Indulging your sweetheart with chocolate and other sweets is a tradition for many on Valentine’s Day.
With those gifts, however, come a lot of unwanted calories and temptations that make it difficult to enjoy in moderation.
Is it possible to pamper with gifts that are fun yet good for you? Here are a few ideas that are more healthful, yet allow you to indulge your sweetheart on this day of love.
Chocolate is one of the most popular gifts given each year on Valentine’s Day. In fact, according to the National Confectioners Association, nearly 70 percent of U.S. consumers give the gift of chocolate or candy for Valentine’s Day.
Not all chocolate is created equal, however, when it comes to its healthful benefits.
Kelly Devine Rickert, a Franciscan WELLCARE registered dietitian and health coach, said dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao content provides the most benefits.
These include protection from diseases and cancer, improved heart health, better cholesterol profiles, an increase in cognitive function and better blood pressure and blood sugar numbers, she said.
Terri Sakelaris, a registered dietitian and nutritionist with the Community Hospital Diabetes Center, recommends recipients enjoy about 1 ounce a day.
“More is not better,” she said. “The calories will add up, so most groups such as the Cleveland Clinic recommend about 1 to 2 ounces of unsweetened 70 percent cacao several times per week or even daily to obtain great benefits from the flavonoids.”
Dark chocolate-covered strawberries are an easy way to double the healthfulness of a gift, but that’s not the only option when it comes to pairing the decadent treat with another food.
Dark chocolate matches well with bananas, and is perfect to drizzle over homemade popcorn, Devine Rickert said.
Wine also offers many of the same antioxidants as dark chocolate, making a wine tasting experience a unique Valentine’s Day gift, she said.
Like dark chocolate and wine, apples also contain flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits.
“So 5 ounces of red wine and apple slices dipped in the melted dark unsweetened 70 percent cacao chocolate can be a nice heart healthy treat on a special occasion like Valentine’s Day,” Sakelaris said.
Fruit baskets delivered to work or home are a creative way to say “I love you,” though if you like doing the work yourself, fruit shape cutters found in most major retailers allows you to create your own bouquet design.
If you want to skip the calories and fat content that comes along with even the most healthful type of chocolate, try giving an experience that has its own health benefits.
Activities like ice skating, going for a winter hike or seeking out adventure by sledding or climbing an indoor rock wall can be romantic as well as a healthy way to spend Valentine’s Day with a sweetheart.
Planning an “escape room” experience — an adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles to escape a room — will exercise the mind, while gift certificates to yoga sessions, couple’s massage and reiki treatments provide therapeutic and stress-easing benefits, Sakelaris said.
Cooking at home is another way to reduce the temptation of overindulging, she said. Pair with a gift certificate for a cooking class for an added touch.