by Heather Leger, N Good Health Dietitian
February is American Heart Month and it is no secret that nutrition plays a very large role in reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease. There are nutrients found in the Mediterranean diet such as flavanols, healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants that can be very helpful (and tasty!) when it comes to eating heart-healthy. After finishing the series Bobby and Giada in Italy on the new Discovery+ app last weekend, it became clear to me that Italians really enjoy eating simply and healthfully with foods found fresh in local markets. You may wonder how exactly you can do that at home when you don’t live near the Mediterranean coast but I’m here to assure you that you can!
A main theme from the show is that pasta is actually not the main course. In Italy, large meals can be up to 11 meal courses but most commonly, there are 5 smaller courses: antipasti, primo, secondo, contorno, and dolce. At home, try choosing 3 out of the 5 traditional Italian courses, with a focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based protein plus a dose of healthy fat. Pasta falls into the primo course, which is the first course of the meal that includes hot food. If you enjoy eating pasta at home, pair a lightly sauced whole grain pasta with your contorno course, or vegetable side dish like roasted squash and zucchini and topped with a serving of Tuscan White Beans as your protein. If you would like to include the secondo course of a serving of meat, chicken, or fish then go for the omega-3 and make this easy Salmon Baked in Foil by chef Giada De Laurentiis. Want to live la dolce vita? Living the “sweet” life means you can add a fruit-based dessert like these delicate Mascarpone with Raspberry and Pineapple cups as an after dinner treat.
As you can see, you don’t have to compromise taste when looking for heart-healthy recipes. Feel free to keep these ideas in mind when making Valentine’s day plans- what a great way to celebrate at home with your loved one!