Another Valentine’s Day is upon us, and many of us will bestow thoughtful, heartfelt and (often) high-calorie gifts on loved ones to show much we care. At New Jersey Bariatric Center®, we work with patients every day who want to learn how to celebrate special occasions without unhealthy amounts of food. So this year, skip the heavy dinner and giant box of candy and try one of these ideas instead:
- Show breakfast and lunch some love. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all about dinner. Start the day off with some heart-shaped whole grain pancakes and a bowl of fresh red berries. For a cute lunchtime surprise, use a cookie cutter to turn an ordinary healthy sandwich into hearts and serve with a side of red grapes or cherry tomatoes.
- Plan an active date night (or day). Dates don’t always have to revolve around food, and chances are there’s at least one new activity you and your partner have been wanting to try together. Do something active like taking a dance class, climbing a rock wall, going ice skating or taking a scenic hike. If something less heart-pounding is more your speed, surprise your valentine with tickets to a concert, show or movie they’d enjoy. Or indulge in a spa day together for some quality downtime.
- Choose a non-food gift your love will love. Giving flowers, a gift card, perfume or cologne, jewelry or clothing means your gift will last longer than that bunch of chocolates. You might even get points for thinking outside the box (pun intended) and choosing a more thoughtful, personal way to show your affection.
- Don’t let dinner weigh you down. Let’s face it, we still have to eat. So plan ahead and choose a restaurant with healthy options. Weight loss surgery patients should look for a restaurant that will let you order half an entree portion or split a meal with your date for no additional charge. Peruse menus online beforehand and don’t arrive famished for your meal. Eat regularly throughout the day and don’t try to “save up” calories for a big dinner. Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets and pre-fixe meals with multiple courses.
- Rethink treats. We all love something sweet, especially on Valentine’s Day, so if you indulge, do so mindfully and make the calories count by choosing something you really enjoy. Have three or four bites and savor each one. If you’re dining out, sharing a small dessert is a great way to keep your portion in-check. A fun activity for grown-ups and kids alike is making homemade chocolate-covered strawberries. The recipe below uses dark chocolate and fresh, juicy strawberries for a healthy dose of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants without overdoing it on the added sugar.
With a bit of planning and just the right amount of sweetness, you can create the perfect recipe for a special, healthy Valentine’s Day. Your sweetheart and your waistline will thank you!
- 4-5 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60% or greater cacao), chopped
- 18 fresh strawberries with stems
- Optional toppings: White or milk chocolate chips for drizzling, finely chopped nuts, shredded coconut, etc.
- Line a large baking sheet with wax or parchment paper and set aside. Wash and thoroughly dry strawberries. Any moisture left on the strawberries will prevent the chocolate from sticking while dipping.
- Melt dark chocolate in a microwave safe bowl for 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval. Chocolate should be warm and melted through, but not boiling.
- Holding a berry by the stem, dip in chocolate and twirl to coat all sides. Gently shake off excess and place strawberry on a lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining berries.
- If using hard toppings such as nuts or coconut, sprinkle on immediately while chocolate is still soft. Set aside and allow chocolate coating to harden. You can speed this up by placing the strawberries in the refrigerator.
- If using white or milk chocolate for drizzling, melt 1 oz. each in a microwave safe bowl following instructions for the dark chocolate in Step 2.
- Spoon melted chocolates into separate zip-top plastic sandwich bags and snip off a tiny amount from one corner. Once the dark chocolate has hardened on the covered strawberries, squeeze white or milk chocolate through the opening over strawberries in a zigzag pattern. Allow to harden.
- Finished strawberries can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours or stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. (Please note, cold storage will alter the berries’ texture and appearance.)
Yield: 6 Servings (About 3 strawberries per serving)