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February 07, 2018 / Nicole Villeneuve

4 Valentine's Day Gifts Better Than Chocolate

Raw chocolate maple pecan fudge

Besides Halloween, Valentine's Day is the most sugar-centric holiday of the year. Between the candy hearts and the chocolate samplers, it's hard to get out of February 14th without a massive sugar rush. So what do you do for your sweetheart when you're trying to cut down on the sweets?

Here are 5 Valentine's day gifts better than chocolate--and not only are they better for you, but they might actually improve your relationship for the long term (can a dozen roses say as much?).

Cooking together

Making dinner as a couple has a lot of immediate benefits: For starters, you get delicious food and you're saving money. But research suggests that couples who work together in the kitchen have stronger relationships and better communication skills over the long haul. One study even shows that couples who share household responsibilities have more sex.

So if you're looking to cook more with your S.O., a meal planning membership is a great Valentine's gift: you get all the benefits of cooking together, with none of the stressful planning.

(Bonus! You can get $20 off your PlateJoy membership through 2/20 with code COOKWYOU.)

A bag of great coffee

Most of us are addicted to two things: sugar and coffee. But unlike sugar, coffee (in normal quantities) has been shown to have positive health effects, including improved liver function and a reduction in cardiovascular disease. But did you know it might even improve your relationship?

A 2017 survey suggested that caffeine can increase our "self-regulatory strength," the self-control that helps our brains differentiate between small problems and large ones. Couples with greater self-regulatory strength see bumps in the road as things that can be overcome, and report greater relationship satisfaction. Think about that when you're making your daily cafe au lait.

A fitness class: spinning, yoga, climbing or your choice!

It might not be your romantic vision for Valentine's Day, but working out together isn't just good for your health. Several studies show that couples that exercise together report happier relationships, especially if it's an exciting physical challenge that you're achieving together.

Try something new for both of you that might get those sparks flying, whether its a yoga class, a rock climbing gym or a kayaking adventure. And if you get sweaty, that's a plus: our brains often misinterpret a high heart rate and shortness of breath as signs of romantic attraction.

A couple's massage

Valentine's Day can be stressful, so skip the gift anxiety and double down on relaxation instead. Massage therapy has been linked to lower cortisol levels (that's our stress hormone) as well as increased dopamine and serotonin (our happiness hormones).

If you don't want to spend the money on a spa, light some candles and treat each other to a massage instead. A 2017 study showed that partners who massaged each other had the same improved effect on stress levels and well-being, both physically and emotionally, than a professional massage.

Nicole Villeneuve

Nicole Villeneuve is a certified Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Coach. A graduate of Yale University, she previously worked in book publishing, with a focus on cookbooks and health, and ran the food blog Paper and Salt. Her writing has been featured in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and The Daily Beast. Nicole lives in San Francisco and loves cooking, reading, exploring new restaurants, and running by the ocean. You can (very occasionally) find her on Twitter.

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