February 14th is all about beautiful red roses, enticing boxes of chocolates and a romantic date night that includes a delicious meal of multiple courses washed down with frivolous beverages and topped off with the sweetest of desserts with your loved one. And while we all wait for this wonderful day, we sometimes don’t fully enjoy our specially planned meal outside in the fear of disrupting our fitness regime, or wake up feeling guilty about indulging. Here are some secrets and planning tips, to help you create a memorable and guilt-free Valentine’s Day experience, without increasing the size of your waistline.
Valentine’s Day isn’t complete without red roses and chocolates. Instead of choosing chocolate that’s high in sugar, try selecting a healthy dark chocolate alternative. Some of them are so rich and flavorsome, you’d crave for more. Dark chocolates are not only low in calories, but it also contains tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for helping the brain produce serotonin, the neurotransmitter that gives us that warm, happy feeling inside. Dark chocolates are also good for our brains as it can decrease the chance of developing dementia, whilst also promotes a healthy heart and blood vessel system.
Select dishes that has a relatively low calorie count, nothing overly sweet, oily, or overpowering taste-wise. There are numerous types of fish dishes that are suitable. Avoid foods that involve deep frying, or uses milk, butter or cheese. You could start your meal with a salad topped with a healthy dressing and grilled chicken or boiled egg instead of an oily salad dressing topped with bacon bits and croutons. As for the main meal, order a fish dish with sides of grilled vegetables instead of a steak and French fries covered in a gravy or another thick sauce. Also, don’t forget that foods which have been prepared by boiling, grilling or baking are healthier than deep or shallow fried options. Moreover, try to reduce your carbohydrate intake, with brown rice, whole wheat breads and whole wheat pastas if you cannot avoid this part of your meal.
Eating something light and healthy before you venture out for an evening meal will help ensure that you don’t arrive at the restaurant feeling ravenous, and wanting to eat everything on the menu. In addition to that, a light meal can provide a base for any alcohol you consume, ensuring that it is absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly so that you won’t feel too tipsy too soon and continue to look great and be your fun witty self for the entire duration of the date.
Drink in the atmosphere and savor the delicious food by taking your time when eating. Gradually chewing your food to ensure it is already in tiny pieces when swallowed will aide digestion, as well as help your body to absorb the vitamins and minerals contained in the food effectively. Eating slowly and methodically also makes us feel fuller more quickly as our bodies usually take around 20 minutes to send the signals to our brains that we are full. This then helps to regulate or even lose weight.
Choose to drink water instead of a beverage that is full of sugar. If you’d like to add to your experience with an alcoholic drink, consider a glass of red wine. Red wine contains melatonin that comes from the skin of the grapes used in its production, which protects against cell destruction. Red wine can also reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease in the future. That being said, no more than 1-2 glasses should be consumed to ensure the benefits outweigh the negatives.
Valentine’s Day is generally celebrated with everything red. Aside from the red hearts that symbolize love, include red fruits and vegetables in homemade meals to add to the valentine feel and more so because these contain antioxidants that are good for our health as they can offer protection against cancer as well as promote a strong immune system. Examples include tomatoes, red chilies and berries. Furthermore, the fiber found in these fruits and vegetables can prevent against constipation, and leave our skin looking rejuvenated.
It’s well-known that salt has the effect of causing inflammation. Any women out there who doesn’t want to wake up after Valentine’s Day with puffy eyes or a bulging stomach should avoid foods that are high in salt, this includes food heavily seasoned with fish sauce. A diet high in sodium can lead to increased kidney function, potentially resulting in chronic renal failure, while high blood pressure, cardiac arrests and strokes are other possible risks.
Making enquiries about a restaurant’s food can provide you with key information about how your food will be prepared, meaning you can reduce your sugar, oil and sodium intake. Furthermore, the waiting staff may be able to suggest other, healthier options as more and more of us are turning towards living healthier lifestyles than ever before.
This doesn’t mean splitting the bill but rather sharing the food on your plates. Some dishes contain more than enough food for one, so why not share your tasty dish with your date for the night and build a romantic atmosphere between you two. Sharing could also mean asking to take any food home that you cannot finish at the restaurant. That being said, if you don’t plan to return home within 2 hours, any food you’ve brought with you should be thrown away to ensure that your food is safe and uncontaminated by bacteria, thereby preventing the risk of stomach complaints and diarrhea.
Although Valentine’s Day is a big day for most of us, there’s no need to “go big” when ordering, meaning that you don’t have to ask for extra seasoning, meat, cheese or egg because this often results in additional unwanted calories that can eventually lead to our waistlines also “going big”.
After you’ve enjoyed your meal, try going out for a relaxing stroll to help your food go down; you can talk about one another’s lives, as well as your careers, dreams and aspirations for the future, all of which make wonderful Valentine’s Day topics of conversation. Also, for those of you who have been together a while, you could reminisce about days gone by, maybe even remembering memorable Valentine’s Days of old. In addition to the romanticism this can create, the walk will burn calories and ease digestion. However, be sure to choose a quiet route for your walk, away from traffic or other potentially dangerous situations.
Make your Valentine’s Day extra special by showing off your culinary skills to the one you love or even sharing the cooking responsibilities, which could involve going out shopping together for your favorite foods beforehand. Cook and season together, helping to create the tastes you both love, while saving money and spending quality time together. You could also invent your own new dishes or re-name a classic, giving it a romantic twist, all of which can increase the love and warmth felt between you as you end up eating the delectable food you’ve worked together to create.
Valentine’s Day, or rather everyday, should be a day full of joy and laughter. If your night doesn’t go as planned and the food is not as delicious as you had hoped, try not to worry about it or become stressed. Just sit back, relax and order a small dessert to finish off your romantic meal so that you can end the night with a smile on your face and with your stomach comfortably full. In addition to nutritional food, happiness and laughter are also vital keys to unlocking good health.
Valentine’s Day is a special time for two people to spend some quality time together. Couples who have a regular fitness routine shouldn’t feel the need to succumb to planning a typical dinner date, as you both might enjoy other activities such as going to see a movie, attending a live music concert, dancing, cycling, climbing, or other activities which you both enjoy. Partaking in them together can bring you closer together without having to break the bank on an expensive and potentially unhealthy meal.
When planning your perfect Valentine’s Day, put some thought into the ways in which you can keep it healthy so that you won’t require a period of recovery after your big night out. However, don’t be too strict on yourselves or worry too much over every little detail as this could severely impact your happiness. Valentine’s Day is a romance-filled day of love that should be packed with joy and mutual understanding. Just remember to keep smiling and laughing throughout as these are key aspects of achieving great health which are often overlooked.
The Second Class Honours M.D., Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University.