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    Enjoy a Healthy Valentine’s Day

    Formal Dinner

    By Jennifer Dalton MS, RDN, LD
    Director, Didactic Program in Dietetics
    University of Dayton Department of Health and Sport Science

    Celebrations are an important part of our culture, and while these occasions often include fine foods, wine, and delightful desserts, they do not have to derail our health goals. Here are six simple strategies to stay on track with your health goals while celebrating Valentine’s Day:

    1. Know your calorie budget.
    Know how many calories you should consume in a day so you can make informed decisions on how to use your calories throughout the day. Try calorie tracker apps, like My Fitness Pal and Lose It, to identify calorie goals.

    2. Avoid drinking away your calorie budget.
    Many beverages we share during those special times with loved ones are high in calories. For example, a 16-ounce hot chocolate from a coffee shop has 400 calories, and two glasses of wine have 240 calories.

    For a low sugar beverage option, try a 12-ounce, nonfat, steamed milk with almond; it’s an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D. Try a cranberry spritzer with lime in place of wine and an 8-ounce hot chocolate in place of the larger size. If consuming wine, limit to one 5-ounce serving to moderate your calories.

    3. Be mindful of the extras.
    Five small, individually wrapped dark chocolate squares are 210 calories, and desserts can add 150-500 calories to your day. While it is ok to eat these foods, moderation is key to ensure these choices do not break the calorie budget. Try taking a smaller serving size or share a dessert with a friend or loved one.

    4. Develop a dining out strategy.
    Eat slowly, use a small plate to encourage selection of smaller serving sizes, take time between bites and enjoy the conversation, move away from food on the table, and wait 15-20 minutes before going back for seconds. Another effective strategy is sharing a meal with your loved one. The typical restaurant meal contains 1,128 calories and adds up to 50 percent of the recommended intake for an individual's calorie budget.

    5. Establish a good eating schedule.
    While it may seem like a reasonable idea to skip a meal to eat one larger meal at dinner, skipping meals has been shown to slow metabolism, and eating one large meal will encourage fat storage. Be certain to include extra fiber such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet around the holidays. A Penn State study showed that when participants in their study ate an apple before a meal, they ate fewer calories at the subsequent meal than those who did not consume an apple.

    6. Share in an activity.
    Use calories and help improve your heart’s health by sharing in an activity with your loved ones. Commit to being active together this year— take a walk (120-170 calories/30 minutes), go dancing (90-130 calories/30 minutes), or participate in a hike at a local park (180-270 calories/30 minutes).

    Have a happy and healthy Valentine’s Day!