A Dietitian’s Guide to Having a Healthy Valentine’s Day

Call me a sap, but Valentine’s Day is one my all-time-favorite days of the year. Some might call February 14 a “Hallmark holiday,” but to me, I see it as a day to spend with those I love and do something nice for them. I also love this holiday because it is a great excuse to have my husband take me out to a nice restaurant and splurge a little.

One thing I have learned over the years is how to enjoy my Valentine’s Day meal without feeling like I have completely fallen off of my healthy diet. Here are some tricks that I use:

  • Stick to water – This one is fairly easy for my husband and me to follow, since, aside from milk, this is really the only beverage we drink at home. Not only does drinking water keep the bill down, it allows us to “save our calories” for other parts of our meal. If having something more substantial to drink is a necessary part of your evening, try to keep alcohol to one glass, or sip on a diet or low-calorie drink, such as iced tea.  Drinking water throughout the day before dinner is also a great idea. This will help keep you hydrated, as dehydration can often be masked as hunger.
  • Fill up on a healthy starter, like salad and whole grain bread – Many restaurants will start you out with bread and butter or oil. While I normally suggest skipping the bread basket if you are watching your figure, a strategy that works for me is to actually indulge in a slice of whole grain bread (and skip the butter!) before your meal.  This can help ensure that you are getting in a good dose of fiber with dinner and help you to not be so ravenous when your meal comes. I am also a big fan of starting your meal with a salad, which will also help to fill you up with vegetables. Just remember to ask for your dressing on the side!
  • Don’t be afraid of the doggy bag – At my favorite Valentine’s Day restaurant, I am usually getting pretty full by the time my dinner comes (because I have been sipping on water, eating salad,  whole grain bread, and possibly splitting a healthy, vegetable-based appetizer). The best thing about only eating a small portion of your dinner is that you can bring it home and enjoy your delicious meal for days to come! Last year, my Valentine’s dinner leftovers made a nice lunch for two whole days!
  • Split dessert –Since Valentine’s Day is the day of love, dessert is the perfect time for you and your dinner date to practice the art of sharing. This one might seem obvious, but I know I am guilty, on many occasions, of feeling up to the challenge of having my very own dessert! If you find yourself wanting a little more after dinner is over, try ordering some milk, hot tea or coffee with your shared dessert.
  • Go on a romantic walk after dinner – It is always a great idea to get some physical activity every day, but even more so when you have had an indulgent meal. This is a great opportunity for you and your Valentine to go for a walk after dinner.