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Fruity hot cross scones served up with ricotta and honey

How to have your chocolate egg – and your heart health, too!

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How to have your chocolate egg – and your heart health, too!

Media release: 26 March 2024

Take up the life-changing Heart Healthy Eating Pattern today

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 can keep building on following the long weekend, that will help to significantly reduce your risk of developing heart disease in your lifetime.

New data from the latest National Health Survey shows that Australian kids and adults are eating fewer fruit and vegetables than ever before.

Only 4.2% of adults met both the fruit and vegetable recommendations, compared with 5.4% from 2017-2018.

The average Australian gets around one third of their daily energy from discretionary foods (such as sweet biscuits, cakes, desserts, pastries and sugary drinks) which are high in unhealthy fats, sugars and salt, and are low in fibre.

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 many 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 showed that 95 percent of Australians are not eating enough fruit and vegetables.

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.

Jemma explains: “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.

Jemma O’Hanlon

Senior dietitian

“Eating from these food groups regularly and occasionally having discretionary foods will help you make positive and lasting changes.

“You can also use these food groups to swap a healthier ingredient into your favourite meals – whether it’s brown rice instead of white rice, olive oil instead of butter, spices instead of salt, or lentils to help bulk up your Bolognese and provide important fibre – the Heart-Healthy Eating Pattern is easy to follow and fun to experiment with.”

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 tempted by them.”

Go dark

“Dark chocolate is a good 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 few 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.

Finally, visit the Heartshop and download the free Easter recipe book, a collection of delicious heart-healthy Easter favourites.

What about those choccy eggs?

Jemma explains that an eating 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.

Jemma O’Hanlon

Senior dietitian

“For the 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, or a piece of cake on your birthday.”

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Last updated26 March 2024