Why silly season excess can be a killer (for more than your career)

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As we know, going overboard at Christmas parties can be a disaster for your reputation in the workplace. But too many canapes can be just as great a risk to your waistline, increasing the risk of heart disease.

Heart Foundation Heart Health Strategic Programs Director, Julie Anne Mitchell, says we should game plan our approach to end-of-year events if we want to stay on the right side of being healthy.

“With celebrations kicking off in November and continuing through to the New Year, it’s good to pre-determine how many drinks and snacks you will allow yourself. Visualise what type of drinks and foods you want to consume, without getting carried away and abandoning healthy habits for the entire silly season,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Those extra Christmas kilos, if not fully lost in the New Year, have a habit of sticking around and can potentially add up to significant weight gain over time, putting you at higher risk of coronary heart disease – Australia’s single biggest killer.

“Similarly, keep an eye on your alcohol intake at this time of year as well. It can be a significant source of extra kilojoules, so try where you can try to alternate your alcoholic drinks with mineral or soda water. A refreshing spritz (half mineral water, half wine) is always a pleasant change. What people underestimate is that too much alcohol can increase your risk of high blood pressure, putting you at future risk of heart disease and stroke.”

Finally, burgers and fried food might conjure up memories of beachside holidays. But more than one-third of the average Australian’s daily intake is made up of fast, convenient foods laced with kilojoules, salt, added sugars and unhealthy fats, providing little overall nutritional value.

“You can enjoy your festive favourites but balance it up by eating nutritious foods, full of fruit and veg, and looking for fun ways to be physically active,” Ms Mitchell said.

“A heart-healthy diet doesn’t mean restricting yourself to one type of nutrient or food group. What matters is the entire picture – the combination of healthy foods and how regularly you eat them – and this shouldn’t change because it’s the holiday season.

“We’re encouraging people to limit highly processed foods and plate up a colourful variety of vegetables, fruit, and wholegrains, healthy proteins and fats, with smaller amounts of animal-based foods, like fish, poultry and lean meats.”

This holistic approach towards heart-healthy eating was highlighted when the Heart Foundation unveiled its new dietary recommendations in August.

Unflavoured, full-fat milk, cheese and yoghurt are back on the menu for healthy Australians if they prefer it, but those with high cholesterol or heart disease should stick to reduced-fat dairy.

The updated advice also introduced a weekly limit of less than 350 grams for unprocessed red meats and lifted the limit on how many eggs healthy Australians can eat in a week, while recommending people with heart disease, high cholesterol or Type 2 diabetes eat fewer than seven eggs a week.

Five tips for healthy holidays    

Drink wisely: Keep hydrated by alternating alcoholic drinks with water. Dilute alcoholic drinks with soda water or choose low alcohol or light beer and wine.
Fresh food: Look for nutritious and delicious options at events, such as fresh seafood, colourful salads, vegetable-based dips and fruits. Bring your own healthy dish if possible.
Check portions: Be aware of your portion sizes, particularly for discretionary festive foods, and try to eat mindfully.
Keep moving: Aim for at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. Try joining a Heart Foundation Walking group to reach this target.
Get cooking: When you’re not socialising, try home cooking instead of takeaway. Visit the Heart Foundation website for inspiration and check out a variety of heart-healthy recipes.


Media enquiries

Brigid Simeoni, Media Advisor
M: 0427 619 589 E: brigid.simeoni@heartfoundation.org.au