There has been more poetry and songs written about romance, love and sweethearts than any other subject. It is not hard to understand why two people fall under the spell of romance. Personally speaking, I have vibrant memories of my first loves going back to grade school.

I remember Rita from first grade. I couldn’t bring myself to talk to her but in choosing games, when it was my turn to pick the next player, I always picked her. It must have been obvious to everyone but I was smitten. I still remember how I felt inside my head and body. It was wonderful!

I began dating in high school and can remember sharing popcorn in the movie theater with a girl who said yes when I offered to take her out. I don’t remember the movie, but I remember her.

Later on, dates revolved around dinners together. I grew up in New York City and there were plenty of restaurants to choose from. As I grew up and moved through college, I always chose the most romantic restaurant I could find. 

I especially remember taking my future wife, Ellen, to a date including a concert at Carnegie Hall and a dinner at the Russian Tea Room. We were shown to a booth toward the back. A glowing candle was in the middle of the table and the lights were low in the restaurant. As we sat across from each other, I could see the glow of the candle reflected in her beautiful eyes. It was that night that I knew I wanted to marry her.

We both finished college and I proposed on the steps of her home after returning from another wonderful date. She said yes and it was all I could do to leave her as I returned to my home. I don’t know if my feet touched the ground as I went on my way.

Over the years, we had two boys, moved several times and worked at several different jobs. She never stopped being special to me and we had many romantic dinners together. The best ones were at home, preplanned and alone. I added surprise gifts to the events and that often set the tone for the evening. On our 10th anniversary, I gave her the diamond ring I could not afford when we were engaged. She never took it off her delicate finger.

The years took their toll and we were both overweight, and subject to the medical conditions that age visits upon most of us. As we faced our problems, we knew we had to make some changes. At first, it was awkward, but we persevered and began to enjoy a more plant-based healthy diet.

Here are two of our favorite healthy recipes that became some of our go-to meals. 

Ellen’s Ratatouille

2 medium eggplants, peeled and cubed

2 yellow squash, peeled and sliced

2 green squash, peeled and sliced

1 green pepper, 1 red pepper, both seeded and sliced

1 large sweet onion, peeled and sliced

1 small (8 ounces) package of button mushrooms, washed, stemmed

and sliced

2 sticks of celery sliced

2 plum tomatoes, sliced

1 jar/can (about 10-14 ounces) low salt, no sugar tomato sauce (spaghetti sauce is fine)

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2-3 shakes parsley, basil, and Italian seasoning each

2 teaspoons olive oil

Saute all vegetables and seasonings in olive oil until softened. Add tomato sauce, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Serve with a small fresh salad. I like a raw carrot/kale/spinach salad with this dish.

Due to the low calorie count, you can have second portions of this meal without putting on pounds. All of the ingredients are healthy and full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Eating this is like doing your whole body a big favor.

For Ellen, a meal was never done until dessert was served. Healthy deserts were hard to come by. She never faltered as we tried one thing after another.

Fresh fruit was OK, but it was not desert in her mind. Finally, we tried something that we both agreed did the trick.

Ellen’s Glazed Pineapple

2 tablespoons low-sugar pineapple juice

1 tablespoon brown sugar (or sugar substitute)

2 teaspoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon rum extract

8 pineapple rings, fresh or canned, drained

4 teaspoons low-fat sour cream

1 tablespoon chopped macadamia nuts (walnuts or pecans also work) 

In a nonstick skillet, over medium heat, combine juice, brown sugar or sugar substitute, olive oil and rum extract. Whisk to combine. Place the pineapples in the skillet and cook for about 2 minutes on either side until sizzling.

Place 2 rings on a dessert plate, drizzle pan juice over the pineapple and top with 1 teaspoon low-fat sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped nuts. 

There are many ways to show you love someone. Eating together and sharing the gift of health is but one way. It all proves that being sweethearts can last forever and is even better when you both can be healthy. JN

Eli Follick is a recovered Type 2 diabetic and a certified lifestyle trainer. He is dedicated to helping people make healthier choices.

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