Is Healthy Chocolate for Real? Get Desserts with Benefits!
Healthy chocolate really does exist. Here are the 3 things you need to know to love the heck out of chocolate and take care of your health.
When my girls were little, I taught them the proper way to use a shot glass.
And when they went to college, I made sure that they tucked at least one shot glass among their yoga pants, T-shirts and rolls of washing machine quarters. After all, I want to be a good mom. A good registered dietitian nutritionist.
Here’s what I taught them about healthy chocolate.
3 ways to healthy chocolate
Yay! Yes, indeed chocolate really does have heart-healthy compounds call flavanols. They’re good for your blood vessels, blood pressure and more.
1. Here’s how to pick a healthy chocolate in the supermarket.
- To get the health benefits of cocoa powder, avoid Dutched cocoa and cocoa processed with alkali. These terms mean the same thing – the heart-healthy flavanols have been destroyed in processing. Do look for the words cocoa or natural cocoa. Check both the front of the package and the ingredients list.
- Identifying a healthy chocolate bar isn’t as straight forward. We really don’t know how various chocolates are processed, but we can at least assume that the darker the chocolate (or the more cocoa solids in the chocolate), the more flavanols could be present. When you can, choose 50% dark chocolate over milk chocolate and 60% dark chocolate over 50% and so on. The higher the number, the greater the likelihood of heart-healthy flavanols.
- Check packages for fiber and added sugar. Dark chocolate tends to have a couple grams of fiber per serving and less added sugar than other chocolates.
2. Pair any favorite chocolate with heart-healthy ingredients.
- Nuts, fruits, and whole grains are heart-healthy foods, so mix them with chocolate to get your favorite dessert with benefits. Try chocolate-covered almonds (one of my very faves), chocolate-pistachio bark, and chocolate-covered raisins. Aren’t chocolate-covered strawberries a treat! And I know lots of people who like to dip apple slices into melted chocolate.
- On Virginia This Morning, I showed the gals how to make my chocolate walnut date balls. They were a hit! (BTW: I left all of that chocolate with the staff and crew at WTVR as my thanks for having me back on the show.)
- And trail mix! This is a great mix and match snack for every member of the family. My girls love this for our hiking and biking trips. Mix chocolate chips or chocolate-covered raisins with nuts, whole-grain cereal and dried fruit. Experiment with roasted chickpeas too.
3. Here’s where the shot glass comes in.
I want to be good mom. And a good role model. So when I eat treats like chocolate chips or M&Ms, I pour them into a shot glass to enjoy a perfect portion. Maybe M&Ms – which my daughters both love – don’t qualify as healthy chocolate or a dessert with benefits, but a 1-ounce measured portion is a terrific way to savor the flavor and love the heck out of a reasonable sized dessert.
Try these portion control tricks.
- Use a shot glass, chic mini dessert glass or any small dish.
- Pre-portion your treats into single serve sizes, so you grab just the amount each time. Use plastic containers, baggies and old mint tins.
- Buy treats already made small – fun size candy bars, ice cream sandwiches and the like.
- Ask someone else to cut the cake, serve you a brownie or scoop the ice cream.
- Keep tempting treats out of the house and enjoy them on date night, family night or during a trip to the ice cream shop.
What’s your favorite healthy chocolate? Check out my other desserts with benefits.
Cheers to loving the heck out of chocolate and your heart at the same time!
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, is a Nutrition, Culinary & Diabetes Expert, Wellcoach®-certified health and wellness coach, Freelance Writer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's also the author of four books, including a best-seller. She's a nationally-recognized media expert in high demand for print and online interviews, as well as corporate and one-on-one nutritional counseling. Jill's philosophy is that nutrition science should be understandable, realistic and oh so delicious.
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Like most of my patients and clients, I lead a busy life. You probably do too. Fortunately, you don’t need weeks, days or even hours to start living better and healthier. This blog offers timesaving strategies and bite-sized nutrition and health information. Come by often for tips and inspiration to healthy living – no matter how busy you are. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist offering credible, practical nutrition advice to keep busy people healthy. Yes indeed, we can be both busy and healthy.