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Tips for a happy, healthy Valentine's Day

Published: Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 11:49 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 11:50 a.m. CDT

Each year we surprise the ones we love with traditional Valentine’s Day gifts such as chocolates, sweets and flowers.  Spending time with that special someone is also a very meaningful gift.  How about this year, we not only spend time with that person but also put a healthy twist on those Valentine’s treats? 

When giving to that special someone:

• Consider purchasing a fruit basket instead of a box of chocolates.

• Prepare a low calorie dessert or treat.  Here are some suggestions:

Smoothie:   blend raspberries, strawberries and low fat yogurt together.

Fruit bars:  freeze blended strawberries and bananas on popsicle sticks.

Pudding cups:  mix fat-free vanilla pudding with strawberries and raspberries.

Kabobs:  place strawberries, cherries, raspberries and apples on skewers and serve       with melted dark chocolate for dipping.  

• Think about non-food options such as a bouquet of flowers, a heart-healthy cookbook, personal training sessions, a massage or a day spa gift certificate. 

• Give quality time.  Time is one of the most important gifts a person can give or receive.

When eating out:

• Step away from the bread or chip basket.  If you’d like a roll or chips, take one roll or one small handful of chips and then move the basket out of your reach.  Or consider asking the server to not bring the basket to the table at all.

• Feel free to make special requests.  Ask for dressings, sauces and butter/margarine on the side.  Inquire if vegetables or a salad can be substituted for the French fries.  Find out how your meal is prepared if the menu description is vague.  Remember that grilled and baked are better than fried and braised.

• Start out healthy.  Begin your meal with a light salad or soup. This will help to fill you up before the main course arrives.

• Remember portion control.  Restaurant portion sizes are larger than normal.  Ask for a “to-go” box when your food is served.  Divide your meal in half and put half in the box before you begin eating.  Or you may want to split an entrée with your special someone.

• Order simple foods.  Avoid adding a lot of extras to your meal.  Examples include croutons, cheese, bacon, high-fat salad dressings, sauces and sour cream.  Stay with basic foods without all the trimmings.

• Think red.  Red bell peppers, cherries, strawberries, red beans, red onions and tomatoes are all packed with vitamins, cancer-fighting antioxidants or cholesterol-reducing soluble fiber.

• Know before you go.  Make it a point to check the restaurant’s website for nutrition information

• Consider dining in this year.  This is a great way to save calories, money and avoid the crowds.  Find an easy reduced calorie meal that you can cook with or for your special one at home.  Rent some movies, make a healthy dessert and enjoy!

Valentine’s Day is a time for fun, laughter and food.  Moderation is key.  Having a small piece of cake or a couple of chocolates does not mean instant weight gain or that you are not eating healthfully.  Keep in mind it’s what you do day to day that really makes the difference in your success with healthy eating and lifestyle change.

Happy Healthy Valentine’s Day!

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