By Kristy Lang, RD, LD, CDE
Have you ever noticed how each holiday, year round, has its own iconic sweet treat? Halloween has candy corns, Easter has Peeps, Christmas has candy canes and not to be left out of the festivities, Valentine’s Day has Sweetheart candies. Whether you like each of those sweets or not, the holiday wouldn’t feel complete until you’ve at least seen them make an appearance at the supermarket or your holiday party. Say what you wish, but Easter is not Easter until someone has made a joke about Peeps.
Not surprisingly, with each of these holidays comes a news article on how to stay healthy despite all the temptations. Most Dietitians, rightly so, will remind everyone to enjoy these treats in moderation. My motto is, “There are no bad foods, only bad portion sizes.” However, I’m going to take a slightly different approach this Valentine’s Day.
Each year, Valentine’s Day shares the month of February with Heart Month, a time we remind everyone to get their cholesterol, blood pressure and weight checked as a way to make sure their ticker keeps on ticking. And really, what better way to say “Be my Valentine” than by helping your loved keep their heart in peak condition? With that in mind, here are some ideas for both happy and healthy Valentine’s Day gifts.
- Purchase, or make your own faux-flower arrangement out of fruit.
- Instead of sweets, give a bottle of dry red wine, which is high in good cholesterol-boosting antioxidants and resveratrol.
- Plan an activity as a way to spend the day or evening together. Try ice skating or hiking if you are comfortable in the cold; bowling, rock climbing or dancing if you are not.
- Make a meal at home together. Try a dish that includes omega-3 rich salmon and greens such as kale, spinach or dark green lettuces that are packed with vitamins.
- Trade a box of chocolates for a mug of hot cocoa. Two tablespoons of unsweetened hot cocoa has been shown to pack flavanols that may help improve blood pressure and flow. Looking for a good recipe? Try the one below.
(makes 4 servings)
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ cup sugar
- 1/16 tsp salt (pinch)
- 1/3 cup boiling water
- 3 ½ cups skim or 1% milk
- 2-3 cinnamon sticks (optional)
- ¾ tsp pure vanilla extract
- Add the cocoa, sugar, salt and water to a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer for 2 minutes, stirring regularly to mix ingredients well.
- Add in the milk and cinnamon sticks and heat until hot, but just before boiling.
- Mix in vanilla extract and divide between mugs.