February is not only the month to celebrate L-O-V-E, but it also American Heart Month. More than 70 million Americans suffer from some form of heart disease, and this remains the leading cause of death in the United States. For most people, heart disease is preventable. One of the most effective ways to prevent it is through the diet! With this in mind, you can see why it is so important to make this year about loving your heart and soul. With a few small changes to traditional gifts and healthful choices you can celebrate a Valentine’s Day from the heart that’s also good for your heart!
Instead of giving the traditional gift of candy, try giving your loved ones a beautiful basket filled with dried fruits and nuts or an assortment of herbal teas with honey sticks (an idea that’s easy to put together for last minute gifts). Another wonderful gift is a membership to a gym, a month with a personal trainer, or even something they might not think about like a series of yoga classes or belly dancing classes. Focus on health rather than indulgence.
When it comes time for the romantic dinner that you and your loved one share on Valentine’s Day, choose foods that are heart healthy: salmon, a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein; spinach and other leafy green vegetables, rich in phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals; tofu, rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals (soy protein has been shown to help reduce LDL cholesterol). Consider trying a new vegetarian restaurant for a change, keep your love alive, and your blood flowing…they say that experimentation keeps love fresh. Try this experiment, go for a walk as a family in the morning, schedule your annual physical (more than one-third of people with high blood pressure do not know that they have it), have a heart healthful dinner, and send a gift other than sweets to your loved one. Variety is the spice of life. I just registered for my first full triathlon! Now that’s something to get my blood pumping!
Be Well, Be NutritionWise.
~ Nicole Meadow, MPN, RD of NutritionWise
This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of treatment or dietary changes, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.
Over 100 years ago, Richard Cadbury made the first box of Valentine’s chocolates. Since then, the sweet treats have grown into a big holiday business with over $1 billion worth of chocolate purchased for Valentine’s Day celebrations. That’s a lot of chocolate! So, chances are that you’ll enjoy a morsel or two on February 14th.
The good news is that dark chocolate promises health benefits not seen in white or milk chocolate. According to WebMD, studies have shown that it promotes lower blood pressure (thanks to plant phenols!) and it’s full of powerhouse antioxidants that fight free radicals linked to inflammation, heart disease, and other health issues. A Swiss study also found dark chocolate to reduce stress and a Finnish one reports that it leaves people including kids feeling happier, although we could’ve told you this from personal experience.
Of course, it’s best to enjoy dark chocolate in moderation. As much as we’d like to pretend, a dark chocolate bar (approximately 500 calories) is not a replacement for healthy snacks like apples. Thankfully, though, one bite can satisfy your sweet tooth and leave you feeling fuller—just opt to nibble dark chocolate that is 60% cacao or higher for more fiber and a rich, decadent flavor. In fact, one study has found that all you need and should eat is one small square two to three times per week. And skip washing it down with a glass of milk, which has been found to interfere with the absorption of the healthful antioxidants.
Also, consider buying organic and fair trade chocolate when possible. Organic chocolate is free of the pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fumigants often used to harvest and preserve conventional cacao beans and cocoa. While most organic chocolate is also fair trade, keep an eye out for brands that are certified and support sustainable harvesting and ethical labor practices. Or try many locally made artisanal brands that partner with small farmers to produce their chocolate ingredients—we love Mast Brothers and John and Kira’s. What are your favorites?
Chocolate, wine, and jewelry…with a twist. Surprise your loved ones with these fresh takes on the classic Valentine’s gifts. Mast Brothers Chocolate is one of the best—the delicious artisanal bars rely on simple ingredients sourced from small farms and growers. White Mule Farms Spodee Wine is a unique spirit because it’s a Depression era recipe for wine that mixes well with other beverages and it comes served in a reusable milk bottle. And the Anchor Cord Bracelet by Principles is a sweet way to say, “I love you.”
Images by Mast Brothers, White Mule Farms, and Principles.
I love Valentine’s day! It’s so fun to break out the festive hearts and flowers and make Valentines any little boy or girl would enjoy. Here are four ways to get creative and craft Valentines at home:
1. Using this flower tutorial, I created crepe flowers and attached them to colored pencils. Tape them to a colored piece of paper and have your kids write sweet little Valentine notes for their friends! Every kid can use an extra colored pencil for their art masterpieces, and it’s extra special for that pencil to have a flower attached.
2. Cut your Honest boxes into fantastic little shapes for little ones! I personally am loving the hearts and arrows these days, and the Honest turquoise is the perfect color to keep things gender-neutral and adorable. Glue them with safe adhesive to a ribbon or stretchy elastic, and they’re unexpected and festive small and inexpensive gift for classmates and friends.
3. Bows have become a big deal these days. Awhile ago, I posted a little tutorial on how I make them (it’s much simpler than you would think!), and we use them for everything! Why not clip them to some card pretty card stock for all your kids’ little friends? I only have daughters, so theirs all go in their hair, but if I had a boy, he’d definitely have them clipped right onto his shirts to fancy up an outfit.
4. Simplify! Use the simple hearts and arrows cut from Honest boxes and attach them to brightly colored paper. Have your kids color or paint pictures on the cards, and they’re good to go!
Getting creative can be fun! Have you thought of any simple little Valentines ideas? We’d love to hear!
~ Kate Brightbill of Style Smaller
Looking for more sweet inspiration? Try making these DIY Valentines this weekend…
Valentine’s Day is almost as famous for sugary confections as it is love notes. Try making a healthier version of your favorite holiday treats by opting for fruit dipped in dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has less sugar than its milk counterpart and is packed with beneficial antioxidants. And fruit naturally is a better sweet source than sugary candies made with artificial dyes and flavors.
This recipe for Dark Chocolate Mint Pears can be adapted for other fruits and toppings like heart-healthy nuts—plus, kids can join in the kitchen fun. Now, it’s easy to indulge and be mindful when celebrating your life’s loves with food.
Dark Chocolate Mint Pears
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
2. Place mints in a Ziploc bag; seal and crush using a wooden spoon. Transfer mints to a food processor; pulse until candy canes resemble a powder.
3. Place chocolate in a medium bowl; heat in the microwave until melted, approximately 2 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, slice each pear into 4 slices.
5. Remove melted chocolate from microwave; mix well and dip pears into chocolate; coat each pear slice only 1/2 way. Allow excess chocolate to drip off, then lay pears on the parchment paper.
6. Sprinkle crushed mints onto the chocolate half of the pears; place in the refrigerator to cool for 20 minutes.
- Amie Valpone
Amie Valpone, HHC, AADP, Editor-in-Chief of TheHealthyApple.com is a Manhattan based Culinary Nutritionist, Personal Chef, Professional Recipe Developer, and Food Writer specializing in simple Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free ‘Clean’ recipes for the home cook. Visit Amie on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.