With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, now is the perfect time to plan a heart-healthy Valentine’s Day dinner. February is also American Heart Month, and there is no better way to show how much you care than to protect the hearts of your loved one. The American Heart Association says your sweetheart may have the key to your heart, but proper diet and exercise are key to a healthy heart. To take loving care of their hearts and yours:
- Choose Healthy Fats: Get your omega 3’s! Try to eat two servings of fatty fish at least twice a week. Fatty fish such as salmon, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats help decrease triglyceride levels, slow growth rate of plaque in your arteries, and can help lower blood pressure. Liquid oils high in mono-unsaturated fats such as canola and olive oil are also good heart-healthy choices.
- Curb Unhealthy Fats: Limit foods high in saturated fat such as whole-milk dairy products and fatty meats. You also want to limit foods high in trans fat. Trans fat can be found in commercial or packaged baked goods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and may include cookies, crackers, donuts, and pastries.
- Curb Added Sugars: It may surprise you that sugar is as bad for your heart as it is for raising blood sugar. Added sugars (sugars that aren’t naturally found in foods) should not account for more than 100 calories a day for most adult women and 150 calories for adult men. This is equivalent to no more than 6 to 9 teaspoons a day, respectively. To put this in perspective, a single serving of dessert can have as many as 18 teaspoons of sugar.
- Easy on the Salt: Aim to eat less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. To give you an idea, this is between a ½ and ¾ teaspoon of added salt per day. However, the reality is that up to 75% percent of the sodium we eat comes processed food. Read labels to keep in sodium in check and remember that when you cook it yourself, you can control the sodium. Try using spices, citrus juices, and low-sodium versions to reduce sodium without compromising flavor.
Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Day Menu
Win over the heart of your loved one by preparing a special dinner that is both heart-smart and delicious. Here are some romantic menu ideas that are sure to satisfy.
For more delicious heart healthy recipes the whole family will enjoy check out Marlene Koch’s diabetes friendly cookbook: Eat What You Love.
For Six Tips for Reducing Added Sugar, see this article.
For Reduced-Sugar Baking Tips, see this article.
NOTE: Consult your doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.
Marlene graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in nutrition from U.C.L.A. in 1986 and is one of a select group of dietitians to hold an advanced certificate in Child and Adolescent Weight Management from the American Dietetic Association. Combining her love of food with her educational foundation, she has held such positions as Hospital Foodservice Director, Nutrition Professor, Cooking Instructor for the Columbus State Culinary Academy and as a national nutrition educator to chefs for the American Culinary Federation. Her passion for teaching others how to make healthy food taste delicious also extend to her private nutrition practice specializing in weight loss, diabetes, and wellness.
Marlene loves to teach (and to eat!); her energetic and upbeat style has made her a popular food and nutrition speaker for organizations such as the American Diabetes and American Heart Associations and sought after for television and radio appearances which have included affiliates for ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and Shaw TV (Vancouver) and radio stations nationwide.