Posted by: Terri Mendoza - WIC Nutritionist
Ah, tis the season for love, romance, and…tempting high-fat, high-sugar foods! The fall and winter months are packed with opportunities to indulge in foods that are not very healthy. Halloween candy is quickly followed by Thanksgiving carbs--stuffing AND potatoes, anyone? Christmas and New Year’s Eve offer yet more delicacies, and then come our favorite hefty Super Bowl snacks. What’s someone to do who wants to acknowledge Valentine’s Day, the last of these calorie-packed celebrations, but still keep an eye on their waistline? Luckily, there are great alternatives to those heart-shaped candy boxes. Giving flowers but not candy, preparing a healthy meal, or just spending time with that special someone are all great ideas for making Valentine’s Day a little less “sweet” but equally special.
But since chocolate is the first thing to come to mind when talking about Valentine’s Day, you may be glad to know that it’s okay for most people to go ahead—in moderation! Luckily for us chocolate lovers, dark chocolate (but not milk or white chocolate) has actually been found to have health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and other heart-healthy effects. But remember that it can still be a source of calories, sugar, and fat, so watch how much you eat and don’t substitute even dark chocolate for healthier foods. When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better, since it has the most health benefits, so look for ones with a high percentage of cocoa. (Just be aware that the higher the percentage, the more bitter the taste.) Here are some ideas for making your chocolate choices more nutritious:
- Pair melted dark chocolate with fruit--raspberries, strawberries, and bananas are particularly delicious!
- Enjoy chocolate with nuts. Almonds are a long-time favorite, but there are other combinations of dark chocolate covered nuts that you might like just as well.
- Warm up with reduced-fat and low-sugar hot chocolate mixes. Find your favorite and you won’t miss the added cream and sugar!
Enjoy, and Happy Valentine’s Day! How do you plan to spend your Valentine’s Day? We’d love to hear from you!