With Valentine’s Day approaching, photos of red hearts, heart shaped boxes of chocolates, colored candy hearts, and all types of chocolate come to mind during the month of February. Valentine’s Day just presents us all with another choice and a decision to make. We -nutrition experts- advise making wise food choices, consuming chocolate (and other holiday treats) in moderation and incorporating a wide variety of food into a well-balanced diet, which includes plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables.
Each month of the year, we should consider our individual nutrition and health status when making food choices. It is a good idea to practice moderation with foods that are high in calories, sugar, sodium, and fat. Overall diet is what individuals ought to be most concerned about this time of the year. Together a healthy diet and an active lifestyle are the keys to preventing and managing cardiovascular disease. Make most of your choices healthy and a part of your everyday life for long-term benefits to your health and for your heart.
We need to make healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices whenever we can. Eat an overall healthy dietary pattern that emphasizes the suggestions and ideas below.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Cocoa and chocolate
Some studies suggest that cocoa, an ingredient in chocolate, may have health benefits. It’s possible that certain nutrients in cocoa could improve heart health and boost brain function, especially in older adults. Researchers think this may be due to compounds called flavanols. Cocoa beans contain high levels of flavanols. The beans are dried and roasted to make the cocoa powder used in chocolate. Dark chocolate contains more cocoa and flavanols than other types of chocolate. All foods can fit into a healthy diet, just remember moderation.
- Thoughts of the Heart: A healthy diet
Again, overall diet is what families and consumers ought to be most concerned about this time of the year. Valentine’s Day just presents dieters (everyone) with another food choice and a decision to make. Engage in portion control when it comes to chocolate, which may be high in fat and calories. Follow MyPlate guidelines.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Gifts
Consider opting for flowers, homemade cards, or other thoughtful non-food gifts instead of chocolate or candy this Valentine’s Day for those that are trying to control their weight. The obesity epidemic is prevalent in FL, with only 36% being at a healthy weight. Be considerate and avoid putting the temptation in front of those trying to live a healthier lifestyle.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Keep moving
After a healthy Valentine’s Day lunch or dinner plan a brisk walk with loved ones to get some healthy physical activity and exercise. Healthy eating and physical activity are keys to maintaining a healthy weight and healthy lifestyle. Spending time with someone, can be the best gift of all. It’s good for your heart too.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
Nutrition experts advise consuming chocolate in moderation and incorporating a wide variety of food into a well-balanced diet. This includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean and healthy proteins, plant-based choices, and minimally processed foods. Choose wisely. Heart health matters.
- Thoughts of the Heart: MyPlate
On the MyPlate graphic, what it the red food group? It is the fruit group. Choose plenty of red fruits and vegetables. How about snacking on a fresh, sliced red bell pepper or a juicy red apple? Follow MyPlate guidelines to meet your nutrition intake goals.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Choose red
Also, go red with strawberries, cherries, and tomatoes! Eat plenty and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Either fresh, canned, or frozen fruits and vegetables can be healthy choices.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Engage in portion control
We need to make healthy, portion-controlled choices whenever we can. How about choosing plain strawberries, strawberries dipped in dark chocolate or other delicious fruit on February 14th? Remember to be wise about your portion size.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Practice moderation
A little high-quality chocolate occasionally probably won’t harm you. Practice moderation. Follow prudent advice from your health care provider, and don’t ingest pounds of chocolate during this special time of year, because the fat, calorie, and cholesterol content may be significant and lead to weight gain. Remember to be active most days of the week. Practice self-control.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Get regular exercise and eat healthy food
Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health and for your heart. It is important to get regular exercise and consume a healthy diet most days of the week. Get your steps in! Get moving.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Avoid being sedentary
Don’t sit for too long at one time. Don’t choose to be sedentary most days of the week. Research suggests that staying seated for long periods of time is bad for your health no matter how much exercise you do. If you sit at a sedentary job all day, get up every hour and walk around. Wiggle your toes and pump your ankles, every so often. It is important to move throughout the day. Exercise most days of the week for better health. Follow the advice of your health care provider.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Follow the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Do your heart a favor. Eat healthy. Get regular exercise. Limit alcohol. Choose healthy fats. Select whole grains. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. You’ll feel better and be able to stay active with a heart-healthy type of lifestyle. If you haven’t reviewed the 2020-2025 US Dietary Guidelines, do so today.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Eat Healthy Fats
Take care of your heart! Fat is a nutrient we need in our diets. The concern is making sure we don’t have too much fat in our diet. Eat healthy fats. Choose liquid, non-tropical vegetable oils. We need fats in our diet, but not trans-fat, which is known to increase your risk of developing heart disease over a lifetime. Be familiar with the different types of fats. Take care of your heart! Limit cholesterol and saturated fat intake.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Fill your heart with positivity
Kindness Matters all year. We have often heard it said: “In a world where you can be anything, be nice”. Fill your heart and mind with positive thoughts and feelings.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Reach out to those that are isolated
The elderly can feel isolated and lonely, this time of the year. Reach out to someone that may be alone and in need of some cheer (love) today. Warm their heart with an act of kindness. It can be as simple as a brief phone call. We are all going to age and wouldn’t it be nice to have someone, pay it forward and show you kindness during your golden years?
- Thoughts of the Heart: Strive for a healthy weight
Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. BMI (Body Mass Index) is a reference point. Those who are overweight or obese can make a major impact by working toward weight loss with small everyday dietary & physical activity changes. If you need to lose weight, start today. Losing 5-10# can make a difference. Always check with your health care provider to see if you are on track. Your heart will thank you.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Get moving. Schedule an appointment with your health care provider
Exercise and a well-balanced diet can help keep your heart healthy. Sedentary behavior, which usually means sitting or lying down while awake, has been linked to a shorter lifespan and a wide range of medical problems. It can be easy to procrastinate. Don’t procrastinate. Get moving. Schedule regular medical appointments and follow the advice of your health care provider.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Limit hydrogenated fats
Use liquid plant oils. The guidelines suggest opting for plant oils, like olive oil, rather than tropical oils (such as coconut oil, hydrogenated coconut oil, and palm kernel oil) and partially hydrogenated fats. Plant oil is typically liquid at room temperature and animal fat is solid at room temperature. Eat a heart healthy diet and engage in an active lifestyle.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Consume fresh foods
Choose minimally processed foods. Instead of reaching for ultra-processed foods, opt for something a bit fresher. Choose plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Support your local farmers. Control your weight. Your heart will thank you.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Limit added sugars
Minimize beverages and foods with added sugars. Consider changing one can of soda to a bottle of water. (Drink adequate amounts of water to stay properly hydrated.) The extra sugar can add up to extra pounds. The heart works harder when the body is overweight or obese. Strive for an ideal body weight and limit intake of high sugar foods and beverages. Follow your physician’s advice.
- Thoughts of the Heart: Avoid too much sodium
Choose and prepare foods with little or no added salt. Individuals with elevated blood pressure are often instructed to keep salt intake to under 2,300 mg per day or under 1,500 mg per day. (Some people are instructed to add salt to their diet, due to their medical condition.) In general, focus on foods that are naturally low-sodium or sodium-free, like fruits and vegetables. Avoid salting food before your taste it. Always follow your physician’s advice when it comes to blood pressure and diet recommendations. Never stop taking your blood pressure medication, unless directed to do so by your physician and/or health care provider. Stay healthy.
An equal opportunity institution and employer.