Romantic Dinner Ideas from the RDN

Make your next romantic dinner a healthy one. 

Valentine’s Day is approaching and a lot of couples make reservations at a restaurant to have a special dinner together. I say EAT IN! Its cheaper and usually healthier. Maybe you have to put a movie on for the kids and order them a pizza. Whether cooking for Valentine’s Day or just having a romantic dinner with your significant other, you may be looking for some menu ideas that won’t break your budget or have you in the kitchen all day. When planning a special meal, I try to pick one item to really stand out among the rest, and that is the item that will get most of my focus. The other items should be relatively easy to make and not require a lot of prep or time. In other words, I would not make a prime rib and a risotto, because risotto takes a lot of stirring. I’d probably have a rice pilaf or roasted potatoes. 

When choosing your menu, keep in mind what the other person really likes, but don’t make something that you don’t like. That’s just a personal opinion, because then you are really making more than one meal. This can become particularly challenging for vegetarians who are with meat lovers, but there can be a compromise. Unless you have a lot of time, are an experienced cook, or you really want to challenge yourself, go ahead and buy an appetizer or dessert already prepared. That will be a time saver, and possibly one less headache or catastrophe (like burning some cookies because you are chasing around a toddler). As an RDN, I would advise choosing EITHER an appetizer OR a dessert, just because these calories really add up, and these foods often contain excess calories, sugar, fat, and sodium. There are healthy appetizer and dessert options such as caprese bites or fresh fruit parfaits. If you decide to knock yourself out over a very indulgent dessert, then I recommend having a lighter meal, such as a salad with protein (like an Asian Chicken salad from Food and Wine or Roast Chicken and Arugula salad from Barefoot Contessa). 

If you like to have a cocktail with your romantic dinner, as I do, it is essential not to drink too much before you get to the wonderful dinner you have prepared! I have made the mistake, both at a restaurant and at home, of becoming too full before dinner because I had a couple of heavy cocktails or a cocktail with an appetizer. Also, if you drink while you cook (a little wine for you, a little wine for the meal), it can delay the meal or cause you to make a mistake.



Here are some menus and recipes that I suggest for a Proper Plate and romantic dinner: 

Beef tenderloin filets and Asparagus with roasted red potatoes (toss small new red potatoes with olive oil, garlic, and dried Italian seasoning; roast in 375 degree oven until tender)

Spiced Pork Chops and Apple Chutney with Roasted Sweet Potatoes  and Spinach Salad or   wilted Spinach (lightly saute a bag of baby spinach with garlic or shallots and 2 tsp of Olive oil)

Chicken with Red Pepper Sauce , Couscous and Garlic Parmesan Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Citrusy Salmon and Lemon Rice with Roasted Broccoli

Sauteed Shrimp with Corn and Arugula Salad and Roasted Zucchini and Pesto

Vegan Stuffed Butternut Squash and Sautéed Green Beans