Besides Valentine’s Day, February is also the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s heart month. Heart disease, as we know, is becoming an increasing health issue. This is largely a result of the general decrease in physical activity of many people, as well as the “Western Diet” which is chalked full of greasy, high fat foods, large amounts of sugar in foods and large amounts of sodium (salt) in foods. All three of these common ingredients contribute to your risk of heart disease – which includes high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.
What’s a romantic, food-loving individual to do? Don’t worry. We’ve got you.
This Valentine’s Day, what we recommend, is to show your love for someone by treating them to something extra special – that takes care of their heart as well. A great way to do this is to make a home cooked meal! Why not whip up your loved one’s favourite dish, with a heart-healthy spin. Bonus of cooking at home: no need to panic about last minute reservations.
How exactly do you make a Valentine’s dinner heart healthy? Two major things to keep in mind are the fat content and salt content. Try to avoid adding extra salt and fats (like oil or butter) to your meal.
Red meat is a source of saturated fats yet, beef tenderloin, heart-shaped ribeye steaks (we’ve got those!), and lamb are very popular entrees. To keep these red meats heart healthy, use the following tips.
- Trim as much excess fat off of the meat as possible.
- Keep portion sizes in control – try a 6 to 8 ounce piece of meat per person.
- When cooking, limit your use of large amounts of butter or oil; 1 tsp will be plenty for two steaks in a cast iron pan. Season lightly with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- If red meat is not your sweetheart’s forte, no problem! Try boneless, skinless chicken breasts with pesto and pistachio crust – this has lots of good-for-you fats. And again, keep the serving size to 6-8 ounces maximum.
There is nothing wrong with treating yourself to a nice dinner, especially for a romantic occasion like Valentine’s Day. When treating yourself to a steak, make sure to load up on vegetables! Make a salad (easy on the dressing) and cook some of your favourite veggies. A rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables – even for these special dinners.
The majority of dinner’s will have a side of potatoes, and while there’s not a lot of nutrients in the flesh (the skin has a bit more), there’s not much bad stuff in them either (such as, trans and saturated fats or sodium). They become unhealthy for the heart when we start adding butter, milk and salt to them in the process of cooking them! Here are some of my heart-healthy tips for including your favourite starch in your special dinner:
- Mashed potatoes are simple and can be made a touch healthier with these simple ingredients: season with spices other than salt like herbs, garlic or onion powder, and paprika. Use 1 tbsp of butter and some low-fat milk or unsweetened almond milk.
- Roasted potatoes can also be made a touch healthier: season with spices other than salt, like herbs, garlic, onion powder and paprika. In a bowl, add 1 tbsp of oil. Add seasonings and cut up potatoes. Toss until potatoes are evenly coated. Place on baking sheet to cook.
Finally, if you don’t want to skip out on dessert, and we can’ really blame you for that, try these tips:
- Make only enough for dessert for that night so you won’t be snacking on the left overs all week. Aim for a portion size of ¼ cup to ½ cup (don’t be afraid to actually measure it!)
- Try a couple pieces of dark chocolate with a glass of red wine.Make your dessert full of fruits without added sugar. Try a berry crumble from scratch to limit the added sugar: mix frozen berries with 2 tbsp. water, 1 tsp vanilla, and ½ tsp cornstarch. For the crumble mix ¾ cup oats, ¼ cup graham cracker crumbs, 1 tbsp. honey, and 1 tbsp. olive oil. Place crumble over the berry mix in an oven safe dish and cook at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
To finish the evening off, bundle up and take a walk with your sweetheart. Getting active is so much easier with other people and what great way to finish off a romantic evening (or family time)!
Article written by Stephanie Roukema, Retail Manager and Dietetic Assistant at VG Meats