Healthful Valentine Ideas

— Written By Morgan McKnight

Almost everyone wants to be remembered on Valentine’s Day. Food seems
to be one of the more popular gifts based on the multitude of heart-shaped
boxes of candy, iced, heart-shaped cookies, and red and pink sprinkled and
cupcakes in local stores.

But, before you rush out to see what’s available—think about what your
sweetie would really appreciate. If they are trying to eat more healthful or
lose weight—even though it’s the thought that counts—a three-pound box
of chocolate might sabotage their efforts. Even people with the best
intentions may lose their willpower then tempted by sweets and goodies.
What you can do to support them and their efforts to be healthy?

I know you’re saying, it’s just one day and how can it hurt? OK. I won’t
stand on a soapbox and say don’t get them sweets—most people do love
chocolate and Valentine’s Day can be a time to splurge—a little!
Green apples, dark cherries, pineapple, bananas, raspberries, and
strawberries all taste great with a hint of dark chocolate. How about a gift
bag of fancy fruit and a little chocolate on the side? Something as simple as
drizzling a bowl of fruit with chocolate syrup can fit the bill and still is
healthy.

Image of strawberries
Chocolate Covered Strawberries are an option, too. They’re very special,
beautiful to look at and contain more fruit than chocolate. However, they
can be pricey. Perhaps you could try to make your own.

There’s a couple ways to do it: on top the stove in a double boiler or I’ve
been successful using the microwave.

24 ounces chocolate (dark chocolate, semisweet chips or melting chocolate
works well)

16 large strawberries (with stems are best), washed, dried and refrigerated

Stove method: Place the chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering
water and melt while stirring. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth,
remove from the heat.

Microwave oven: Place chocolate in a small but deep glass bowl or
measuring cup. Microwave on 50% power/medium for two to three
minutes until they are melted. Stir every 30 seconds. The chips will appear
shiny and may not change shape, but will be soft when stirred. Take care
not to heat too long or it will get clumpy and unusable.

Line a sheet pan with waxed paper. Grasp the stem of the strawberry (or
use a toothpick) and dip into the melted chocolate, twisting as you lift it
out. Allow the excess chocolate to drip off and then place on the waxed
paper. Repeat with the rest of the strawberries. Set the strawberries aside
and allow the chocolate to harden, about 30 minutes.

One more quick note about chocolate. I know you’re probably thinking
“what’s the fuss—isn’t chocolate good for you?” Dark chocolate does
appear to have some health benefits because of its high levels of
flavonoids. These are antioxidants that protect cells from damage caused
by free radicals which are unstable molecules that can alter and weaken
cells.

Research has found that flavanols, which are the main type of flavonoid
found in cocoa and chocolate, have potential influences on vascular health,
including lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and
heart, and making blood platelets less sticky.

So if you want to give chocolate on Valentine’s Day consider dark
chocolate. Milk chocolate doesn’t provide the same health benefits,
because dark chocolate has more cocoa than milk chocolate. Dark
chocolate often has less sugar and saturated fat than milk chocolate, too.
Researchers at Harvard University Medical School suggest choosing
chocolate that has at least 70 percent cocoa or more.

Chocolate can be part of a healthy diet – but it’s still high in sugar and
calories. The caution (of course) is that chocolate should be eaten in
moderation. So, sharing them with your sweetie can be both romantic and
healthful.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cheryle Jones Syracuse
Family and Consumer Science Staff
N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center

Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science team member and can be
reached at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center 910-253-
2610.