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Nutrition Made Easy For Busy People

Avoiding Those Valentine Vices

Jackie Lynch, author of The Right Bite, suggests some smart food and drink swaps to keep you on the straight and narrow in February. This blog originally featured on Nourish Books website: http://www.nourishbooks.com/blog/.

When the shops start to feature large displays of pink champagne and mountains of foil-wrapped chocolate hearts, it can mean only one thing – Valentine’s Day is upon us, and the chocolate season is about to start in a big way.

Valentine’s really has become more of a season than just a single day which can quickly undermine any healthy habits you established in January, as there’s a whole host of tempting treats available in the shops for several weeks. Even if you don’t specifically celebrate Valentine’s, it can be hard to resist adding a chocolate treat or bottle of fizz to your shopping trolley from time to time, when they’re so easy to hand.

So what can you do to keep the damage to a minimum? Here are a few handy hints to help you to avoid the vices and make a virtue out of Valentine’s.

  1. Avoid champagne and other sparkling wine. This may seem the natural choice for a celebration, but unfortunately it’s really bad news for your waistline. Sparkling wine is incredibly high in sugar – just two standard 125ml glasses contain the equivalent of 3 teaspoons of sugar, and sugar really is the main culprit when it comes to gaining inches around your waist. If you’re looking to keep in shape but still want to enjoy some wine, you’d do far better to share a bottle of red with your beloved, as the sugar content is minimal, by comparison.
  2. Choose your chocolate with care. If you already know that a box of chocolates is on the cards for you on Valentine’s Day, then it’s time to start dropping hints about dark chocolate. Milk chocolate is often highly processed and usually contains about 5 times as much sugar as dark chocolate. The high levels of cocoa in dark chocolate give it a more bitter taste, which has the added bonus of meaning that you’re likely to eat less of it, especially if it’s in tablet form, rather than filled chocolates. Aim for at least 80% cocoa, as you’ll benefit from the flavonoids found in cocoa, protective plant compounds which are associated with supporting cardiovascular health and choose an organic product if possible, as this limits the exposure to toxins in the non-organic production process.
  3. Prepare a Valentine’s meal at home. Restaurants are usually more crowded and often a lot pricier around Valentine’s Day, so this could be a smart move on a number of fronts. Nutrition-wise it leaves you in control of your ingredients, cooking methods and portions. Consider grilling rather than frying a steak to keep fat content down. Steam rather than boil your vegetables, so that you retain higher levels of vitamins. Keep high-calorie starch, such as bread, rice and pasta to a minimum, as this is likely to sit heavily on your stomach, making you feeling quite sluggish and sleepy after dinner which could hinder any plans to get amorous!
  4. Don’t bake (or buy) a Valentine’s cake. Just one modest slice of cake contains the equivalent of about 8 teaspoons of sugar, and 350-400 calories and that’s without taking into account any icing. It’s really not the best choice if you want to keep on looking fabulous in that little black dress or your skinny jeans. Try strawberries dipped in melted dark chocolate instead – it’s not just the healthier option, it’s a far sexier and more decadent Valentine’s dessert than a slab of cake. And you don’t need to be an experienced cook, as it couldn’t be easier – just Google a recipe and give it a go.

Happy Valentine’s Day!