Some of us think heart disease is something that happens to other people but in reality, it affects 1.2 million Australians.
February marks the start of RedFeb, when Heart Research Australia campaigns to raise awareness and ultimately help to prevent heart disease.
There are five key lifestyle steps that can decrease the chances of developing heart disease: not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and getting enough sleep, are all great ways to reduce your risk.
In addition to these, a diet low in ultra-processed foods and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, poultry and olive oil, has been shown to lower heart disease risk by as much as 31 per cent.
With the increasing cost of living, many of us are worried that healthy eating is expensive. But eating on a budget doesn't mean compromising on nutrition, and small changes may make a big difference to your heart and back pocket.
Plan and shop smart
Preparing your meal plan and recipes at the start of the week means you will only buy what you need and is the key to heart healthy eating on a budget. Ensure your recipes contain similar ingredients to limit wastage. For example, large vegetables, such as pumpkin, can be used in a curry one night and a risotto a few days later. When planning your recipes, look at the local supermarket offers leaflet to see what specials you can include in your weekly shop. Change your recipes up every so often or aim for a new recipe each week to avoid boredom. Wherever possible, buy in bulk when your favourite items are cheap and store them until you need to use them.
Eat local and seasonal
We are blessed in Australia with a wealth of great tasting fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating foods that are out of season usually means they have travelled significant distances at a higher cost to the supplier and therefore the consumer. Check where your produce is coming from and choose Australian wherever possible. At this time of year tomato, cabbage, stone fruit, cucumber, avocado, and mango are amongst some of the great seasonal produce that is available in the supermarket.
Adapt your favourite recipes
Cooking on a budget doesn't have to mean a totally new way of cooking. Look at your regular recipes and see how you can make heart healthy changes that are also good for your bank balance. For example, the family favourite spaghetti bolognese can be adapted in so many ways. Using chicken instead of beef mince, not only lowers the cost but also reduces the amount of saturated fat in the dish. Bulking it out with tinned lentils will decrease the cost per serve and increase the iron, zinc, and vitamin B content. Deficiencies in these nutrients have been associated with heart disease, and optimal levels could be beneficial for heart health.
There is still a stigma around eating frozen foods, but modern-day freezing methods have ensured the flavour is often better and nutrition higher. The key to avoiding mushy and tasteless vegetables is only cooking them for a short amount of time. Frozen fruits are great for smoothies, or once thawed, as an addition to yogurt or oats for a great tasting breakfast. If you do buy fresh, don't throw anything away, most things can be frozen to be used later. Excess herbs, chillies, garlic, ginger, capsicum, pineapple, and strawberries are a few of the many items that can all be frozen at home.
Plan for a leftovers night
Even the best-laid plans can be scuppered by our busy lives and we might find that, on occasion, we end up with leftovers. Planning a night that uses up any excess food that we may have at the end of the week is a great way to reduce the amount we buy and explore some creative cooking. My favourite meals for this are stir-fry and frittata, which are great when eaten immediately, or pasta bake and quiche, which have the option of being frozen for another day.
Visit the Heart Research Australia website
For all things heart related, the Heart Research Australia website should be at the top of your list. In addition to all the latest research and news on heart disease, you will find a free resource called the Heart Health Club, which contains a wealth of information and resources on nutrition. It is a growing club with new information constantly added. So, make sure you visit regularly to help you stay on track with your healthy heart journey.
I call this the "boosted bolognese" because it has added ingredients which elevates the nutritional value and switches traditional ingredients for more cost-friendly ones. To be even more budget conscious, you could decrease the meat content and increase the quantity of lentils, or simply add an extra tin to make the dish go further.
- 500g chicken mince
- 1 tin brown lentils, drained and rinsed
- 400g tin crushed tomatoes, no added salt
- 2 tbsp tomato paste, no added salt or sugar
- 100g brown mushrooms, sliced
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 200g mixed frozen vegetables (carrots, peas, and corn)
- 150ml vegetable stock
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp dried rosemary
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- chopped parsley leaves to garnish
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper (to taste)
1. Heat the olive oil on a medium-low heat in a large deep saucepan and add onion, garlic, and mushrooms.
2. Cook until the onion turns translucent and softened, and then add the chicken mince. Cook for 5-6 minutes until the meat is brown all over.
3. Increase the heat and add the tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, vegetable stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil.
4. Once boiling reduce the heat and simmer on low for 20 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and thickened.
5. Add the lentils and frozen veg and cook for a further 5 minutes.
6. Serve with cooked wholegrain spaghetti and top with chopped parsley.
Sicilian cauliflower salad
There is a very short purple cauliflower season in Australia so when it happens, I buy a few and freeze them for later. The best way to do this is to clean the cauliflower, cut it into the desired sized florets, and blanch rapidly in boiling hot water for a few minutes. Transfer it to an ice bath, drain in a colander and freeze them flat on a baking sheet before transferring to freezer bags. If this is too time consuming then use frozen white cauliflower, which is readily available in the supermarket and tastes just as good. This recipe also uses pickling, which is a great method for preserving any excess onions and is also beneficial for gut health
- 1 head of purple cauliflower or frozen white alternative
- olive oil to coat
- 1/2 tsp salt
- zest of one lemon
- 2 cups of cooked grain (freekeh or quinoa are the most cost effective)
- 2 spring onions, sliced
- 1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives
- 1/2 cup continental parsley
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar (or substitute with lemon juice from the fruit that you zested)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- pickled onions
- flaked almonds
- chilli flakes
1. Prepare grain as per packet instructions and set aside. Heat oven to 210C.
2. Place thawed, frozen cauliflower into a bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, and lemon zest.
3. Spread prepared cauliflower onto a parchment lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until fork tender.
4. Whilst the cauliflower is cooking, whisk the dressing ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
5. Layer ingredients in a shallow bowl starting with the grain, cauliflower, olives, capers, spring onions, parsley, pickled onions, almonds and sprinkle with chilli flakes. Pour over the dressing and serve.
- Chloe Steele is a nutritionist working with Heart Research Australia. heartresearch.com.au