Valentine’s Day is next week! Quick, how can we be heart-healthy with the dining out indulgences that come with Valentine’s Day? From choosing what to drink to ordering dessert (yes, I said the “D’” word), I will share with you my favorite heart-healthy tips.
Making a healthy beverage choice
Red wine is a great heart-healthy choice; it contains a heart-healthy flavonoid called resveratrol. Drink a lot of water as well; not only will this help prevent you from overeating, but also, hydration is important for heart-protection. Dehydration actually makes your heart work harder. Results from a 2002 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that drinking five or more glasses of water a day was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing heart disease than those who drank less water.
Making a wise appetizer and entrée selection
The foods that will hurt your health are those that are high in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and sugar. The foods that your heart will love are those high in healthy fat, lean protein, and fiber.
It’s often hard to find a healthy appetizer. Avoid anything fried and dips as well. Some dips sound healthy (spinach artichoke for example), but they are loaded with saturated fat because of the high-fat cheese and cream used to prepare them. I tend to choose things like spring rolls (not fried) or guacamole, which is loaded with healthy fats and fiber.
For the entrée, fish is my first vote! Fish is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association (AHA) states, “Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of — or who have — cardiovascular disease. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lowers blood pressure.” The AHA recommends at least two servings of fish a week. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
If you are not a fan of fish, choose lean meats like chicken or turkey breast. Red meat is not a wise choice when trying to protect your heart; the saturated fat has long been linked to heart diseases.
Overall, if you see the words sautéed, pan-seared, crispy, scalloped, or pan-fried, dodge them! They are loaded with fat. Instead, choose foods that are steamed, broiled, grilled, poached, baked, or roasted.
Fill up on fiber. Research shows that fiber lowers cholesterol. Look to your side dishes for fiber. Some of the best choices include: broccoli, leafy greens, peas, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and any type of bean. Whole grains are also an incredible source of fiber (think quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, barley, etc.).
Another thing to keep in mind when dining out is portion control. Restaurant portions are often double the size we should be eating. Eat half and save the rest for the next day’s lunch. This will allow room for dessert!
Split dessert with your date. If there happens to be dark chocolate molten cake or mousse on the menu, go for it. Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants. It’s good for the heart and circulation. A recent study found that dark chocolate helps prevent your arteries from clogging. It has also been shown to reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and raise levels of “good” cholesterol. Any dish with fruit is also a smart move because like veggies, fruit is a fabulous source of fiber.
Dining out is an American way of life; enjoying quality food is your right. Stick to the heart-healthy tips I’ve shared and you can dine out without regret.