COLLEGE STATION – With health and the economy two of the major issues facing residents of Texas and the U.S., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts have ideas on how to keep Valentine’s Day romantic while watching waistlines and wallets.
“There are a number of low-cost and creative alternatives to more expensive ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day that can be as — or even more — romantic than those generally associated with it,” said Nancy Granovsky, AgriLife Extension family economics specialist, College Station. “Some of these alternatives can be good for your health, including your heart, and what could be more appropriate for Valentine’s Day.”
Granovsky said consider making your loved one a heart-healthy dinner at home for Valentine’s Day.
“Not only will this cost less than going out to eat, but it will focus on caring for the person or persons who are most important in your life,” she said.
She said taking a walk or bike ride is good for the heart in both romantic and practical terms.
“A long walk is not only a good way to get some exercise, but it gives a couple time to talk and reflect on their relationship,” she said. “In keeping with that theme, Valentine’s Day is also a good time to schedule a future date for a ‘heart-to-heart’ talk about where you are headed as a couple or family.”
Granovsky said setting a future date to discuss your personal and financial goals will help couples and families determine if they are on track for achieving these goals or need to consider setting new ones.
“By engaging in these goals or conversation, you will be taking the first step to turn your dreams into realities for the long run,” she said.
Another money-saving yet heartfelt activity is to have your children make homemade Valentines for friends and family, Granovsky said.
“A homemade valentine, especially coming from a child, means a lot and can even be a keepsake,” she said. “Instead of spending money on a generic Valentine’s Day card, having kids make their own card is a way for them to learn to be creative by making something unique from items and materials found in your home.”
She said instead of spending money on cut flowers that will last only a short time, consider buying a rose bush or other ornamental plant.
“For example, Earth-Kind roses are chosen for their beauty and ability to grow in different areas of Texas,” she said.
Earth-Kind is a special designation given to select rose cultivars by AgriLife Extension through the Earth-Kind landscaping program after extensive research and field trials. It is awarded to rose varieties for their ability to grow in different soil types and for their heat, drought and pest tolerance. More information on Earth-Kind roses can be found at the Aggie Horticulture website http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkindroses/about/.
“By giving a living plant, you and your Valentine can enjoy its blooms much of the year,” Granovsky said.
“In terms of having a healthier Valentine’s Day, some foods associated with Valentine’s already have some health benefits, but there are other foods you can consider putting on the menu for a healthier meal,” said Dr. Mickey Bielamowicz, AgriLife Extension nutrition specialist, College Station.
Bielamowicz said while laboratory studies show milk chocolate does not have any particular benefits, dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which have been shown to have some heart- and cancer-protective characteristics.
“Flavonoids are polyphenols that may have significant health benefits,” she said. “They have been shown to prevent blood clots, suppress growth in some tumors and act as anti-inflammatories.”
She said in addition to dark chocolate, other foods containing flavonoids include apples, beans, broccoli, cherries, cranberries, eggplant, grapes, soybeans, tea, tomatoes, various nuts, red wine and purple grape juice.
“Most berries, including strawberries, contain flavonoids and antioxidants, so strawberries or other berries dipped in dark chocolate can be reasonably healthy if eaten in moderation,” she said.
Bielamowicz also suggested preparing a healthy Valentine’s meal at home in which some ingredients have been substituted with lower-fat or lower-calorie alternatives.
Information on altering recipes for healthier meals can be found at http://fcs.tamu.edu/food_and_nutrition/pdf/alteringrecipes.pdf.