Red roses surround a wine bottole, and two glasses of wine.
Valentine’s is loaded with healthy living landmines. A dietitian shares how to navigate the bumpy road. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Nothing says ‘I love you’ quite like a heart-shaped box of chocolates.

When you open the package on Valentine’s Day, complete with a bouquet of roses, your heart is sure to melt.

But what is that delicious box of candy doing to your waistline?

According to Rebecca Patterson, a registered dietitian at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital, there are healthier options than calorie-laden gifts for your special someone this Valentine’s Day.

She recommends making the day special by spending quality time together rather than just celebrating with food.

“Couples can do things together that promote wellness such as taking a dance class or going snowshoeing,” Patterson said. “It doesn’t always have to be about food.”

If you’re set on centering date night around food, she says it’s more intimate to stay at home and make a healthy dinner together rather than going to a restaurant.

“A lot of times when people go out to eat they throw caution to the wind, especially on a special occasion such as Valentine’s Day or an anniversary. As a result, they don’t watch portion sizes and often splurge on unhealthier options.”

For a list of healthy Valentine’s Day meals, Patterson recommends websites such as Cooking Light.

A glass of wine with dinner

Practicing romance with wine is commonplace for many couples as a simple glass of wine can enhance a candlelit dinner.

Patterson doesn’t discourage wine drinking as research has indicated a glass of red wine can actually be good for you.

“There are some health properties to red wine,” she said. “If you drink it in moderation, red wine can decrease your risk of heart disease.”

She cautions that red wine is still empty calories so people need to be mindful about how large their glass of wine is and should limit themselves to just one glass. Patterson also reminds people that white wine does not have the same health benefits that red wine has.

Dinner and a movie

It’s the classic example of a romantic evening. You and your partner enjoy a nice dinner followed by a trip to the local movie theater.

While enjoying a movie isn’t unhealthy, the choices we make at the concession stand usually are.

“When you get popcorn or snacks at the theater, it’s mindless eating,” Patterson cautioned. “You’re focused on the screen and not the food so you can quickly eat an entire bag of popcorn without even realizing it.”

If you are going to get popcorn at the theater, she says to limit the amount of butter you put on it. Another healthy option is to get water rather than a soda pop.

The box of chocolates

If you are dead set on getting your loved one that heart-shaped box of chocolates, Patterson says you don’t have to buy the biggest box you can find. Opt for a smaller box and try dark chocolate as opposed to milk chocolate.

“Dark chocolate is a healthier choice,” she said. “The antioxidants and flavonoids in dark chocolate are known to decrease blood pressure and lipid levels.”

Dark chocolate is still high in saturated fat and should be eaten in moderation.