Have a Heart Healthy Valentine’s Day

Janis Hunter
Home & Garden Information Center

During February we celebrate Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month. Red, heart-shaped cards, and boxes of candy and decorations are everywhere.

Do your heart a favor by exercising regularly and eating healthful foods, including plenty of deep red and bright pink fruits and vegetables every day. The “red” color group of fruits and vegetables is rich in many health-promoting and disease-fighting phytochemicals, such as lycopene and anthocyanins. These antioxidants promote a healthy heart, memory and urinary tract, as well as lower your risk for certain cancers (e.g. prostate cancer).

Deep red and bright pink fruits and vegetables include: tomatoes and tomato products (e.g. tomato juice, spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce); red bell peppers; red onions; beets; red cabbage; radishes; red kidney beans; apples; red and pink grapefruit; red grapes; strawberries; cherries; watermelon; raspberries; cranberries; red pears and pomegranates.

Here are some ideas for serving nutritious meals and snacks that include deep red and bright pink foods on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year.

Breakfast:

  • Top your oatmeal with a heart shape made of dried cranberries or dried cherries.
  • Enjoy a pink or red grapefruit half. Sprinkle it lightly with brown sugar if you prefer.
  • Make heart-shaped muffins by filling the muffin cups ½ to ⅔ full of batter and inserting a small ball of tin foil between the muffin pan and liner. Bake as usual.
  • Make a raspberry smoothie in the blender by combining ¾ to 1 cup vanilla-flavored yogurt and frozen raspberries, added a few tablespoons at a time. After blended to desired consistency, you may add 1 or more teaspoons of sugar or no calorie sweetener.

Lunch or Dinner:

  • Shape pizza dough into a large heart shape and spread with tomato pizza sauce topped with chopped red bell pepper, red onion and other toppings of your choice. Or, make individual hearts by cutting pizza dough with a heart-shaped cookie cutter.
  • Make heart-shaped sandwiches by cutting the bread with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. If your children like open-faced sandwiches, spread the bread with peanut butter and strawberry jam. Top off with a smiley face made of dried cranberries.
  • Combine heart-shaped pasta and tomato sauce.
  • Toss a salad that includes some red bell pepper, red onion, radishes, and cherry or grape tomatoes. If you prefer cole slaw, add chopped red onion, red pepper and apples to red cabbage.

Snack:

  • Nibble on red grapes, a juicy red apple or a red pear.
  • Add some red hot cinnamon heart candies to popcorn.

Dessert:

  • Make Rosy Cinnamon Applesauce by combining the following: 1 24-ounce jar unsweetened applesauce; 1 tablespoon cinnamon “red-hot” candies and ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon. Heat the mixture in a saucepan over medium heat for 3 minutes or until candies are melted. Serve warm or cover and refrigerate to serve chilled. Makes 5 ½-cup servings.
  • In a heart-shaped mold, make red gelatin that contains some red fruit (e.g. strawberries, raspberries or red grapes).
  • Serve a pink treat, such as frozen strawberry yogurt or vanilla pudding to which a few drops of red food coloring have been added.

Less than one in four South Carolinians eat at least five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, which is the amount the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises for a 2,000-calorie diet. Strive to eat 2 cups of vegetables and 2½ cups of fruit daily as recommended. Choose many different ones in a variety of colors, because no single vegetable or fruit has all the nutrients you need for good health.

To further reduce your chances of heart disease, eat a variety of whole grains, lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, and fat-free and low-fat dairy foods. Stay physically active and maintain a healthy body weight as well as normal levels of blood cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.

For related information, refer to: HGIC 4000, 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans; HGIC 4016, Focus on Fruits; HGIC 4017, Vary Your Veggies; HGIC 4064, Antioxidants and HGIC 4090, When It Comes to Chocolate, Choose Dark.

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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.