By now most of us have heard the good news – chocolate is good for you! Chock-full of cholesterol lowering monounsaturated fats and boasting heart-healthy antioxidants, chocolate isn’t only delicious; it’s more than a little nutritious. Studies are uncovering more and more benefits of this favorite wonder-food every day – some even claim eating chocolate daily can help reduce stress and make your mind sharper. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exclude chocolate from the “everything in moderation” rule. While we reap health benefits from cacao, it comes to us in chocolate accompanied by milk, sugar and butter – not the healthiest entourage. Next time you have a chocolate craving, meet it with one of these delicious treats to get your fix (and all the good stuff) without going overboard.
Stick with chocolate with more than 70% cocoa, and a square is a solid gold choice all on its own. Cramming in more cocoa (cacao after its been ground and roasted) means more of the good stuff (flavonols and good fats), and less room for the not-so-good stuff (sugar and milk). Still know your serving sizes – dark chocolate is still a calorie dense food with a high fat content, albeit healthy fat. You’ll probably be content with a square or two anyway – not only will the richness of this intense chocolate satisfy you quickly, but studies show that eating dark chocolate lessens your cravings for other “sometimes foods,” making it easier to stay on track.
A thin layer of dark chocolate followed by the sweetness of fresh fruit is a truly satisfying delight that conquers your chocolate cravings without going overboard. Plus you get the bonus nutrients of your favorite fruit, making this maybe the best way to get your five-a-day. Fresh berries, such as strawberries and raspberries, are a classic for a reason, though any fruit pairs well with chocolaty goodness. For a decadent frozen treat, cut a banana in half, freeze it, roll it in melted chocolate, and freeze again. Dried fruit also makes a fantastic high-fiber chocolate-covered snack. For an unexpectedly addictive, candy-bar reminiscent treat, stuff an almond or two into a pitted dried date and coat in dark chocolate.
Popcorn with Chocolate Chips
This sweet and salty combination makes a killer TV watching snack. Popcorn is 100% whole grain, rich in dietary fiber and antioxidants, full of complex carbohydrates and low in fat, especially if you skip butter and oil laden microwave varieties. Scatter in a handful of dark chocolate chips and you’ve got a nutrient packed, addictively good snack that you’ll find yourself eating like, well, popcorn.
Tofu Chocolate Mousse
Dark chocolate chips + silken tofu = a gloriously creamy protein-packed dessert. Melt the chocolate chips and whirr them up in a food processor with silken tofu, a little vanilla, and a few tablespoons of sugar for chocolate mousse in a flash. As an added bonus, the protein in the tofu will keep you full and satisfied, kicking cravings to the curb.
Warm-up some skim or non-dairy milk with a little cocoa and sweetener, and you’ve got all the benefits of cacao in a cup. Add your favorite flavorings, such as mint extract, vanilla, or cinnamon, for endless possibilities. For extra decadence, top with a dollop of coconut cream mixed with a touch of sugar.