Does the mention of Valentine’s Day make you think of big, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates? Most of us associate this holiday with chocolate indulgence. But there is a healthier way to celebrate this heart-centered holiday. Here are some ideas.


* Strawberry roses – Insert a wooden skewer into the bottom of some fresh strawberries. Dip them into dark chocolate (dark ch

ocolate, at least 60% cocoa, is considered healthful). When the chocolate is cool, arrange the strawberries in a vase or other container.

* Jell-O shapes – Remember Jell-O cut-outs? They are still loved by kids. Although many people do not consider Jell-O healthy, you can make your own using hot water, gelatin, and fruit juice (grape or cranberry are good choices for Valentine colors). The fruity gelatin can be poured into heart-shaped molds or solidified in a pan and cut into heart shapes.

* Pink cream cheese – You can add some red food coloring to plain cream cheese, or buy strawberry-flavored cream cheese. Then use it to make healthy Valentine-themed snacks, such as heart-shaped bagels. Or use it as a dip and/or spread for strawberries.

* Watermelon – Naturally red, watermelon is great for cutting into shapes. Cut heart shapes for a healthy treat.

* Fruit kabobs – Nature provides a lot of red fruits that look pretty on a skewer. Cherries, raspberries, strawberries, and even cut-up red apples can all be put on a skewer and enjoyed by young and old alike. Serve with pink cream cheese or fruit dip if you like.

* Healthy hearts – Valentine’s Day is a heart-themed holiday. Think of heart-healthy foods and serve those as snacks. For example, heart-healthy seeds and nuts like sunflower seeds and almonds can be served in pretty muffin papers or heart-shaped containers. Make heart-shaped bran muffins, or arrange sliced strawberries in a heart on top of a bowl of oatmeal.

* Sandwiches – Using a cookie cutter, cut whole wheat bread into heart shapes. Make sandwiches with whatever healthy filling you like – the heart shape makes it festive. For an extra touch, put a decorative red toothpick through each sandwich.

* Heart-y chips – Cut whole wheat tortillas into heart shapes. Brush them with olive oil, sprinkle them with salt, and then bake them at 425 degrees F until crisp (about 8 minutes). Serve these with red, tomato-y salsa or other seasonal dip.

Focusing on the heart means healthy foods. Chocolate, whole grains, and other foods mentioned in this article are not only festive; they are good for the heart.

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