Even as nutrition experts, we’re all about a holiday that revolves around chocolate, candy, and baked goods. Valentine’s Day only comes once per year, and we want to enjoy it, sugar included. It’s easy for this sweet day to turn into a diet disaster, since it often includes a lavish restaurant meal with your honey and plenty of heart-shaped goodies. How can you avoid a not-so-sweet sugar coma come February 15th? Indulge, but do so wisely, with these tips from Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Karen Ansel:

1. Go for the chocolate – The cocoa in chocolate contains heart-healthy antioxidants called flavonols that help lower blood pressure and relax blood vessels. Popular alternatives such as sweet tarts and gummie bears offer plenty of sugar and calories with no nutritional benefits.

2. The darker the better – We don’t like to discriminate when it comes to chocolate, but if you have the option, skip the milk chocolate and choose dark chocolate instead to get more flavanols. Bars with a higher percent of cocoa in their ingredient list are generally the best. Most brands contain about fiftty percent cocoa, but some offer as much as eighty percent.

3, Mix in some nuts – Along with dark chocolate, treats that contain nuts tend to deliver the most heart-healthy perks. Avoid chocolates filled with cream, which are loaded with fat or with “fruit” fillings that likely contain no fruit and tons of sugar.

4. Check your portions – We know this one is tough, believe us! But try to stick to one or two pieces of dark chocolate, and pay attention to the serving sizes on larger bars. Just because chocolate is good for you does not mean you should go crazy, because the fat and calories still add up, and will end up undoing the nutritional benefits.

5. Have fun with fruit – For a dessert that is good for your heart and better for your waistline, melt dark chocolate and drizzle it over strawberries, pineapple, or banana slices. You’ll get the rich chocolate taste to satisfy your craving, plus antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

For more tips on how to indulge wisely, or “Get Your Plate in Shape” head over to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website at www.eatright.org.

If you would like some help developing a healthy eating plan for you and your family, Family Food LLC has an expert team of registered dietitians to help! Get in touch with us by phone or e-mail, or leave us a message on Facebook or Twitter by clicking the icons in the upper right corner of our homepage. If your insurance qualifies, you could be entitled to SIX FREE VISITS. Check out our “Services” page to find out!

Source: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/03/4236582/how-to-be-smart-about-valentines.html

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