February 14th is all about showing your love. Usually, that means a giant heart-shaped box of candy and a decadent restaurant dinner. But with some planning and these easy tips, you can enjoy a fun, romantic Valentine's Day without wrecking your waistline.
1. A better box of chocolate
Instead of milk chocolate or white chocolate, go dark.
Studies in two prestigious scientific journals say dark chocolate (but not white chocolate or milk chocolate) is good for you. Dark chocolate is associated with lowering blood pressure in certain people. Dark chocolate also contains antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. And, dark chocolate is a good source of several minerals (iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium) and even provides protein and fiber.
But this doesn't mean that you should replace healthy foods with chocolate, or that you should overindulge. Calories, sugar and fat still count. Rather, when you're craving some of the sweet stuff, opt for a bit of the dark.
2. Toasting the occasion
Instead of a martini, choose a glass of red wine.
Red wine, in moderation, has long been thought of as heart healthy. According to the Mayo Clinic, antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart. Another substance in red wine, resveratrol, might be a key ingredient that helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) and prevents blood clots. Some research shows that resveratrol could be linked to a lower risk of inflammation and blood clotting, which can lead to heart disease. These may help prevent coronary artery disease, the condition that leads to heart attacks, reports the Mayo Clinic.
So forgo that cocktail, which can be loaded with sugar, and have a glass of red wine instead.
3. Good gifting
Instead of candy loaded with artificial colors and sugar, this year give a non-food gift. And besides, while sweets are quickly gone, these gifts will stay around, always reminding the recipient of your thoughtfulness.
You can't lose by gifting a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, a sparkling piece of jewelry, sensuous perfume or a cuddly teddy bear.
Walk into any store around Valentine's Day and you'll be greeted with plenty of ideas. This is one holiday that's easy to give from the heart!
4. Dinner date
A romantic dinner out need not wreck your waistline or health.
Instead of a fat-and-calorie-laden filet mignon with creamy sauce and potatoes au gratin, choose broiled seafood with steamed veggies.
In the example above, by choosing a 5 oz. broiled rainbow trout and 1 cup of steamed mixed vegetables instead of the steak, sauce and starchy/cheesy side, you'll save a whopping 671 calories and 51 grams of fat!
Always feel free to make special requests at a restaurant. Most are happy to accommodate a substitution for a side in a combo, to provide less or no sauce on an entree, or to serve dressings on the side.
5. Out on the town
Instead of sitting all night at the movies, go get active instead. Take a romantic hike (check out some local ideas here), or go dancing, bowling, or skating. Not only will you have more fun and make memories, you'll both get some exercise in -- and burn off those dinner calories -- at the same time!
Eating healthy and being physically active are keys to a healthier heart...leading to a longer life together. And what could be more romantic than that?
As with most holidays, indulgent food is a Valentine's Day tradition, and that can be tricky to navigate if you're trying to stay on track with healthy eating. But don't completely deprive yourself. Moderation is key.
As Charles M. Shultz once said, "All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." Especially if it's dark.
Michelle Rogers is an ABC11 Community Influencer and a Certified Personal Trainer who specializes in helping women over 40 accomplish their fitness and weight loss goals, and improve their health and quality of life. Visit her healthy living blog at www.michellerogers.fit and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.