By Eliza Mellion, M.S.
This Valentine’s Day, don’t forget that—thanks to the American Heart Association—February is American Heart Month!
It can be hard to resist the chocolates, candy hearts, and pink-frosted cupcakes that this holiday brings. While it’s fun to shower our loved ones with sweets on Valentine’s Day, keep in mind that one of the most valuable gifts we can give our children is a healthy heart!
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American adults, but a healthy heart starts in childhood. Adopting healthy habits for yourself and teaching your children is really important. Being active every day and eating a variety of healthy foods, including fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, can go a long way to keeping the heart healthy and preventing heart disease.
Looking to start some new heart-healthy Valentine’s Day traditions? February is the prime time for family-friendly winter activities like sledding, ice-skating, and snow-ball fights. Try some of these active outings for a heart-healthy twist to the day.
Of course, let’s not forget some delicious Valentine’s treats! These fun and heart-friendly Valentine’s Day ideas are sure to be a hit for years to come:
Using a mini heart-shaped cookie cutter, why not turn your favorite fruit and veggies into a “heart” warming work of art? Cut heart shapes out of soft fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, and pineapple to create a fun Valentine’s Day fruit salad. If you have popsicle sticks, you can create fun heart-shaped fruit “kabobs.” Or, for a cute breakfast or lunch, sprinkle an omelet with some heart-shaped green and red peppers, carrots, or veggies of your choice.
And for the chocolate-lovers out there, you’ll be happy to hear that small amounts of dark chocolate may be heart-healthy. Try making quick and easy dark chocolate-dipped fruit for a gourmet Valentine’s Day treat. Melt semi-sweet dark chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, then dip in your fruit of choice (we love sliced bananas, whole strawberries, and orange slices). Place the chocolate-covered fruit on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cool in the refrigerator until the chocolate hardens. Enjoy!
For more information on how you and your family can help prevent heart disease all year round, visit https://millionhearts.hhs.gov/learn-prevent/index.html
Eliza Mellion earned her M.S. in Nutrition from UMass Amherst and is a dietetic intern at Simmons College.
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