. But with that indulgence often comes excessive amounts of saturated fat and salt.

This Christmas, keep your portions in check by starting small and pacing yourself. Swap a large plate for a smaller plate and don’t rush your meal – remember it takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to register you’re full.

If after that time you’re still genuinely hungry you can always go back for more.

Swap the salt for herbs and spices

Salt is a great seasoning when used in moderation, but too much salt can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Whilst most of the salt we consume is already in the foods we buy – like breads, cheese, and chips - you can cut back on your salt intake by simply adding less when cooking. Incredibly, your taste buds will adjust in just two weeks.

You can also be more adventurous with seasonings other than salt. Chopped chillies, garlic, fresh herbs, lemon juice and pepper are all tasty and heart-friendly ways of adding flavour to your Christmas meals, and will ensure they don’t end up being bland.

Get creative with fruits and vegetables

Have you ever had a perfectly-caramelised banana straight from the barbecue? If not, this year might be the time to get creative with fresh fruits and vegetables as part of your Christmas celebrations.

Grilling veggies and fruits, adding extra veggies to your salads, putting out bowls of cherries on the Christmas table and topping that pavlova with all your favourite summer fruits are all great ways to increase your fruit and vegetable intake.

Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet brings with it more fibre – which is great for heart health. And with only six percent of Australians eating the recommended daily serves of fruit and vegetables, we could all do with adding more plant foods to our meals.

A man and two children play cricket in the backyard on a sunny day

Have fun in the sun

Christmas in Australia often means warm, sunny weather, which makes it the perfect time to get active.

Physical activity helps to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease – and it can be a whole heap of fun!

Take a dip in the pool, head to the beach, ride the new bikes Santa got the kids for Christmas, play a game of backyard cricket - the options are endless for keeping your body moving on Christmas Day.

Enjoy the celebrations

Your heart health is influenced by what you do most days. So, if you find yourself indulging a bit more than usual over Christmas don’t beat yourself up. Every day is another opportunity to make choices that will keep your heart happy and healthy.

After all, taking time to relax and make memories with family and friends is one of the best things you can do for you and your heart.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years