More than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine's Day this year, but you’d have to do the tango for 16 hours straight to burn off the calories in one box of 25 chocolate truffles. Instead, make your sweetie (or yourself) a low calorie, heart protective alternative. Each one is bursting with nutrients for less than 300 calories:
1) Craft a parfait made by layering 6 oz nonfat Greek yogurt and 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries garnished with 2 Tbsp chocolate chips
Nutrients: Because the heart is so closely linked to love, red is thought to be the most romantic color and it just so happens that the pigments that give red fruits like strawberries their gorgeous hue contain powerful antioxidants that protect your heart. Greek yogurt is rich in probiotics, the “good” bacteria linked to boosting immunity, improving digestive health and possibly preventing obesity.
Savings compared to cheesecake with fruit: 230 calories
2) Whip up a smoothie made with 6 oz lowfat chocolate cow’s milk or soy milk and 1 cup frozen pitted cherries
Nutrients: Here we have another red fruit, cherries, which contain natural pain relievers and have been shown to help reduce belly fat, the most dangerous type of fat to carry because of its link to heart disease.
Savings compared to a tradition chocolate milkshake: 540 calories
3) Mix 1 tsp honey or pure maple syrup with 1 Tbsp warm water and a quarter tsp of spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Wash and core a pear, place it in a baking dish, drizzle it with the water mixture and baked it at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes or until soft.
Nutrients: Pears are one of the best sources of soluble fiber, which lowers the “bad” LDL cholesterol linked to heart disease, honey is rich in antioxidants and has natural healing properties and 1 tsp cinnamon packs as much antioxidant power as a half cup of blueberries.
Savings compared to fruit pie: 180 calories
4) Top a half cup scoop of coconut milk ice cream with 1 cup fresh raspberries and garnish with 2 Tbsp sliced almonds and a few edible flowers.
Nutrients: The type of fat found in coconut milk is decadent, but it’s actually heart healthy. It’s been shown to lower the “bad” cholesterol, up the “good” cholesterol, rev up metabolism and whittle your waistline. Raspberries are actually a member of the rose family and like fruits, edible flowers are rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants. Just be sure they’re marked as edible and grown without pesticides.
Savings compared to a tradition ice cream sundae: 150 calories
5) Melt one quarter cup dark chocolate chips and serve as a dip for 1 sliced fresh starfruit, garnish plate with a few edible flowers
Nutrients: Starfruit is rich in vitamin C, one of the major heart protective antioxidants and dark chocolate’s natural substances have been shown to relax blood vessels to open up circulation, to reduce blood pressure.
Savings compared to box of 25 chocolate truffles: 3,070 calories
Wishing you a happy (and healthy ) heart day!