Here are some tools for your mind and body to celebrate the month of love in a heart healthy way. From divine dark treats (my warm dark chocolate cinnamon banana bites) to eating out made easy, and the heart healthy benefits of sassy salmon – I have you covered in my step-by-step guide.
Go Dark. Chocolate and the day of love go hand in hand. Deprivation is no fun and leads to the deadly combination of hanger. Not to mention, it is no way to live life. You also will end up overeating then repeating an unhealthy cycle. Instead, I always advise my clients to GO dark and indulge in dark chocolate.
Select Wisely. Many labels advertise “healthy dark chocolate” but really are loaded with processed sugars (defeating the purpose of going dark). Make sure the chocolate is made with a minimum of 70% pure cocoa and read the back of the label. Try to get as real as possible with little added ingredients. I always carry a square or two in my purse whenever I need a 3PM pick me up or post dinner treat (Lily’s Brand is a great choice). Just because dark chocolate has incredible health benefits does not mean you can go to town! Around two to three squares (1/2-1 ounce) is a good snack size. Below are some of the beautiful benefits of going dark and my Simple Warm Cinnamon Chocolate Banana Bites.
Feel good. Dark Chocolate triggers the release of “feel good” hormones in your brain. The same “feel good” hormones that get released after you do physical activity or when you are falling in love.
Control Cravings. This delicious delight does not spike your blood sugar levels. What does that mean? You will have more stable energy levels throughout the day, and not have that sudden crash you normally get with other candy. Most candies contain tons of sugars and hidden preservatives that make it very hard to tell when you are actually full. So you just keep munching and suddenly the bag is empty!
Fight the flu. Dark chocolate contains zinc (which most people lack in their diet). Zinc is a mineral superstar when it comes to boosting your immune system. For more Flu Fighting Foods check out my piece here. (You can also check out my featured piece in Beauty High Magazine on why I love dark chocolate for clear skin.)
Focus. Dark chocolate increases blood flow to the heart and brain improving your thought processing abilities. Brain food!
Carina’s Simple Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Banana Bites: melt ½ ounce of dark chocolate in a saucepan for around thirty seconds to a liquid texture of your liking. Place half of a small sliced banana in another pan with all natural cooking spray and heat on the stove for around ten-fifteen seconds until the top of the banana slices are a light golden brown. Always spice up your life! Add cinnamon or nutmeg (for more health benefits of spices read my piece here) and if you like things sweet add a dash (1/2 tablespoon) of stevia (an all natural sweetener from the stevia leaf). Drizzle the melted dark chocolate over the warm banana slices and enjoy!
Craving more dark chocolate? Check out two more of my “no brainer” dark chocolate recipes here (that take less than ten minutes to make) and my dark chocolate mud muffin recipe featured in Entrepreneur Magazine. If you are a fan of ice cream you can watch my Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Video Tutorial here.
Sass it up with salmon: salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy fat that the body does not produce on its own. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease, irregular heartbeats and help lower blood pressure levels. These healthy fats also increase your ability to focus and improve your mood. For a healthy side dish to go with the salmon check out my Avocado Zucchini Pasta Video Tutorial here. If you are eating out, the best way to order salmon (wild caught) is steamed or poached to retain all the nutrients.
Be brave and branch out…by staying in. Instead of going out to an extravagant dinner with your significant other or group of friends plan to cook a meal at home. Home cooked meals are much healthier than eating out and getting comfortable in the kitchen is a great bonding activity. Cooking may seem draining or daunting at first but just like using a muscle that you have not used, it will get stronger and easier with time. Check out my Eat Yourself Gorgeous Meal Makeover Videos here for a library of simple recipes.
Mind. Valentine’s day is a day of love. Show yourself and your loved ones how much you truly care by taking a step to make health a priority. Even if it is a small change, everything counts. If you are feeling alone on Valentine’s Day treat yourself to a delicious healthy meal, massage or activity that YOU enjoy.
Indulge and invest in yourself. Once you start focusing on your own health (mentally and physically) the right people will fill your life. Everything happens for a reason. Trust the process.
Remember to have compassion for yourself, always.
*A cause that is very dear to my heart is the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. I have formed a team in honor of my grandmother, Dr. Lailee Bakhtiar, who passed away after a 21 year battle with the disease. I invite everyone in the greater Los Angeles area to join me April 17th for the 2016 MS Walk. It is free to join. You can sign up and learn more about my team here.