Think you need a rich, heavy meal on Valentine's Day to express your love? Not so! You can still create a heavenly meal that's heart-healthy, too!
Valentine's Day is right around the corner, but some indulgent meals and sweet treats can turn into a setback for those looking to stick to a healthy diet. Luckily, several meal options exist that can be very tasty — and healthy, too!
"There are lots of ways to interpret cooking for the heart or from the heart on Valentine's Day," says Dr. Felicia D. Stoler, author of Living Skinny in Fat Genes. "For me, from the heart means good for the heart.
"We often take for granted that we can make a big impact on our health when it comes to the ingredients we use in the meals we make," Stoler says. That's why she likes foods that are low in saturated fat, high in fiber and include functional ingredients such as plant sterols and omega-3 fatty acids.
Based on that notion, Stoler offers the following meal ideas:
Sample appetizer ideas
- Broth-based soups loaded with vegetables. These are a great way to start a meal.
- Mixed green salad. Add chopped nuts, crumbled cheese (like fat-free or low-fat feta), dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, blueberries, cherries, etc.), fresh fruit (apples, bananas, blueberries), and a small amount of salad dressing to moisten.
- Smoked salmon rollups. Take strips of smoked salmon and roll into a circle, creating a cup. Add a dollop of zero-fat Greek yogurt in the middle and sprinkle with some fresh or dried dill.
Sample dinner ideas
- Broil, grill or bake. Filet mignon (a lean cut of beef) is a good idea, but stick to no more than 4 ounces per person. Other choices: Rack of lamb, pork tenderloin, skinless chicken breast, turkey breast tenderloin or any seafood.
- Serve the meal with plenty of colorful vegetables. Options include spaghetti, butternut or acorn squash; wheat berries or quinoa; sauteed spinach (not too much oil); or steamed broccoli, cauliflower, string beans or carrots.
Sample dessert ideas
- Consider a chocolate fondue. Dip fresh fruit into melted chocolate. You can also cut some squares of angel food cake or dip graham crackers and marshmallows.
- Make chocolate pudding using Smart Balance Heart Right milk. Then spoon it into a parfait or champagne glass, layer with berries and sprinkle with dark-chocolate shavings.
- Consider a fruit and yogurt parfait. Use vanilla Greek yogurt (again, no fat), layer it with All-Bran Buds for crunch and mix in fruit or berries.
- Vitalicious VitaBrownies. Stoler likes the dark chocolate pomegranate variety.
An important must-do is to minimize the use of saturated fats, Stoler says. Use less butter, substituting heart-healthy oils (such as olive, canola and palm fruit) as much as possible when you cook. Using egg whites and even fruit purees or sauces are small healthy changes that can significantly add up. Cutting back on sodium is also important, she notes.
"If you start with good ingredients, you shouldn't have to slather or drown food in sauces and gravies," Stoler adds.
As for what to avoid, Stoler says to start by not eating a whole box of chocolates.
"[Valentine's Day] is but one of many holidays in the year," she says. "Be good to your heart and body by not overindulging. Remember, this holiday marks the end of the big food orgy that I say runs from Halloween to Valentine's Day. Super Bowl Sunday was just the week before!"
More heart-healthy recipes
Mediterranean diet: Heart-healthy recipes featuring olive oil
Heart-healthy recipes to celebrate American Heart Month
Heart-healthy Super Bowl recipes