Valentine's Day brings not only feelings of love and joy, it also brings high-calorie chocolates, candies, cookies, and other treats. Since February is American Heart Month, which aims to encourage adopting permanent lifestyle changes to keep your heart healthy, let's try to celebrate the love-filled holiday in a heart-healthy way. Here are some tips:
- Indulge in homemade heart-healthy desserts, such as fresh fruit dipped in dark chocolate, which contains antioxidants that protect your heart.
- Make healthy substitutions when baking, including using whole-wheat flour, using oil instead of butter, reducing the sugar called for in a recipe by a third, or replacing half of the fat with pureed fruit, such as applesauce or canned pumpkin.
- Ask your significant other not to buy you chocolates or other treats. Drop hints about other presents you'd like that aren't food-related.
- Celebratory foods don't have to be off-limits if you exercise portion control and maintain your usual exercise regimen during the holiday.
- Instead of going out for an intimate dinner, prepare a healthy, romantic, candlelit dinner at home with your special someone and enjoy a glass of heart-healthy red wine together.
Try this healthy dessert recipe below:Spiced Chocolate Cake
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon clove powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup canola oil
- 2 eggs
- 1½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup skim milk
- 1 cup warm water
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
- In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, clove, and salt.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla. Combine this with the flour mixture, and blend it together.
- Mix in the milk and then the water. The mixture will become quite runny.
- Equally distribute the batter among the two cake pans, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool completely, remove the cake from the pans, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
- Optional: Top with light or fat-free whipped topping instead of frosting, and refrigerate the cake afterwards. You'll save a lot of fat and calories by using whipped topping rather than frosting. Another option is to spread a little marshmallow cream on top of the cake. Marshmallow cream still contains a large amount of sugar, but it is fat-free whereas frosting is not. Since it's so rich, use only a thin coating of marshmallow cream because a little bit goes a long way.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.