Valentine’s Day is a day for love, not necessarily lovers, but love. That means it can be about loving anyone but also ourselves. I have been giving this concept a lot of thought lately since I know I have to be there for my family. Focusing on my elevated sugar levels that were of concern made me think about my health and it’s importance for me and everyone around me who cares about me. There is no way to care for others properly—meaning with kindness and patience—unless we truly take care of ourselves first.
Caring for ourselves doesn’t just mean physically, but also with mindfulness, and practical behaviors toward ourselves and others. My belief is that if we don’t deal with our needs first, it doesn’t matter how much exercise and healthy eating we do. We need to have the inner resources to move forward in a healthy way with family, friends and our community.
So for this Valentine’s Day, I will not be focusing solely on a small amount of chocolates to devour, but on pampering myself and others around me. Yes, with delicious and healthy food but also in other ways. Here is my plan (feel free to take notes):
Let’s get the chocolate out of the way first! Small amounts of dark chocolate which has much less sugar—and a lot more nutritional benefits than milk chocolate—are O.K. but only if we can control our chocolate cravings, which is hard for me. There are actually health benefits to eating dark chocolate such as improving cardiovascular health and decreasing blood pressure but it is hard to just have a little since sugar is so addictive.
If you want to have a bit more chocolate, sugar-free chocolates are an option as well. The upside of sugar-free chocolates, according to wellness expert and author Elaine Magee, MPH, RD is that the sugar alcohols are only partially digested and absorbed very slowly, so slowly, in fact that they do not raise blood sugar levels very much so little need for insulin.
The downside of sugar-free chocolate is that the sugar alcohols can act as a laxative and no one wants to be on the toilet on Valentine’s Day. The American Diabetes Association recommends no more than 20 grams of mannitol a day so as not to have diarrhea. Also be aware that sugar-free chocolate have only negligibly fewer calories as chocolate with sugar.
A healthier route and one that is more palatable for me is making chocolate-covered cashews or almonds. This way you are getting the nutritional value of the nuts and eating less chocolate than nut overall.
Here’s a recipe that I love:
Cocoa Dusted Dark Chocolate Cashews with Cayenne Pepper
10 oz dark chocolate
1 1/2 cups raw cashews (or almonds, pecans or any other nut)
A few shakes of unsweetened cocoa powder (good quality like Valrhona)
A few shakes cayenne pepper (optional)
1. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and stir. If you don't have a double boiler, put a stainless- steel bowl over a pot with boiling water under it.
2. Stir in the cashews until coated with the chocolate.
3. Put small clusters of chocolate cashews on a wax paper lined baking sheet or large plate and place in the fridge for at least 15 minutes until the chocolate is hardened.
4. Remove from the fridge and sprinkle the clusters with cocoa powder until dusted and then sprinkle with cayenne.
5. Store in an airtight container in a cool place
Some other ways to treat yourself and others to a special Valentine’s Day are as follows:
However you spend your Valentine’s Day, I hope it is as healthy and loving as I plan to make mine.