Not only is February the month of love, but it is also American Heart Month. With Valentine’s Day being the candy layover between the winter holidays and Easter, the desire to sugar binge and candy horde is only natural, which makes reconciling Valentine’s Day and healthy Heart Month a difficult task indeed.
1. Whole-grain breakfast: Try cutting out a heart-shaped whole-grain piece of toast or waffle, then top with vanilla Greek yogurt, sliced strawberries and cinnamon.
Heart healthy tip: The fiber in whole grains helps to lower blood cholesterol levels and may reduce your risk for heart disease.
2. Get physical: Couples and families that play together, stay (healthy) together! Get out and find fun physical activities to share with your loved one(s) such as building a snowman, going skiing or ice skating, and working out.
Heart healthy tip: The American Heart Association recommends that you strive to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day as part of a heart healthy lifestyle.
3. Be Nutty: What better way is there to let someone know that you’re crazy about them than attaching an “I’m nuts for you!” note on a snack bag of mixed nuts? It’s a great way to say something sweet and give your Valentine a healthy treat.
Heart healthy tip: Not only are nuts packed with protein, they are also a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that Omega-3 fatty acids may help to decrease the risk of arrhythmias, lower triglyceride levels and slow the growth of atherosclerotic plaques.
4. Sweets for your sweetie: When choosing sweets, opt for a piece of minimally processed dark chocolate.
Heart healthy tip: Cocoa contains compounds called flavonoids that have antioxidant properties. Research has shown that flavonoids may have a beneficial impact on vascular health by improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure.
Heart healthy tip follow-up: While the flavonoids in cocoa may be beneficial for heart health, excessive fat and sugar consumption can lead to weight gain, which is certainly not heart healthy! To strike a healthy balance, limit chocolate intake to moderate portions (about 1 oz.) several times a week.
5. Fantastically Fruity Snacks: Let your Valentine know that “I’m bananas for you” or that they are “the apple of your eye” because you guys “make such a great pear.” Sounds “plum perfect” to me!
Heart healthy tip: Fruits are jam-packed full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, which studies have shown can work to lower both cholesterol and blood pressure as well as reduce the buildup of plaque in arteries.
Blog courtesy of Carla Schmitz, MS, RDN, LDN. Contact Carla
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