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Examiner
  • Larry Jones: Valentine’s Day that’s good for your health

  • Valentine’s Day is right around the corner! It is a great opportunity to express your affection for the important people in your life. Unfortunately, some of the traditional ways of celebrating the day – candy, chocolates, a meal at an expensive restaurant, etc. – are not  very health-conscious.

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  • Valentine’s Day is right around the corner! It is a great opportunity to express your affection for the important people in your life. Unfortunately, some of the traditional ways of celebrating the day – candy, chocolates, a meal at an expensive restaurant, etc. – are not  very health-conscious. If you’re still thinking about how to celebrate, here are some ideas to send a sweet message without harming your sweetie’s health.
    Instead of dining out, plan a romantic evening at home. The American Heart Association (www.heart.org) offers a wide variety of heart-healthy recipes for every skill level. If you do choose to eat at a restaurant, ask your server about lighter options on the menu. Or split an entrée with your date – most restaurant portions are big enough for two meals.
    Get active – ice skating at the Centerpoint Community Ice (located at the Independence Events Center) is a fun way to spend a winter evening with a friend, a group, or the whole family, and will get your heart pumping! Bowling is another activity that will get you up off the couch, and is fun with a group. Go dancing, or sign up for dance lessons together. If weather permits, plan a bike ride on the Little Blue Trace Trail, and pack a healthy picnic to enjoy along the way.
    Take a nature walk – even during winter months, a walk outdoors is a great way to spend some quality time with your Valentine. At the same time, it will get your heart rate up, improve your mood, and reduce your stress level. The walking trails at George Owens Nature Park are a great place to start.
    If you can’t resist chocolate as a Valentine’s Day tradition, make it dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is full of health-boosting antioxidants, and is generally lower in sugar than milk or white chocolate. Studies have shown that moderate amounts of dark chocolate can actually help bring high blood pressure down, and may have other health benefits as well.
    Cut flowers are another Valentine’s Day standby, but although they are pretty, they wither within days. This year, consider giving a potted plant instead, which will continue to grow and thrive. Herbs are attractive and have a pleasant smell, and can be an added incentive to try new healthy recipes. Many herbs will grow well in a small pot by a kitchen window, and can be moved outside when the weather warms. Try mint, rosemary, basil, parsley, or thyme, and look forward to enjoying the aroma and flavor!
    The most important thing you can give to the people you love is quality time. Don’t stress out about planning the perfect date or finding the perfect gift. Just relax, celebrate the people that are important to you, and enjoy spending time together. And take advantage of the opportunities listed above to boost your health at the same time.
    Page 2 of 2 - Best wishes for a happy and healthy Valentine’s Day this year!
    Larry Jones, MPH, is the director of the Independence Health Department.
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