This year’s Valentine’s Day will be unlike any other in history, as millions of Americans are staying home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A simple “dinner and a movie” date may feel like a distant memory, and being alone with your sweetheart may not have happened for several months if you live with kids, parents, or in-laws. Some people may not be able to be with that special someone on this special day.
On top of this year’s concerns related to staying safe and happy, there may be the perennial question of how to stay healthy on Valentine’s Day in the face of boxes of chocolate, creamy pasta, and steak with butter.
Despite the differences, and challenges, of 2021, Valentine’s Day can be a safe, healthy, and happy day. It is also a great opportunity to create a lasting positive memory of our time living with COVID-19. Here are some ideas for making the day shine.
Cooking a Healthy Valentine’s Day Menu
Valentine’s Day dinners can be healthy, but they can be the opposite if you are not careful. A menu with items such as lobster bisque, beef Wellington, and raspberry cheesecake is high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates. On the other hand, a menu with roasted red pepper tomato soup, grilled salmon with asparagus, and chocolate-dipped strawberries has antioxidants, fiber, and protein.
These are some other appetizers, main courses, sides and desserts that may fly with your special someone.
- Skillet chicken with mushrooms: brown chicken breasts in a skillet with olive oil or cooking spray. Add mushrooms, red wine, chopped onions, salt and pepper, thyme, and chicken broth, and cook.
- Mixed greens dressed with a vinaigrette of raspberries, olive oil, rice vinegar, and poppyseeds.
- Wedge of iceberg lettuce with crumbled blue cheese and olive oil and vinegar.
- Caesar salad with homemade whole-grain croutons and low-fat dressing.
- Broiled or poached salmon.
- Roasted root vegetables with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and rosemary.
- Bouillabaisse with whole-grain dinner rolls.
- Seafood bake with lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, white wine, and parsley.
- Whole-wheat linguine or zucchini noodles with pesto sauce and shrimp.
For dessert, a little treat may fit into your meal plan. It could be a single piece of high-quality chocolate, a small scoop of chocolate ice cream with candy sprinkles and chopped nuts, or a sliver of cheesecake with a mound of berries, for example.
Healthy Restaurant Foods to Order
Though it may not be possible or safe to eat at the restaurant, many restaurants are delivering on Valentine’s Day and may even have special menus available. These are some options to consider.
- Starters: Garden salad or wedge of iceberg with dressing on the side; vegetable, chicken noodle, or minestrone soup
- Main Courses: Broiled salmon, trout, or other fish, grilled chicken or shrimp
- Sides: Roasted asparagus or brussels sprouts; steamed vegetables;
Restaurants may offer fresh fruit, but are otherwise unlikely to have a healthy dessert choice. Splitting a small dessert is an option. Another option is to make something special but healthy at home, such as sliced banana dipped in dark chocolate.
What to Do
What can you do when there is nothing to do? So much! Whether you and your sweetheart are in the same room or are separated by an ocean, you can share special experiences together without exposing yourself to COVID-19. Most of these ideas are possible for in-person and long-distance relationships.
- Cook a meal or dish either together or on video chat at the same time.
- Eat at the table together or on video chat. If you order in, the experience can feel more shared if you each get food from similar restaurants, such as Chinese or seafood, for example.
- Play games. Board games, card games, and getting-to-know-each-other couple’s games are all good choices to spend time together.
- Exchange gifts or care packages with specially chosen items, such as favorite snacks or cute socks. If remote, open each other’s on video, and send them in the mail the next day.
- Dance together.
Though you may not be leaving your own home, dressing nicely can make the occasion feel more special and can show how much you care about the other person.
Valentine’s Day may be about romantic relationships for some, but for many others, it is about sharing love with the entire family. This year’s circumstances may prevent you and your sweetie from hiring a babysitter for the kids while you escape for some one-on-one time, but the day can still be packed with love and fun.
As you may have already done so many times in the past year, you may be forced to fill in for your children’s teachers and friends as you plan Valentine’s Day. Instead of going to a party and maybe dance at school, your children may be depending on you for this day. These are some ways to make it special.
- Make Valentine’s Day cards for each other using whatever materials you have around, such as markers, paper, paint, crayons, yarn, and poster board.
- “Host” a dance with decorations, handpicked songs (or songs from the radio!), and refreshments such as fresh fruit, popcorn, and sparkling water in a punch bowl.
- Watch a romantic, comedy, or favorite movie together.
- Have dinner as a family, with possible homemade dishes including pizza with the crust (such as whole-grain pizza crust or a whole-wheat tortilla) cut into the shape of a heart, watermelon slices shaped like hearts, or breakfast-for-dinner oatmeal pancakes in the shape of a heart and topped with fresh berries.
- Read Valentine or love-themed books together.
- Make kindness rocks in Valentine’s themes, and distribute them throughout the neighborhood.
The important thing is to spend time together. Even older children, deep down, often crave focused time with their parents. Still, you can take time as a couple after the kids are in bed.
This Valentine’s Day may be different, but it can still be spectacular and healthy. With a bit of planning and a willingness to be flexible, you can focus on what really matters on this day: love.