Tips for a Healthy Valentine's Day

From intimate meals to decadent desserts, couples across the globe will be celebrating romance this February 14th. Love it or hate it, Valentine's Day remains one of the biggest restaurant nights of the year - one that often involves heavy dinners. But with a few tips and some planning, you can get through the big night without adding inches to your waistline.

Step away from the bread basket. If you'd like a roll, grab one then move it outside of your reaching distance. The same goes for chips, should you be at a Mexican restaurant. Grab a small handful and then stay away from them the rest of the night.

Meal modifications are key. Feel free to make special requests. Ask the waiter if they can put the sauce on the side - or to substitute veggies for the french fries. Find out if your meal can be made without butter, oil or salt...anything that could help cut down on calories. And remember: in terms of calories, grilled is usually better than fried and baked is better than braised.

Start out healthy. Consider ordering a light salad or soup to kick things off. This will help to fill you up before you dive into the big meal. You also might want to split an entrée with your significant other.

Practice portion control. Remember that restaurant sizes are often larger than normal. Consider eating half of your meal and putting the rest in a doggie bag.

Avoid all the bells and whistles. Don't add a bunch of extras to your meal. When it comes to a salad, avoid topping it off with buttery croutons, grated cheese, bacon and dollops of high-fat dressing. The same goes with a burger, baked potato and other entrees.

Think red. Red bell peppers, radicchio, cherries, strawberries, red beans, red onions and tomatoes, for example, are all packed with vitamins, cancer-fighting antioxidants or cholesterol-busting fiber and protein. In addition, a daily glass of red wine is believed to help reduce the risk of blood clots and keep the cardiovascular system in shape. So forgo that cocktail, which can be loaded with sugar, and have a glass of red wine instead (and ask if they serve a light version).

Don't always give the gift of chocolate. If you and your significant other are trying to lose or maintain weight, consider purchasing a fruit basket instead of a box of chocolate, or baking a low-calorie dessert. It's also important to remember that a number of sugar-free candies and chocolate brands are available and can be found at your local grocery store or the candy section of an area pharmacy. A bouquet of flowers, healthy cookbook, personal training sessions or a day spa gift certificate could also prove worthy gift substitutes.

Do not completely deprive yourself. Valentine's Day is a time for laughter, fun and food. Having a small slice of cake or a couple truffles will not lead to weight gain. Moderation is key. And if you do pop the lid off that box of chocolates this Valentine's Day, don't feel guilty. Research indicates chocolate is chock-full of healthy compounds and may actually help prevent heart disease, enhance immune systems and give us a feeling of well-being.

Consider dining in this year. A great way to save calories, money and avoid crowds. Find an easy reduced calorie meal that you can cook with or for your significant other at home. Rent some romantic movies and make a healthy dessert, like strawberry shortcake sprinkled with your favorite low-calorie sweetener, and enjoy!

Visit http://www.caloriecontrol.org/recipes-for-a-healthy-lifestyle for more ideas on how to enjoy good food with little weight gain.