Sweeten Up Your Valentine’s Day
with Heart- Healthy Desserts
If you’re like many Americans, you’re concerned about your triglycerides, cholesterol, sugar levels, or waistline—or all of the above. But you enjoy a sweet treat every now and then and may struggle with finding a “healthy place” for desserts in your diet. We’ve got good news for you: There are ways to turn sweet treats into a win-win for your taste buds and critical health numbers. And just in time for Valentine’s Day!
The Secrets to heart-healthy indulgence
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating an overall healthy diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and non-tropical vegetable oils1. While that’s a long list of foods to keep you satisfied, you may be asking yourself, “how do desserts fit in?”
If your go-to dessert is laden with saturated and trans fats, sodium and sugar, then you’re wise to indulge in limited quantities. But desserts can actually be part of an overall healthy diet (and tasty and fun!) if you…
Choose heart-healthy ingredients. Go back to the casting board and give the following foods a starring role on your dessert menu:
· Fruits and vegetables like blueberries and carrots – they provide sweetness without added sugars and come with the “bonus” of vitamins, minerals, and fiber
· Whole grains like oatmeal or quinoa – they enhance your dessert’s nutrition and flavor
· Nuts and seeds like walnuts and chia seeds – they contain healthy fats and protein while adding a satisfying crunch and texture
Make healthy swaps. The Mayo Clinic suggests giving your recipes a health boost with these substitutions2:
· Instead of loading up on butter, margarine, shortening or oil, try applesauce or prune puree for half of the called-for butter or try butter spreads or shortenings that don't have trans fats
· Substitute fat-free half-and-half or evaporated skim milk for cream; and reduced fat or fat-free milk for whole milk
· Use two egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute for each whole egg
· Replace whole-wheat flour for half of the called-for all-purpose flour in baked goods
· Reduce your sugar to half of what the recipe calls for and intensify sweetness with vanilla, nutmeg, or cinnamon
And a word to the wise: Always watch your serving sizes. Even the healthiest foods contain calories, sugar, and fat that can quickly turn into “too many” to derail health goals.
Recipes to try
For Valentine’s Day—or any day—it’s handy to have some heart-healthy dessert recipes you can turn to. It’s time to treat your taste buds and your ticker with new takes on your favorites:
Fruity: These Strawberry Shortcakes from Health.com use fresh strawberries and calorie-free sweetener, yielding just 113 calories and less than 1g of fat per serving.
Chocolaty: EatingWell.com’s Chocolate Nut Bark pairs antioxidant-rich dark chocolate with your choice of nuts for a mere 74 calories and 5 g of sugars per piece.
Cheese-Cakey: The Mini Cheesecakes from HungryAndFit.com weigh in at just 182 calories-per-serving of “yum” using Greek cream cheese and yogurt plus cinnamon graham crackers.