10 Tips for a Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Day

On Feb. 14, millions of us will express our love for our significant others with a sumptuous meal and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. But what about their actual hearts?

Instead of plying your sweetie with unhealthy Valentine’s Day gifts, consider doing something that can lead to more happy years of togetherness. “The reason for Valentine’s Day is really to celebrate love and what better way to do that than to take care of yourself and the one you love,” says Martha Henley, registered dietitian and exercise physiologist in the weight management program at Christiana Care’s Eugene du Pont Preventive Medicine & Rehabilitation Institute. “I encourage people to create a Valentine’s Day experience so that the emphasis is on the whole experience, of which the food is a part. Then I provide tips for how to do that.”

Here are some of her ideas.

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1) Get physical.  Bundle up and go for a run or a walk. Try out the new ice-skating rink on the Riverfront or go skiing. Plan a walking tour of a new city. Don’t like the cold? Try an indoor activity like visiting a museum, rock climbing, dancing or one of the new trampoline parks in Newark and Wilmington.

2) Set a table for two at home. Cooking at home is a great way to control ingredients and portions. Enjoy the meal by candlelight and spend some quality time together.

3) Try something new. Dare yourself to experience a new seasoning, or fruit or vegetable. Or maybe find a new recipe for an old favorite.

4) Know before you go. Dining out? Check out the menu of the restaurant you plan to visit and nutritional information for what you plan to order. Opt for “greener” fare and forgo the bread basket and calorie-rich appetizers.

5) Sharing is caring. Many restaurant entrées can feed two. Splitting one will prevent overindulging.

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6) Take it slow. If you’ve been gifted with a box of candy, make the experience last. Pop it in the fridge and savor it in moderation over the next several weeks.

7) Do something “sweet.” Choose a gift that has more permanence and significance. Indulge an interest with a gift of music, literature or art. Or incorporate a favorite poem or sentiment into a handmade Valentine.

8) Support each other’s health and wellness. Use this day as an opportunity to share ways to a healthier lifestyle. Commit to getting more exercise, losing weight, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and eating better. If you smoke, promise to quit.

9) Give the gift of giving back. Make plans to spend the day in-service to your community or each other’s favorite charity. Giving back improves mood, changes one’s perspective and lowers stress.

10) Still craving something sweet? Gather whatever fruit you and your recipient are fond of and put together a personalized fresh-fruit bouquet. What better way to show your devotion and work in those four servings per day?

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