SALT LAKE CITY — Valentine’s Day is a wonderful day to celebrate people who we love and respect, but it can start to feel overwhelming if you don’t have a game plan to help you balance the yummy treats and healthy eating.
So often, people feel the need to use holidays as "cheat days" in their diets, but this doesn’t have to be the case. It is possible to enjoy all the chocolate and candy of Valentine’s Day while maintaining a healthy lifestyle — because a truly balanced diet has room for a sweet treat.
Give yourself permission
The first step to balancing out all of the sweet treats this Valentine’s Day is to give yourself permission to eat them. When we put restraints on what foods we can and can’t eat it may cause our body to fixate on that food item and crave it until we give in and eat it. This is a common problem many people face when trying to stick to a diet.
Often times, when people cave to these cravings they might binge on the food item and eat a large amount, which can result in feelings of guilt and failure. The easiest way to avoid this is to give yourself permission to eat whatever you would like. You may be surprised to find that as you practice allowing all foods to be part of your diet, you won’t continuously crave the "forbidden" foods and binge eat them later.
It takes practice to truly accept all foods into your diet, so don’t give up on this idea after the first attempt. Give it a try this Valentine’s Day and eat a yummy treat, guilt-free.
Be mentally aware
The second step to having a balanced lifestyle is try to be more mentally aware of why you are eating. Eating doesn't need to be a stressful event, but often times it becomes very stressful for people. This stress can result in overeating or eating food we don’t like very much.
Try to take a mental note before eating something. Ask yourself a couple of simple questions: "Am I actually hungry?" or "Am I eating my feelings (e.g., stress, anger, sadness)?"
Valentine’s Day can be a hard day for many individuals, for many different reasons. This may result in eating food to cope with difficult feelings. This isn’t always a bad thing as food can temporarily help us feel happier and calmer, which can be helpful in re-centering ourselves. However, it can also become a serious problem if it's used as our only coping mechanism to deal with a stressful day or sadness.
Being more mindful of the reasons for why and what you are choosing to eat can help you identify if you're using food as a coping mechanism. Using food as a daily coping mechanism can be very unhealthy. If you find yourself in this situation, you may want to look into other coping strategies and seek help to improve your relationship with food.
Valentine’s Day dinner ideas
Now that you have a couple of tips on how to maintain a balanced lifestyle this Valentine’s Day, here are a few fun Valentine’s-themed dinner ideas that include both healthy foods and a sweet treat:
- Heart-shaped pizza with a salad, veggies or fruit tray.
- Breakfast for dinner: heart-shaped pancakes with fresh strawberries and a glass of milk. Buy some of your favorite candy and enjoy this simple dinner and dessert.
- Heart-shaped quesadillas: Use a cookie cutter to cut out heart-shaped tortillas and let your family add different veggies and meat to the quesadilla before cooking. Add a side of guacamole to include a healthy fat. Add some heart-shaped sugar cookies for dessert, and you are good to go.
- Heart-themed charcuterie board: If you are feeling ambitious this Valentine’s Day, create a charcuterie board and cut some of the food items into hearts. You can use a cookie cutter again for this idea. Make sure to add some chocolate or candy so you can enjoy a sweet treat too.
- Favorite foods: Valentine’s Day is about showing people that we love them, so make a meal out of your family’s favorite foods. It doesn’t matter if it is a hodgepodge of different foods. It's a fun way to celebrate the ones you love. Have different people pick the main dish, the sides, and the dessert.
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