Valentine’s Day Treats That Won’t Bust Your Diet

Photo Credit: KitzOOO

Are you looking for the perfect sweet Valentine’s Day gift for yourself or a loved one, but don’t want to add too many extra calories? Sugar-free and low-sugar candies and sweets are a good option for those counting calories.

Chocolate should not make you feel guilty and may even help you get some nutrients you might be lacking. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which improve your blood pressure, lower your bad cholesterol and improves blood flow. The darker the chocolate, the more flavonoids it contains. Chocolates that consist of 70 percent cocoa are richest in flavonoids and usually less than 150 calories per serving. You can indulge in dark chocolate without the guilt. Unfortunately, milk chocolate does not offer the same guilt-free benefits and contains more calories.

Dried fruits are naturally sweet and contain plenty of vitamins and minerals. Nuts covered in dark chocolate are another good Valentine’s Day treat that won’t add a lot of calories to your diet. Some nuts can be high in fat, so check the label for calorie and fat information. Sugar-free jelly beans give you all the flavor your sweet tooth demands without the extra calories. Fresh fruits, such as strawberries, blueberries and pineapple are sweet and loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Are You Undoing Your Diet With Beverages?

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Cutting back on calories and exercising more are essential to losing weight and getting fit. If you are eating less and exercising more but you aren’t losing weight as fast as you think you should be, examine your beverages. Most of us are careful about the foods we eat, but beverages can undo your diet, too. Some beverages can ruin your diet by adding empty calories, which can be stored as fat. It may seem obvious to switch to diet soda or drink sugar-free beverages, but other drinks can be just as diet-destroying as sugary sodas. 
A bottle of fruit juice may contain as many calories as a regular soda. The trade-off is that fruit juice is rich in nutrients that your body needs. Fruit “drinks” and fruit “cocktails” often contain as little as 10% real fruit juice. Select only 100% fruit juices without added sugar. Vegetables juices are as nutritious as fruit juice but contain about half the calories. The trade-off with vegetable juice is, instead of sugar, vegetable juices often contain a lot of sodium. Look for low-sodium or no-added-salt versions of your favorite vegetable juice. Read the label on your favorite juice drink to find a blend that does not contain extra sugar or salt. 
A cool smoothie seems like it would be low in calories and high in nutrition, but this is not always the case. Restaurants may use honey, corn syrup or even ice cream to sweeten a fruit smoothie and send your caloric intake through the roof. Your best option is to blend your own smoothies at home so that you control the ingredients to avoid extra sugar and empty calories. Blend some blueberries, a banana and some strawberries with skim milk for a delicious, low-calorie, high fiber, nutritious beverage. 
Plain coffee contains zero calories and has antioxidants that are beneficial. When you add whipped cream, flavored syrups and sugar you have a diet bomb in a cup. Specialty and fancy coffee drinks can contain almost 600 calories per cup. If you don’t like plain coffee, use low-calorie flavorings and artificial sweeteners to avoid extra calories. Green tea is another zero calorie drink to consider. Water is the best choice to stay hydrated and cut calories. Drink a couple of glasses of water before dinner to help you feel more full to avoid over-eating. 

Are Fruits High In Sugar?

Photo Credit: André Karwath CC-BY-SA-2.5 2005
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate found in many fruits. Sugars are monosaccharides and disaccharides. Monosaccharides are simple sugar molecules like glucose and fructose. Dissacharides are two sugar molecules, such as sucrose. Sucrose is the familiar granulated table sugar. Lactose and dextrose are other types of dissacharide sugars. When several sugar molecules combine, they form a starch, or a complex carbohydrate. Sugar not only makes food taste sweet, it also provides your body with the fuel necessary for energy and body functions. Although sugar provides energy and is relatively low in calories (about 16 calories per teaspoon), it contains no essential vitamins and minerals. Fresh, raw fruits contain the monosaccharide fructose, but they also contain a number of essential vitamins and minerals. The sugar content varies in different fruits, but generally, raw fruit does not contain enough sugar to derail your diet. 
Fruits that are high in natural sugar will taste sweeter than other fruits. Apples, dates, bananas, figs, cherries and grapes contain more natural sugars than watermelon, strawberries, lemons, limes and kiwi fruits. Whole, fresh fruits contain essential vitamins like A, C, E and K. Minerals include potassium, zinc and magnesium. Fruits are also abundant in fiber, which should be an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. 

For more information about sugar content in popular foods, see:
WebMD, Sugar Shockers: Foods Surprisingly High In Sugar, by  Elaine Magee, MPH, RD