Ballwin and Ellisville's Guide to a Healthy Valentine's Day

Health & Fitness Columnist Dawn Runge gives some local tips on how to keep your expressions of love from turning into love handles.

Whether you've recently sworn off unhealthy foods or perhaps still have a sweet tooth, Valentine's Day may seem like an affront to your senses, second only to Halloween.

You may have steered clear of the 3-tiered boxes of chocolates and mounds of cupcakes at office parties. Still, here are a few reminders on what to avoid while still being able to enjoy good food and company.

1. Organic doesn't mean healthy. While it may be free of pesticides, the chocolate, cream, and flour in the cake has just the same amount of saturated fat as its conventional counterpart. Don't take "organic" as a license to down a whole cake.

2. Think quality, not quantity. Americans are trained to think, "bigger is better". Instead spend a little more for artisan quality and savor your treat. A small box of 4 handmade chocolates can offer much more pleasure than that giant assortment with flavors you really don't even like (what IS that substance anyway?)

3. It's a "cheat" meal, not a "cheat" DAY. So you've got a dinner at your favorite restaurant with your sweetie. Don't let your fitness goals get de-railed in a dinner that could easily exceed your daily caloric expenditure. Think about what tastes are most important to you. Pick the glass of wine OR the cream sauce for your steak OR sharing the cheesecake.  Or if you're going to dinner with multiple couples, order healthy entrees but share sips of wine or bites of a dessert.

4. Know your restaurant lingo. Anything in a beurre (butter) sauce, or a sauce in general is likely loaded with fat and calories. I always order my protein cooked with no/very little oil or butter and have sauces put on the side. This way you can control your indulgence. And you think you're safe ordering veggies? Almost all restaurants coat them in oil or butter, so order them the same way you order your meat. Don't forget to be gracious and patient when ordering, and I always leave a little something extra and thank the chef if possible for their help.

5. Portion control. Meat portions at restaurants range between 3 and 20 ounces, depending on where you go. A 3-4 ounce portion (about the size of your palm) is ideal, and many menus list the portion size on the menu but a server should be knowledgeable as well. If you order an 8-ounce salmon, take the other half home. If ordering steak, ask your server what the leanest cut available is. If you really want potatoes, have only one partner order and share those, while loading up on the (unbuttered) veggies.

6. Romance at home. Not only is this wallet-friendly, but you can control the quality and portion of the products you buy. Focus on the ambience and enjoying your food over a few hours while engaging in activities and conversation. Few things feel less sexy than a heavy, shoveled-down meal.

7. Keep it moving. Make your Valentine's activity focused on fitness, or at the very least one that keeps you moving. Some ideas that are close by:

  • Love birds. The World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park is open 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. daily and has free admission and parking.
  • Park and smooch. Patch favorites Castlewood State Park and Queeny Park are both great for bundling up and taking a thermos of hot tea to toast each others finer points framed by natural beauty.
  • Dance off. Can't dance? Get your sweetie a couple's certificate to Just Dance or Dancing Through Life in Ballwin (bonus points if they love to dance and you've got 2 left feet).  Already rockin' and rollin'? Head over to Sky Music Lounge- but remember, you're there to burn calories, not imbibe them!
  • Bunny sloped into my heart. Hidden Valley Ski is right outside of Ellisville, in Wildwood. They offer different daily specials, and what’s more romantic than an apres-ski snuggle?
  • Work it out! Take a gym class together, or if you don't have a gym, get a day pass to one you've wanted to explore. For men who are confident in themselves or willing to look silly to make their love smile, an aerobics class can turn up the heat! And West County has two unique treats just outside the Ballwin-Ellisville area: the SkyZone Trampoline Park  in chesterfield and Upper Limits Rock Climbing Gym in Maryland Heights. Reservations are ideal for both places- so make sure to call ahead.


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