And of course, no one should consume too much chocolate, although some studies point to some of its benefits to heart health, although probably not enough to make up for the weight gain, acne and other issues it can contribute to.
But it is a day to indulge, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has prepared some advice on how to do that in a healthier way.
First of all, if you have time, participate in a physical fitness activity, which can control your weight and also help to prevent some cancers as well as heart issues. After all, Valentine’s Day is all about hearts, right?
And if you go out to eat, it’s suggested that you check out the eatery’s most recent inspection report. We’ve made that easy to do at the Monongalia County Health Department (listed as Mon Co Health Dept), with our smartphone app that can be downloaded to Android devices and iPhones. After all, MCHD’s Environmental Health sanitarians are the ones who inspect restaurants at least twice a year.
If you go to a chain restaurant, you also can often peruse its website in advance and check out nutritional information of various dishes. When you do, watch out for sodium. More than 40 percent of the sodium we consume comes from these common foods: breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soup, sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meat dishes and snacks. Ask your server if lower sodium options are available.
Also ask about dishes such as Caesar salads, custards and some sauces, which might contain raw or undercooked eggs. That could be a source of salmonella. You also might want to consider asking for any meat, poultry or fish dishes to be cooked thoroughly to make sure all harmful bacteria have been killed.
As this is supposed to be a romantic evening, you also might want to get one entrée to share. After all, restaurant portions are pretty big these days. But if not, feel free to take leftovers home—and get them in the fridge fast. If you won’t be home within two hours, or one hour if it’s more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, leave the doggy bag at the restaurant.
But going out is not your only option. Staying in and avoiding the crowds can be nice too. If you decide to make your own meal, choose a healthy recipe to cook. Spice up your meal with seasonings and avoid prepackaged mixes that may contain a lot of salt. Or look for low-sodium or salt-free versions.
Your cooking method is key. Roasting, grilling and steaming are much healthier than frying, let alone deep frying.
Once you’ve cooked food, hold it at an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Keeping food warm—between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit—actually encourages growth of germs that cause foodborne illness, or food poisoning. Use a food thermometer to make sure your meal stays out of the danger zone.
At the same time, cold foods should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. And follow the two-hour rule: Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles that have been left at room temperature longer than two hours, or one hour if the temperature outside is warmer than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. And just like leftovers from a restaurant, whatever you don’t eat, put in the fridge in a timely manner to eat within three or four days, or freeze them if you think it would be longer before you get to it.
And a glass of wine is fine, but remember that excessive alcohol can lead to long-term health problems.
If you follow at least some of these guidelines, you’ll feel better about your health, especially if you decide to dig into a gooey dessert or if your love brings you chocolates to enjoy. Sometimes it’s just a matter of making a few different choices.
Happy Valentine’s Day.