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Skip restaurants for Valentine’s Day celebrations

Don’t have a dinner reservation for Valentine’s Day? Don’t sweat it.

Besides being a bad night to go out to dinner — expensive prix fixe menus and crowds make it crummy — why not take the healthy road when celebrating with your sweetheart? Cooking at home will save you some money — and it will also save you some calories, according to Linda Van Horn, a nutritionist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

When you cook at home, you choose your ingredients, and you choose how they are prepared, Van Horn said. This almost always leads to a healthier meal than the equivalent you’d get in a restaurant.

“Restaurants are in the business of trying to make things palatable. That often requires sauces, gravies, butter and salt that will certainly contribute to the flavor of those foods but often in a way that diminishes the nutritional value those foods have,” Van Horn said.

Even you try to order the healthier options — a salad, or a mainly vegetable dish — you don’t know all the tricks the restaurant has employed to make that seemingly low-calorie dish taste good.

“Salads are deceptively high in calories. Often when you eat out, salad dressing alone is typically prepared and served in greater amounts than you could choose to use at home,” Van Horn said.

And besides the naturally healthier meal you’ll be eating at home, you can bond with your valentine over the preparation process.

“You can make it very romantic and just really enjoy the process and the product that is prepared in a way that is both nutritious and delicious,” Van Horn said.

Need some good Valentine’s Day recipes?

Bon Appetit put together a few good menus.

Epicurious has a great list of different make-at-home entrees for two (including vegetarian options!)

Food Network put together this list of its stars’ favorites for the holiday.