UACES Facebook How to Have a Heart-Healthy Valentine's Day
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You don't have to throw your healthy habits or your budget out the window for a holiday. You CAN indulge! And you CAN enjoy a holiday with love.

How to Have a Heart-Healthy Valentine's Day

by Katie Cullum

This year will be my 11th Valentine's Day to celebrate with my Valentine.  The first year, we were engaged.  We went to the nice Japanese steakhouse, like everyone else.  After that, we have managed to NOT go out on Valentine's Day!  We had to indulge that first year, since I believe it was the first Valentine's Day that either one of us had celebrated with anyone! 

I prefer not going out to eat on a big holidays because the restaurants are usually so crowded.  We may choose another night though!  But I also enjoy staying home and cooking up something a little different.  This year may look a little different for everyone because of the pandemic. 

You don't need to throw the healthy habits you've been working on out the window, and you don't have to blow your budget.  But you DO need to plan.  As Hannibal in the A-Team said at the end of each episode, "I love it when a plan comes together!" So let's start planning!  

Think about who will be eating - just you? You and a significant other? Or you, your spouse, and the kids?  Or your spouse, your son, and your Mom (like me)? Or you and some other single friends?  

How do you like to celebrate? 

Do you like to try all new dishes? Or maybe just some of the normal?  Do you want extravagant?  Or something fun?  Think about what you'd like for Valentine's day.  This year, it falls on a Sunday.  So if we want a nice dinner, I'll need to plan an appetizer such as fruit or vegetables with hummus.  We have a small group Zoom at 5:00 p.m. so dinner will be after that and we'll be hungry.  I'll need to plan through the meal and see what I can prepare ahead of time. Since you may overindulge a little bit, plan some activity after dinner - an active game, a walk in the neighborhood, or even Wii games!

Main Dish Ideas

We were gifted some steaks, so that sounds like a winner.  You might have to purchase steaks or a nice cut of meat.  You don't have to go overboard.  Cheaper cuts can be quite tasty and tender if you cook them all day in a slow cooker! Chicken is usually a good price.  You could make this delicious Chicken Scallopine with Capers and Lemons (under Entrees in Western Mediterranean). If you buy a big package of chicken, you can always cook the rest and stash in the freezer for other meals!

Cost of Main Dish

Chicken - $1.98 per pound so about $4 (3-pound bag, frozen is $5.94)

Lemons - $0.57

Capers - $0.24 ($1.42 for bottle but I can use the rest later)

I'd probably just use chicken broth (in my freezer) for the white wine, and I have the rest in the pantry.

Total Cost for Main Dish (chicken) - $4.81

Side Dish Ideas

For sides, consider what you & your guests will like.  My husband likes potatoes - mashed, fried, roasted, whatever. But for a slightly healthier side, I could serve baked sweet potatoes with cinnamon (try it without the butter and brown sugar!).  My son likes carrots.  Mom and I like salads and other vegetables.  So we'll probably have some mashed potatoes (light on the butter), cooked carrots (I usually just microwave the carrots, add the rest of the ingredients, and warm), and a Greek salad maybe.  I could try some other Mediterranean dishes from our site also. 

Cost of Sides

Red potatoes - $1.15 (5 pound bag is $3.47, so I'll use about 1/3) OR sweet potatoes - $1.42 (I could buy a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes for $2.84 and use about half of it)

Frozen carrots (12 ounces) - $0.84 plus a few other ingredients I already have

Salad (I could also go with a bagged salad with all the trimmings for just $3.63 which would save me a dollar in the total cost of the sides OR I could buy a bunch of romaine lettuce and use salad dressing I have for $1.98):

  • tomatoes - about $1
  • cucumber - around $0.75
  • red bell pepper - $1.38
  • red onion - about a quarter, chopped - $0.20
  • olives - I have some already!
  • feta cheese - about $1.33 (I only need 2 ounces of a 6 ounce container that costs $3.98)
  • other ingredients - I already have

Total for Sides: $6.65 

Different potatoes - $6.92

Different salad - $4.66 if I went with a bagged salad, or just romaine lettuce would be $3.97

Dessert Ideas

Maybe I could do a simple dessert of Strawberries with Balsamic Reduction or Cherry Clafouti, also in Mediterranean dishes.  I'll probably just want to use pantry staples for dessert though - too many special ingredients can really add to the cost.  Any fruit dessert would be good.  Although chocolate-covered strawberries may be tasty, they can get rather expensive.  Maybe Fruit Cups or even brownies, cut into heart shapes.   Or, if you want to make a fun dessert ahead, try these Frozen Pudding Sandwiches.  I bet the kids would enjoy these!

Cost of Dessert

Chocolate-covered Strawberries - Strawberries $6.48 + dipping chocolate $2.54 = $9.02

I saw someone on Facebook selling Chocolate-covered Strawberries for $12/6 or $20/dozen!  If you're set on Chocolate-Covered Strawberries, you might want to DIY!

Frozen Pudding Sandwiches - about $5 total but it makes 25, so you'll have plenty to share or eat later.

Fruit Cups - about $2.76

Brownies from a mix - $1.00 plus an egg and oil that I already have. Check the box for healthy substitutions like using egg whites instead of a whole egg and applesauce instead of the oil.

Cherry Clafouti - Cherries $3.47 (frozen) + milk/whipping cream $0.40 total + eggs $0.46 = $4.33

I really enjoyed the chocolate cake I made for National Chocolate Cake Day (January 27 - check it out on Twitter or Facebook) but it used 3 sticks of butter, lots of powdered sugar, lots of sugar and it's just not something we need again soon!  I did end up giving about half of it away - just so I wouldn't be tempted to eat it all myself!

As you can see, dessert can really add to the cost of your dinner!  You can keep it simple and inexpensive with brownies (maybe dress it up with whipped cream or chocolate syrup and sprinkles).  Or you could go all out with Chocolate-Covered Strawberries.  Or somewhere in between!  
colorful food in heart shape
Add heart healthy nutrients with color.

Heart Healthy?

Is any of this heart healthy?  Yes!  The sides are pretty colorful.  The chicken is low in fat (olive oil is the main source of fat, and it's a good one).  Most of the dishes are low in fat, sodium, and cholesterol.  Dessert is going to be the least heart healthy, so choose wisely. Substituting sweet potatoes for the red potatoes, and adding a fruit cup for dessert would make this a pretty healthy meal! You could also substitute steamed or roasted broccoli for the carrots if you had sweet potatoes.  

Choose lots of color with fruits and vegetables and go easy on the salt & fat!


Plan Ahead

Whatever you decide, make a plan for it.  Most of the desserts can be made ahead.  If you'd really like to make more ahead, here are some other tips:
  • You can make mashed potatoes ahead.  Keep warm in a slow cooker.  Or you can make them ahead and refrigerate.  Warm in oven before dinner. You could even cook the potatoes in the slow cooker and mash them just before serving.  This recipe is a heart-healthy one from the American Heart Association.
  • Put the salad together a few hours before, except any croutons or topper that is crunchy.
  • For the chicken, juice the lemon.  Flatten the chicken breasts and keep refrigerated.
  • Prepare dessert.  Finish off by cutting into heart shapes or adding a pretty garnish.