Enjoy a Healthy, Guilt-Free Valentine’s Day Dinner With These Tips

There is almost no possible way a person can forget that Valentine’s Day is approaching! The abundance of red and pink gift items adorned with hearts in full view at most retailers provide a constant reminder. It’s one of the few times of the year when I will purchase chocolate for my family members, and honestly, I don’t feel the least bit of guilt when I share some of it with them. Why is that? Well…

Dessert First

Dark chocolate and cocoa contain high levels of cell-protecting antioxidant compounds which basically gets rid of free radicals (destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments). Two tablespoons of natural cocoa have more antioxidant capacity than four cups of green tea or one cup of blueberries. Dark chocolate is also known to lower high blood pressure and it helps to prevent heart disease.

I read that the major factor that contributes to the onset of coronary disease is the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. This substance is very waxy, and when it oxidizes it can adhere to the artery walls, thus increasing the risk of a stroke or heart attack. The polyphenols in dark chocolate prevent the oxidation process of LDL cholesterol.

It’s pretty awesome if you think about it: You can give a Valentine’s gift in a heart – for their heart … literally! I’m sure you’ll agree that a 3-ounce serving of dark chocolate is the perfect dessert after a healthy meal that you just enjoyed together at your favorite restaurant.

What to Eat Beforehand

Oh no, we can’t forget the Valentine’s dinner. It’s one of those events we’ve come to expect on Feb. 14 — to dine at a fancy restaurant with that special someone.

How do I enjoy my meal, again, without feeling the least bit of guilt? I continue the habits that I started when I changed my lifestyle years ago. First, I never order any sugary beverages. Water is my choice, it’s good for me and as we all know, water contains zero calories. Some of you may enjoy a glass of wine with your meal. Please keep in mind that a 5-ounce glass is approximately 120 calories.

Secondly, I rarely order appetizers because it’s often difficult to find any that aren’t loaded with calories. I will order hummus with fresh vegetables if it’s listed on the menu, since hummus contains only 25 calories per serving. And I’m always happy to consume fresh vegetables since I know these are healthy for my heart — no guilt there at all.

Third, I do not allow myself to munch on the complementary items offered before a meal, such as fresh bread or breadsticks. These can easily add up to hundreds of calories. Just one breadstick alone is 140 calories and those cheesy biscuits that we enjoy without even thinking about it are 150 calories each!

And last, my entrée often consists of a crispy salad loaded with all types of vegetables and chicken or tuna to top it off. I also make sure to request that the dressing is served on the side and use it sparingly.

No matter what I order, if the entrée is a larger portion than I should be consuming I simply ask for a take-home container before my meal. I’ll place half of the dinner in the container before I begin eating, which is good for two reasons: I have something for lunch the following day and if I finish my plate, I don’t feel like I overindulged.

There is no guilt for me on Valentine’s Day and there shouldn’t be for you either! I wish each of you a heart-healthy Valentine’s Day! With all my love, Jodi.

P.S. How do you enjoy a healthy Valentine’s Day?

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