Love is in the air…Valentine’s day give us that perfect opportunity to show our appreciation to our sweethearts, friends and family. Keep in mind that the day does not have to be all about chocolate and food. If you are going to splurge,  keep these healthy tips will keep your waistline in check:

  • Be choosy: Many sweet treats are loaded with fat and calories—one good reason to be more selective this valentine’s day. Instead of giving or enjoying chocolate alone, consider chocolate covered fruits like strawberries, orange or banana. Go for the kinds that are dipped in dark chocolate to boost the flavor and nutrients. Chocolate-covered almonds or cashews are also a great choice and can be enjoyed guilt free. Remember to favor dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa in order to maximize the health benefits, due to its phytonutrients.
  • Try something fun: Dinner and a movie is a tradition for many couples in Valentine’s day. This year, try an activity where you and your sweetheart can laugh, move and get more intimate. Go for a walk, try yoga, or visit a local park. If you are in a cooler weather, try ice-skating, rock climbing or a cooking class.

 

  • Keep it personal: Nothing says I love and I care for you more like a home cooked meal. One great benefit of cooking is that you can use fresh, natural and colorful ingredients and spices that will make your taste buds and heart happy. Surprise your loved one or friends with one of the recipes included in this article.

 

  • Make stress-free changes: If you choose to eat out this Valentine’s Day, order foods that are roasted, baked, grilled, boiled or braised instead of fried, breaded. Use less butter, oil, mayonnaise and toppings. Replace bread rolls, tortillas and pasta with whole grain or whole-wheat versions

 

  • Indulge wisely: Being naughty on valentine’s Day is allowed, just keep the sweets portions small. If you get a big box of chocolates, share it with your co-workers and friends. Sharing is caring, or so they say. Take your time with the pieces that you eat and don’t forget to savor every piece of that chocolate. Mindfulness is key to enjoy the texture, aroma and flavor.

 

  • Practice Kindness: volunteering is a beautiful way to spend valentine’s Day whether you are in a relationship or not. Your help will be welcome at a nursing home, church or food kitchen. Volunteering is a great way to share in the spirit of Valentine’s Day by showing others how much you care. Case in point, I will volunteer at a homeless shelter this year.

 

Healthier versions of Cuban recipes for this Valentine’s Day

Arroz Moro (brown rice with Cuban black beans)

Recipes by Ximena Jimenez

1 can of black beans                                                         1 large green pepper, chopped

2 cups of already cooked brown rice                            1 large onion, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste                                    3 garlic cloves, mashed

3 bay leaves                                                                       2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 cup of low sodium broth

 

Sauté the chopped onions, green bell peppers, and garlic until onions are translucent for about 3-5 minutes. Add salt, pepper and oregano to this sofrito and mix for about 5 minutes. Next, add beans and mix well. Add tomatoes and broth and mix for 5 more minutes. Add 2 cups of already cooked brown rice and mix well. Cook until all is absorbed; it may take 10-15 minutes.

 

Fricase de Pollo (Chicken Fricassee)

1 chicken, cut into small pieces                       1 tsp capers

6 garlic cloves, mashed                                     ½ cup raisins

1 half onion, minced                                                        4 spoonful of olive oil

2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped                1 cup stuffed olives

½ cup sour orange juice                                    1 bell pepper sliced

Salt and ground pepper to taste

Marinade chicken pieces in mashed garlic, sour orange juice, onion and bell pepper for about an hour. In a large pot simmer the garlic and onions in the olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add tomato, simmer for 5-10 minutes, then add capers, raisins and olives, also add the chicken and stir until all chicken pieces blend with the sauce. At this time add a cup of water and stir. Add salt and ground pepper to taste. Cook at low fire for about 30 minutes. Serve with Arroz con moro or brown rice.