Although Valentine's Day is supposed to remind us to celebrate love and romance, it seems this holiday has also become synonymous with a plethora of candies, intricately decorated cupcakes, buttery cookies, and, of course, all things chocolate. Just think about how many of those cute heart-shaped boxes of assorted chocolates are sold the week leading up to Valentine's Day. We all adore having our offices and homes adorned with all of these sweet treats gifted to us by loved ones, but what's not so sweet is the mounting number of calories these decadent morsels have.
Additionally, Valentine's Day is often celebrated by going out for a rich, fancy dinner, often complete with high-calorie dishes served with ample amounts of wine and finished off with a dazzling dessert. This can make it difficult to stay on track with your health and wellness goals, particularly if you're trying to lose weight. It also seems somewhat unfair that this sugar-laden holiday is also celebrated during the same month as American Heart Month. However, it is entirely possible to celebrate Valentine's Day the healthy way. We have some tips to help you avoid gaining weight in the name of love.
1. Cooking is Romantic
Rather than battling the intense crowds to enjoy a nice dinner out at a restaurant, opt to stay in this Valentine's Day and cook up a romantic, yet healthy, dinner for two. You'll likely save a ton of calories because you can control what goes into your dish. Ask your loved one to help you prepare a fun, healthy new recipe or opt for your personal favorite. Accompany your meal with candle-light and a glass of wine, which has beneficial antioxidants that are good for your heart.
2. Say No to the Box of Chocolate
Request ahead of time that your loved one not purchase sweets or chocolates for you. Let your special someone know that your wellness goals are very important to you all year long. You can always hint about other gifts you might like to receive that have nothing to do with food.
3. Make Sweat a Tradition
Start your own Valentine's Day tradition by trying a new fun-filled activity together, especially if it burns calories in the process. Spend the holiday learning how to salsa-dance. Go for an adventurous hike and enjoy a picnic lunch along the way (pack a healthy basket full of fruit, nuts, cheese and a bottle of wine). Enjoy biking a new trail that allows you to view some beautiful scenery as you ride. It doesn't matter what the activity is, but if you do the same special activity together each Valentine's Day, it'll become your own tradition.
4. Healthy Sweet Treats
Prepare your own healthy treats, particularly if they're based on low-calorie items paired with a more indulgent ingredient. Think of ripe, colorful fruit lightly drizzled with dark chocolate (heart-healthy). Toss together a fruit salad but top it with toasted shredded coconut to give it an exotic taste and fabulous crunch.
If you bake your own treats, simply make healthy swaps. Swap out ½ the butter or oil in recipes for cakes, cookies, or muffins with plain applesauce, canned pumpkin or mashed-up fruit (bananas work well). This cuts calories while maintaining moisture and flavor.
5. Remember Portion Size
Enjoy those special occasion indulgent foods, but keep portion sizes in control and perhaps step up your physical activity for that day.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. If you would be interested in working with Kari one-on-one, sign-up for FitDay Dietitian.