Whether your date is a first one or a 500th, a fancy 12-course meal or just Netflix and chilling, you’ll probably want to look and feel as good as possible on Valentine’s Day. Losing 15 pounds by February 14 isn’t possible, but there are some dietary tips that will enable you to put your best foot (and tummy) forward on date night.
Some foods are ultimately detrimental in an effort to feel light, fun, and flirty on not only Valentine’s Day dates but all dates. “But I thought choosing whole grains was good for me,” you may be saying to yourself. Generally, yes, whole grains should be sought out over processed flour sources. Why aren’t they good to eat before a romantic evening? We went to Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, for the answers:
Two words: Belly bloat. The struggle is real! While I can’t promise a trim tummy by Valentine’s Day, there are some things you can do to reduce the pooch. Hint: It’s not a juice cleanse. In fact, juices are high in fructose, which can cause gas and bloating for some people. You can eat real food (yay!), deflate, and look a little leaner on date night by following the bloat-beating commandments below. File ‘em away for Valentine’s Day or any day you’re struggling to get into your skinny jeans.
Certain Dairy Products
Milk, ice cream, and frozen yogurt are high in lactose, which causes gas and bloating for lots of people. If this is you — and you’ll know if it is — Greek yogurt and hard cheeses are good substitutions, as are lactose-free versions. This goes for Valentine’s Day and beyond.
Sodium can lead to excess bloat, and restaurant meals are notorious for piling on the salt. After doing some prying, I was startled to see that at Olive Garden, the Baked Tilapia with Shrimp has 1130mg of sodium. Even salads can be sodium bombs in disguise. Panera’s Power Kale Caesar with Chicken has 1280mg of sodium, which is half of what you should have in an entire day! The Zesty Chicken and Black Bean Salad Bowl at Starbucks clocks in at 840mg. You’re better off eating your veggies at home and dressing them with olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice. Plus, one would hope that you’re doing something a little bit more romantic than heading to Starbucks for Valentine’s Day dinner.
Everything from diet drinks to regular sodas and carbonated water goes hand-in-hand with bloat. Better to stick with flat drinks on date night.
Sauces, Soups, and Condiments
Add-ons like soy sauce and BBQ sauce are often loaded with sodium and sugar. Same goes for deli meats and cheeses as well as overly processed snacks and frozen meals of the past (you know, version 1.0 TV dinners and 2.0 diet meals). You’ll want to avoid those on date night and instead go for less processed fare: Version 3.0 frozen entrées (like Luvo), reduced sodium soups, and some herbs and spices to flavor food rather than pouring on the sodium- and sugar-packed sauces.
Beware of sugar substitutes that end in “ol” like sorbitol and mannitol. You can find them in sugar-free gums or candy and sometimes in energy bars. They bring on the bloat in a big way — in the form of gas and digestive distress. Skip the mints on date night and brush away bad breath instead.
Whole Grain Carbs
Healthy whole grain carbohydrates are good, but the truth is that they do bring on the bloat because grains — refined and whole alike — cause your body to hang onto water. If you’re shimmying into something special on Valentine’s Day, limit your carb intake and opt for veggies and lean protein like tuna, shrimp, or chicken breast for the day.
Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, is the Vice President of Nutrition at Luvo.
The accompanying slideshow is provided by special contributor Lauren Gordon.