Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Day Treats That Won't Derail Your Diet!

Think Valentine's Day has to be a diet disaster? Think again! Here are some sweet and healthy food and drink ideas to make your special day a little bit more romantic while sparing your waistline.

Coffee - Sometimes regarded as an aphrodisiac, coffee awakens the senses and stimulates the body and mind. Engage in a little romantic conversation with your honey at your favourite coffee shop in the afternoon to get the romantic vibes goings. Coffee has many health benefits so long as you are conscious about what exactly goes into your brew. Skip the sugar (or use less) and opt for a low-cal sweetener, making sure to ask for skim milk or low-fat soy in your concoction. You could even add in a little chocolate syrup and a tablespoon or two of whipped cream (only about 25 calories per tablespoon) for a little indulgence that won't throw your diet out the window. Your guilty pleasure will taste so good you won't even miss those empty calories!

Dark Chocolate - Dessert doesn't have to equal a ton of extra calories and sugar if you are smart about it. There have been so many good things said about the amazing delicacy known as dark chocolate that there's no way you can't have some on Valentine's Day (as if you even needed an excuse)! Dark chocolate is actually being touted by some as a 'health food' because it is so rich in antioxidants called flavinoids which can help prevent disease. These antioxidants are found in the cocoa beans, so the higher the percentage of cocoa in your chocolate, the better; aim for at least 60%. Warning: White chocolate contains zero cocoa, so steer clear of it!

Be careful not to over indulge, however, because despite the fact that dark chocolate can lower cholesterol and blood pressure in small amounts (about 6 grams or so), it is also loaded with sugar and fat - consume too much and you are doing yourself a major disfavour. Try making a few dark chocolate-dipped strawberries and other fresh fruits such as pineapples and bananas for a sweet, romantic dessert that packs more good stuff than bad.

Wine - A staple on Valentine's Day or any other romantic occasion, both red and white wine offer health benefits if consumed in moderation. The alcohol and phytochemicals found in wine can actually reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and slow the progression of neurological degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease. One to two drinks a day is all it takes - any more and, again, those health benefits are lost.

If you're out for drinks with your sweetheart, alternate glasses of wine with a tall glass of water. Really take your time sipping and tasting the flavours in your wine, and enjoy each other's company.

Over all, the key to a healthy, balanced lifestyle is moderation. Sure, you've heard that a million times before, but it really is true. Stick with these guilt-free Valentine's Day suggestions and you'll be on the right track to health (and romance!).