Just as you may think about the health of your relationship with your Valentine (and how your Valentine’s gift could positively or negatively impact that relationship!), it’s important to think about your actual heart – the one that pumps blood to keep your body running.
February is American Heart Association Month, and while it’s always important to monitor how you can practice positive heart health, care for your heart and for the Valentine that owns your heart could be a great combination that will make for a great Valentine’s Day.
So instead of focusing on that great Valentine’s Day meal, focus on the whole month, using February’s focus on heart to re-boot your health.
January is the month that everybody seems to be trying out a new diet. Often, people seem to pick a fad diet, and by February, many fail because so many fad diets require a severe cutback of many vital nutrients.
Those that are still running strong with their new diets by February, though, are likely those that opted for a more balanced diet. Focusing on heart-healthy foods is a sustainable way to eat healthier and, unlike what your Valentine does to you, keeps your heart from skipping a beat.
Some dos and don’ts for a heart-healthy diet include:
- Control your portion size: You don’t need seconds! Whatever you choose to eat, keeping your portions under control helps your heart health. A good way to start that is to eat on smaller plates at home.
- Fruits and vegetables: Load up on fruits and veggies as your heart-healthy diet gets underway. If possible, go for fresh fruits and vegetables, or secondarily, those from your grocer’s freezer. If you opt for canned fruits and veggies, make sure that they’re canned in water or juice, and are low in added sugar and salt.
- Whole grains: Get used to wheat bread, brown rice and whole-grain pasta. Whole grains pack extra fiber which helps your body to operate more smoothly.
- Opt for healthy fats: Not all fat is bad! Trade in the deep-fried food for “healthy fats” like avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Remember to watch your portions!
And a healthy treat for Valentine’s Day
A Valentine’s Day dinner date is great fun. While it’s tempting to splurge on fried and fatty food on that meal with your Valentine, it’s still good to make heart-healthy choices, if for no other reason than to make sure you’re still feeling good for any after-dinner activities. Some easy rules of thumb to find low-cholesterol menu items at popular Valentine’s restaurants include:
- At an Italian restaurant: Avoid the alfredo. Chicken Alfredo or similar decadent Italian dishes are packed with salt and fat. Go for a wine sauce, which is just as decadent, but much more heart-healthy
- At a seafood restaurant: Skip the pan-fried or deep-fried fish entree. Target dishes rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, cod and tuna.
- At a steakhouse: Many people think that a heart-healthy usually cuts out red meat. But it doesn’t have to. Skip the Porterhouse and New York Strip, and go for the “loins,” like sirloin or tenderloin.