KUSA - Valentine's Day is filled with love, but part of what makes it so sweet is the excessive amount of chocolate consumed.
Unfortunately, the "it's a holiday" excuse is far too prevalent on Valentine's Day. This also often leads to the "it's a weekend" excuse and other reasons to skimp on the healthy foods and gravitate to unhealthy ones. Keep on track this Feb. 14 with a few simple hints.
Be aware of high-fructose, artificially manufactured sweets. Valentine's Day is prolific for its high sweet-consumption and while eating some sugar is completely acceptable, try and make sure it's the right kind.
Some store bought candies are better than others. Conversation hearts and Fun Dip are almost entirely made up of colored sugar and you would have to run over a mile to burn off the number of calories in one fun size box of sweet hearts. Hershey's Cookies and Crème bars (white chocolate) don't even have chocolate-just oils and sugars. In addition, stay away from calorie rich Twix, Reese's cups, tootsie rolls, and butterfingers.
Many schools have a "Valentine's box" system where, at a designated time, kids walk around giving candy and Valentine's to everyone in the room. Usually, these boxes are filled with fun-size Twix, Valentine themed M&M, or FunDip. However, not all candy is created equal, and there's no disadvantage to handing out healthier options such as lollipops or three musketeer's bars.
Give your kid chocolate with nuts to pass around, as they have many healthy fats and are more filling than sugary artificial chocolates. Another great option is hard candy. Even though they are mostly sugar, they take a long time to eat and are low in calories. Even better, you could provide non-food options like pencils or themed erasers.
With those who are close to you, do away with the candy in Valentines gifts this year. We all appreciate the little gifts from friends exchanged on Valentine's Day and appreciate it even more if it doesn't pack on the pounds. Try spreading the love with little gifts instead of sweets chocolates. For example, holiday socks, heart-confetti nail polish, rose lotion, or festive hair ties are all great goody bag gifts.
Finally, when it comes time to bring in food for your child's Valentine's Day school party, don't be afraid to sneak in a healthy option. Store bought cupcakes are packed with calories and artificial ingredients. Instead of that last minute run to a grocery store's bakery, try some simple, delicious, and healthy options. Try a strawberry smoothie, raspberries with Nutella filling, heart shaped hard boiled eggs, or simple heart shaped strawberry cutouts.
Try these suggestions for a happy, healthy, and love-filled Valentine's Day!
Michelle Cardel, PhD, RD is a nutrition scientist and registered dietitian at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, University of Colorado Denver. Follow her on FaceBook and Twitter @MichelleCardel for daily nutrition tips!
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