A Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Meal Your Sweetheart Will Love

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 eat with your heart in mind and enjoy a healthy meal that’s full of flavor.

 

But What Is a Heart-Healthy Diet?

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet follows research-based recommendations by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to help lower blood pressure and LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol. This top-rated eating pattern:

 

  • Recommends enjoying 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) shown to help lower blood pressure.
  • Emphasizes low fat or healthy fat. DASH traditionally emphasizes low-fat or fat-free dairy; however, new research shows that the fat found in whole milk and dairy 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.
  • Encourages limiting salt intake. It is especially important to keep an eye on the sodium content in processed, packaged and frozen foods – such as canned soups, processed meats and frozen entrees.
  • Incorporates plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Using MyPlate as a map, fill half of your plate with veggies, add a quarter of whole grains and round out the rest with fruit for dessert. 

 

DASH-Friendly Valentine’s Day 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, this menu is sure to make for happy hearts.

 

  • AppetizerCaprese Salad Skewers. This fast and fancy recipe comes together in less than 15 minutes. Place skewers on a nice serving tray or platter and put them out as you’re cooking to set the atmosphere. 
  • EntreeGrilled Chicken With Herbed Ricotta is #DairyAmazing to the max. It’s easy to make but has great flavor, with fresh herbs and creamy ricotta. Serve on a bed of brown rice or quinoa.
  • Side: Asparagus With Lemon Vinaigrette. Easy and elegant, this side dish can take any meal from good to gourmet. Not an asparagus fan? Opt for these Zucchini Parmesan Rounds – which are simple to prepare and sure to please. 
  • Dessert: What’s Valentine’s Day without dessert? Yes, we want to focus on healthy choices, but any dietitian will tell you moderation is key. My compromise? I’ve made a slightly healthier version of this delectable Waldorf Red Cake. Here are my steps:

 

  1. Cut the cake recipe in half; bake as instructions indicate
  2. After the cake cools, cut into 1-inch cubes
  3. Add 3 cake cubes to individual ramekins or glasses
  4. Top with a heaping spoonful of your favorite yogurt (I chose honey-flavored nonfat Greek)
  5. Add a handful of raspberries or sliced strawberries
  6. Grate a little dark chocolate over the top

 

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!

 

By Jenna Allen, MS, RDN

Jenna is a registered dietitian with a passion for communicating science in an approachable way. She has been part of the Dairy MAX team since 2008. When she isn't working, Jenna is trying out new recipes with her three kids and working on her food photography. Learn more about Jenna.

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