Healthy ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day
In celebration of February’s American Heart Month, enjoy Valentine’s Day with your loved one with heart-healthy foods that say, “I love you.” The heart symbol that represents this holiday can serve as a reminder of how important it is to keep ourselves and our families protected against the No. 1 killer in America: heart disease.
The purpose of American Heart Month is to promote awareness about heart disease and stroke. Now that January is behind us, some of the motivation to recommit to a healthy lifestyle in the New Year may be dwindling.
Here are easy ways to use Valentine’s Day as a catalyst to reinvigorate your plan for balanced eating and activity with heart health in mind.
Dinner at Home
This year, choose to steer away from the overpriced restaurant fixed course Valentine’s Day menus and prepare a delicious meal at home. One of the benefits of cooking at home is you can control both the ingredients and the portion sizes, keeping calories and sodium in check.
Use unique and fun ingredients to make the meal special. Try out a new recipe to impress your partner and elevate the meal above a typical weeknight dinner. Be sure to include a lean protein and lots of veggies.
Not only is the color red symbolic of love, but when it comes to food, it also represents a host of beneficial nutritional properties. For example, red bell peppers, red onions, tomatoes, radicchio and strawberries, in addition to other fruits and vegetables, contain powerful antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber that help protect the cardiovascular system and keeps cells healthy.
Although most of us take in about 3,400 mg of sodium daily, the recommended safe limit is 2,300 mg. People with certain health problems, like high blood pressure, should limit sodium further to 1,500 mg daily. Eating freshly prepared homemade meals and limiting processed foods and salty snacks can help reduce salt intake. To cut salt, but not taste, use flavorful ingredients like lemon, garlic, herbs, spices, pepper, mustard and onion as a substitute.
Flowers and chocolate might be traditional Valentine’s Day gifts, and while they are a nice gesture, there are other sweet ways to show you care. A gift that involves doing something engaging together like taking a cooking class or pottery class can be both unexpected and allow for intimate quality time together, creating lasting memories. A piece of art or a framed black and white photograph makes for a sentimental, non-edible gift for those trying to avoid sweets. If chocolate is a must for this special day, opt for dark chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa for the natural antioxidants and flavonoids found in the cocoa bean. Choose products that contain fewer added sugars and fats and have not undergone Dutch processing, which decreases the healthy properties of the cocoa.
Staying active is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and disease prevention. Including loved ones in your exercise routine can make it that much more enjoyable. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity weekly.
For example, make a date to walk together for about 30 minutes before heading out for the day or in the evening after dinner. Healthy habits that you make a part of your lifestyle are more likely to stick and give you long-lasting results.
Even if you don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day or are happily single, these strategies can be shared with friends, family and colleagues to promote heart health and reduce risk of heart attack and stroke.
Source: San Gabriel Valley Tribune
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