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Tips to Having a Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Day

February 12, 2014

Right smack dab in the midst of American Heart Month and just more than a month after our New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier and exercise more comes yet another holiday that threatens to sabotage all progress made: St. Valentine’s Day.

Dinner invitations and chocolate-infested work places can easily distract us from our daily healthy eating plans. In light of the American Heart Health month Nutrition Lately has put together a heart healthy action plan to help lighten the load, literally, this Valentine’s Day.

WHAT MAKES A HEART HEALTHY?

Heart disease is the number one cause of death for the American population. This is because the disease is often tied to several other health risks such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

The American Heart Association recommends a combination of good nutrition, physical activity, smoking cessation, and stress management to be truly armed against this disease. Here are some staples of the heart healthy DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet:

  • Consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day
  • Consume 6-8 servings of grains a day. Make half of the grains whole grains.
  • Consume 4-5 servings of both fruits and vegetables a day. Get a variety!
  • Consume 2-3 servings of dairy a day. Choose low-fat options.
  • Choose lean meats, poultry and fish.
  • Add nuts, seeds, and legumes to your meals.

[NL] VALENTINE’S DAY ACTION PLAN

Start out with a healthy breakfast…

You’ve probably heard at least once before that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well, it’s the truth. Eating a nutritious, protein and fiber-packed breakfast not only starts our metabolic engines, it helps us to avoid over eating later in the day which is especially important on a day like St. Valentine’s Day.

[NL] Tip: Start V-Day nutritiously: We recommend a delicious bowl of oatmeal. Oatmeal is packed with soluble fiber which binds like a gel to cholesterol to help flush it out of our bodies  We like One Hungry Mama’s suggestions for turning oatmeal into an appetizing way to start the day.

Dining Out…

Dining out is often fun and romantic part of Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, because someone else is preparing our food, we do not know exactly what is going into the preparation. Restaurant food often has hidden artery-clogging saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol.

[NL] Tip: Choose the right restaurant: Avoid restaurants that offer all-you-can-eat buffets because this often leads to over-consumption of fat and calories.

[NL] Tip: Decode the menu:  Words like au gratin, fried, sautéed and buttered should be clues that your meal will be prepared in fat. Opt for menu options with the words grilled, broiled, or roasted. Also, ask your server how foods are prepared and what ingredients they contain. Most restaurants are happy to prepare food to order to keep your business.

[NL] Tip: When all else fails, share. Sharing is caring, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. So this Valentine’s Day if you must indulge in high calorie dining options, such as steak or chocolate cake, share with the table. An easy way to keep portions in check is to start with dinner salads and share a main entrée and/or dessert.

SWEET TREATS OR HEALTHY INDULGENCES?

Whether it’s the lingering candy bowl at the office, dinner out or our own home-baked treats, less-than-healthy temptations have us surrounded on Valentine’s Day. Here’s our heart healthy advice on common indulgences:

  • Chocolate: Though chocolate has a bad rep for being high in fat and sugar, research has linked cocoa and the flavonoids in dark chocolate to heart health. Opt for the darker pieces in that box of chocolates.
  • Alcohol: It is important to avoid over consumption of alcohol because it can raise the levels of some fats in the blood stream called triglycerides. However, studies have shown that there are potential benefits to the heart found in red wine called antioxidants. Skip the cocktails and choose a cabernet or merlot.
  • Baked Goods: Are you the type who likes to bake goodies for your loved ones? We suggested some healthy alternatives to some popular recipes. Check out these recipes for baby tiramisu, chocolate bliss marble cake, and Strawberry Schaum Torte.

Whether you’re a seasoned health pro or just kick-starting healthy lifestyle changes, it’s important to know the facts that will protect you and your family against heart disease. Visit www.heart.org up-to-date resources for weight management, healthy eating, and physical health.  Have a happy, healthy Valentine’s Day!

Elise Truman Bio

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