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In Australia 1-7 May 2023 is heart week!

This is an important annual initiative to help start a conversation about heart health, and ways we can all take steps to reduce our risk of heart disease.

This year it’s all about getting checked! This is your reminder to go to your GP and book in a heart check. Your future self will thank you for it.

In terms of preventative measures, one of the key things you can do is to consume a heart friendly diet. A good place to start is by doing a heart friendly diet audit.

As yourself: how many foods beneficial to heart health are you consuming? Likewise, how many foods which are linked to increased risk of heart disease are you consuming?

Beneficial: vegetables, herbs, spices, wholegrains, fresh fruit, legumes, nuts/seeds and fatty fish. In other words, a dietary pattern similar to the Mediterranean diet.

Unhelpful: fried foods, refined sugar, excess animal fats, refined grains, processed foods and alcohol.

If you are ticking off a few too many from the unhelpful list, here are some simple hacks to easily bring more heart friendly plant-based foods into your diet, with little effort:

Vegetable / herbs Hacks

  • Cut veggies small before roasting to reduce cook time and also increase their versatility.
  • Use a blender or food processor to chop veggies fast eg onion, celery, carrot, zucchini etc and use as the base of sauces, stews and curries.
  • Purchase grape tomatoes, baby cucumbers and carrots for snacks.
  • Grate carrot into pre-purchased dips such as hummus for more vege.
  • Blend leftover roasted veggies with tomato passata and herbs to create a yummy sauce.

Herb /spice Hacks

  • Add ground spices to smoothies – turmeric, nutmeg and cinnamon work well.
  • Blend leftover herbs at the end of the week together, place in an ice-cube tray, top with a little oil and freeze ready for the following week.
  • Marinate meat with herbs and spices before grilling
  • Add spices to scrambled eggs and omelettes at breakfast time – paprika, turmeric and cumin work well
  • Add herbs and spices to salad dressings

Nut / seed Hacks

  • Sprinkle hemp seeds into scrambled eggs or on avocado on toast.
  • Toast nuts/seeds with spices such as turmeric and store in a glass container ready for sprinkling over meals.
  • Portion out some nuts and seeds weekly ready for snacks, take on the go.
  • Blend nuts and seeds into pasta sauces including the bottled variety.
  • Use 50 / 50 nuts and meat in Bolognese or stir-fry’s – cashews and walnuts work well!

Fruit Hacks

  • Chop fruit, store in a container in the freezer ready for smoothies
  • Make a compote at the start of the week using apple, berries and spices and use to top muesli or serve with yoghurt.
  • Roast apple and pears for salads – will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
  • Toss berries or other fruits into salads.
  • Grate apple or pear into meatball / patty mixes – especially pork.

Wholegrain Hacks

  • Batch cook grains and store in the fridge for 2-3 days.
  • Try a buckwheat or quinoa risotto instead of aborio rice
  • Mix ½ cooked grains with ½ cauliflower rice to boost veggie content
  • Mix ½ pasta with ½ zucchini noodles to boost veggie content
  • Use ½ legume pasta and ½ regular to boost fibre
  • Toss leftover grains into soups and scrambled eggs
  • If you love boxed cereal which is refined, add a few tbsp. oats to boost fibre content

Beans / legumes Hacks

  • Opt for canned beans and legumes – rinse well, choose BPA free packaging, organic and salt reduced if possible.
  • Purchase snack size cans or pouches of beans / legumes and toss into salads, eat as a snack, add to wraps or toss through scrambled eggs.
  • Pulse ½ can chickpeas or cannellini beans with EVOO, lemon juice, cumin and leftover roasted pumpkin as a quick dip or toast/wrap/sandwich spread.
  • Toss beans/legumes into stir-fry’s and replace ½ the meat
  • Toss beans/legumes through scrambled eggs to bulk out the dish