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Eat to Your Heart’s Content (and Health) on Valentine’s Day

01/31/19

“I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.”

—W.C. Fields

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Photo: Shutterstock

Of course, W.C. Fields was playing that line for laughs. But a romantic “couples cooking” night in the kitchen with a glass of wine is the perfect way to celebrate a heart healthy Valentine’s Day.

Red wine contains compounds shown to be beneficial to the heart (in moderation, of course), and a home cooked meal provides the opportunity to spend time together while controlling what goes into your food. A candlelight dinner of salad with olive oil vinaigrette; a fish, chicken, very lean meat, or beans/legume/tofu entrée; and heaping side of steamed veggies will satisfy the appetite—and romantic—in anyone.

To get your Valentine’s Day “cooking” without putting your heart at risk:

  • When shopping for ingredients at the grocery store, look for the “heart healthy” designation—a heart-check mark, which means the food has lower amounts of total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium in a food.
  • Substitute lower fat or no-fat ingredients for full fat ingredients in recipes. For example: skim milk instead of full fat milk; ground turkey instead of ground beef; two egg whites instead of one whole egg. The National Institute of Health offers a more complete list of substitutions.
  • Spice up the meal by trying new and interesting seasonings instead of prepackaged mixes that may be high in salt.
  • To avoid unnecessary fats and calories, try grilling, poaching, roasting, steaming, stir-frying, or air frying foods instead of frying in oil or butter.
  • For a sweet—and guilt-free—ending to the meal, share a little dark chocolate (which contains flavonoids, an antioxidant) and some fresh fruit.
  • Try some of the delicious and healthy recipes from The American Heart Association.

Not the Julia Child type? Rather make reservations than dinner? You can still dine like royalty and stay on the right side of heart health:

  • Seek out a restaurant that offers heart healthy choices on the menu.
  • Eat like Lady and the Tramp and split an entrée; since many restaurant servings are enough for two, sharing a dish will give you all the enjoyment of fine dining without the risk of overdoing it.
  • Go trendy. Tapas—or small plates—are all the rage; a bigger variety of smaller portions allow you to savor the flavor without overindulging.

Finish the evening off by getting physical:

  • Go for a walk. Research shows that a post-meal walk—even as short as 15 minutes—burns calories and can help with digestion and improve blood sugar levels.
  • Dance. Dancing is a whole-body workout that’s good for your heart, and helps with balance and coordination; sign up for a ballroom dance class, or just turn on the music at home and disco, waltz, and rhumba like nobody’s watching.
  • Enjoy the winter wonderland. Ice skating and sledding are fun activities that also count as heart-strengthening exercise.
  • Or enjoy the great indoors. Borrow a DVD at your local library for yoga-for-two; go on an adventure at an indoor rock climbing gym; or strap on the bowling shoes and throw a few strikes and spares.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., so this Valentine’s Day, show your love for your heart by taking good care of it!