A bite of chocolate (or two)? Don't mind if we do, especially if celebrating National Chocolate Day on July 7! But will those cravings for something rich and sweet come back to bite us? The health benefits of dark chocolate have been touted time and time again — it's even got more antioxidants than superfoods like pomegranates, blueberries, and cranberries Cacao seeds are a "Super Fruit": A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products. Crozier, S.J., Preston, A.G., Hurst, J.W., et al. The Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition, 1025 Reese Avenue, Hershey, PA, 17033, USA. Chemistry Central Journal, 2011 Feb 7;5:5.! The problem is, when cacao beans are turned into chocolate, they're roasted and mixed with some less-than-healthy ingredients (erhm, sugar). So what's a chocoholic to do when this healthy treat is souped-up with extra sweet stuff? Here are 15 sure-to-impress ways to get a chocolate fix without undoing that diet or time in the gym.
- Choco-Protein: Refuel with a basic chocolate protein shake after a grueling workout. It's easy (just mix chocolate protein powder with water and shake) and it gives a dose of chocolatey goodness without the sugar-based calories.
- Cacao Nibs: These tasty little guys are essentially just broken up roasted cacao beans (what chocolate is made of). The small, chocolate chip look-alikes can be used in place of their super-sweet counterparts in baked goods or snacks like trail mix. And the good news? Cacao is where chocolate gets its health benefits, so the more unadulterated chocolatey goodness, the better Survey of commercially available chocolate- and cocoa-containing products in the United States. 2. Comparison of flavan-3-ol content with nonfat cocoa solids, total polyphenols, and percent cacao. Miller, K.B., Hurst, W.J., Flannigan, N., et al. The Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition,Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033-0805, USA. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2009 Oct 14;57(19):9169-80..
- Classic Mocha: Turn a classic cup-o'-Joe into a sweet treat by stirring in a spoonful of cocoa powder and a little milk. And for the record, cocoa powder contains the most antioxidant-packed pure cacao of all the chocolate choices in the baking aisle Survey of commercially available chocolate- and cocoa-containing products in the United States. 2. Comparison of flavan-3-ol content with nonfat cocoa solids, total polyphenols, and percent cacao. Miller, K.B., Hurst, W.J., Flannigan, N., et al. The Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition,Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033-0805, USA. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2009 Oct 14;57(19):9169-80..
- Healthy Chocolate Spread: Oh, if only we could slather everything we eat with chocolate. With a base of dates and avocados, this healthier homemade chocolate spread might just make that wish a little more realistic.
- Choco-Pop: For a guilt-free but indulgent frozen treat, grab a Fudgesicle in any of the low-cal, low-fat, or sugar-free varieties.
- Chocolate Oatmeal: Add a chocolate twist to the morning by adding some cocoa powder and brown sugar to oatmeal. Start with two teaspoons of cocoa powder and one teaspoon of brown sugar per serving, and adjust amounts to taste!
- Fudge Pie: That's right, we said "fudge." The healthy twist? Tofu gives this pie its creaminess. But don't worry— it doesn't taste anything like tofu!
- Chocolate Pudding: Grab one of those handy dandy puddin' snack packs for a sugar- or fat-free version that's much healthier than a candy bar binge. Feeling domestic? Make your own!
- Hazelnutty Goodness: Top plain whole grain crackers or bread with one teaspoon of Nutella to fill up on fiber while enjoying a decadent nutty-chocolate treat.
- Dark Chocolate Bar: Look for 70 percent cacao or higher to reap the most antioxidant benefits without all the additives found in other kinds of chocolate. In a pinch, a Hershey's Special Dark bar will do— cap snack time after about half the bar to keep it under 100 calories.
- Chocolate Milk: Studies show chocolate milk just may be the best post-workout recovery drink, and who are we to argue with science? While there's no magic formula for the milk-to-chocolate ratio (bottled and home made versions both work), studies have focused on varieties made with fat-free milk Chocolate Milk & Endurance Exercise Recovery: Protein Balance, Glycogen & Performance. Lunn, W.R., Pasiakos, S.M., Colletto, M.R., et al. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2011 Sep 7..
- Fondue: Melt semi-sweet chocolate and dip in a naturally sweet treat like strawberries, banana, or orange segments. It's the indulgence of chocolate plus the filling fiber of fruit!
- Chocolate-Coated Candies: Protein-packed Peanut M&Ms and fiber-filled Raisinettes have these added nutrients and less sugar than most candies. Stick to single-serving snack packs to keep the craving-quenching under calorie control.
- Chocolate-Dipped Fruit: One way to mitigate chocolate's not-so-healthy side is to use it as a sweet jacket for deliciously healthy superfoods. Try dipping healthy options such as bananas, strawberries, apples, or even some sliced ginger. Throw the dipped goodies in the fridge or freeze for a cold treat on a hot day.
- Tootsie Rolls: These childhood candies are actually relatively low in calories and are free of almost every allergen we could think of (nuts, dairy, gluten, etc.). Keep it to three or four, though, as these treats do contain some nasty trans fats.
And of course, there's always chocolate body paint.... Need we say more? What are your guilt-free ways to nosh on chocolate? Let us know in the comments below. Originally Posted Febuary 2012. Updated July 2012.