Healthy alternatives to chocolate this Valentine’s Day

Homemade gifts from the heart that feed and nourish are perfect for Valentine's Day.

Valentine’s Day is one the biggest holiday seasons for chocolate. During this Valentine’s, skip the chocolate and show your love by giving to good health with a gift that will please even the “non-foodie” in your life. Nuts, dried beans, whole grains and spices all make hearty but healthy gifts from the heart. If you are trying to figure out what to give that special person in your life for the biggest holiday of love, try making a homemade gift that temps the taste buds and adds to the health of the lucky one to receive it.

Homemade gifts add a personal flare and work well when you need a quick gift. How you package and present them is half the fun. Mason jars, clear plastic gift bags and fancy ribbon with handwritten notes all add to the personal touch. Non-perishable gifts can be given without refrigeration and can be enjoyed over a reasonable amount of time. Using proper safe food procedures when preparing the gifts is always important. You can find these standards at foodsafety.org.

When choosing to give a food gift, look for foods that use healthy fats, fresh ingredients and ingredients with minimal processing and can be found in a healthy diet.

Don’t let this Valentine’s Day overwhelm you. Keep the following recipe on hand for a personal and quick way to give good health to those we care about.

Honey-maple Granola (courtesy of Ellen Hughes)

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 12 cups

Ingredients:

6 cups rolled oats

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 cup raw slivered almonds

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup flaxseed

1 cup hulled sunflower seed

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup pure maple syrup

3/4 cup honey

1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine dry ingredients (first 7) in a bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients. Pour on top of dry ingredients and combine until well mixed. Line two big cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick paper. Spread mixture evenly on sheets. Bake for 15 minutes. Stir and reverse sheet. Bake for an additional 15 minutes until slightly golden brown. Remove from oven and toss. Add in raisins or dried cranberries if using.

Nutritional information per ½ cup serving: 283 calories, 20 g fat, 25 g carb, 6 g protein

A ribbon-tied mason jar filled with this goody makes a gorgeous gift.

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