Your sweetheart may have the key to your heart, but your diet can be the key to a healthier heart. This Valentine’s Day, I invite you to indulge in a healthy meal that’s full of flavor.
But what is a heart healthy diet made of?
The DASH diet, which stands for the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension, follows research-based recommendations by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to help lower blood pressure and LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol:
- Eat three servings of dairy each day. Dairy is an essential part of the DASH diet due to its unique nutrient package, specifically the trio of nutrients - potassium, calcium and magnesium.
- Emphasize low fat or healthy fat. DASH traditionally emphasizes low fat or fat free; however, new research shows that the fat found in whole milk and milk products may also be heart healthy. If you do choose whole fat dairy, be mindful of other sources of saturated fat and calories in your diet.
- Limit salt in your diet. Especially keep an eye on sodium content in processed foods like canned soups or frozen meats.
- Incorporate plenty of fruits, veggies and whole grains. Using MyPlate as a map, fill a quarter to half of your plate with veggies, a whole grain should take up a quarter of your plate, and round out your meal with fruit for dessert.
DASH-friendly Valentine’s recipes
Now that we’ve dashed through the details of a heart healthy diet (see what I did there?), let’s put it into action. Whether you’re a first time cook or a seasoned chef, cooking for your hot date or your sweet family, this menu is sure to fill hearts with delight.
- Appetizer or Side: Antipasti skewers. Put these out as you’re cooking to set the mood. I opt for whole grain tortellini and add cherry tomatoes for added vegetables.
- Entrée: Grilled Chicken with Herbed Ricotta is #DairyAmazing to the max. It’s easy to make, but has great flavor, with fresh herbs and creamy ricotta. I start it on the grill as the recipe suggests, then finish in the oven with a couple lemon wedges.
- Veggie Side: Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette. Not only is this a perfect match for the chicken, it’s not your mama’s average veggie side. Eating vegetables has never been easier!
- Dessert: What’s Valentine’s Day without dessert? Yes, we want to stay healthy, but any dietitian will tell you moderation is key. My compromise? I’ve made a slightly healthier version of this delectable Waldorf red velvet cake. Here are my steps:
- Cut the cake recipe in half; bake as instructions indicate
- After cake cools, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Add 3, 1 inch cake cubes to individual ramekins or glasses
- Top with a heaping spoonful of your favorite yogurt (I chose nonfat Greek, honey flavored)
- Add a handful of raspberries or sliced strawberries
- Grate on a little dark chocolate
And voila! Proof that you can have your cake and eat it too.
Feeding your heart, and the hearts of the ones you love, is one of the best ways to say “I love you” this Valentine’s Day.
For more #DairyAmazing recipes to enjoy with your Valentine check out our Pinterest Boards!