Once considered a guilty pleasure of which to steer clear, chocolate has made its way up the ranks of unexpected health foods.
Thank you, flavanols!
Plant compounds found in cacao beans (from which chocolate is made), flavanols are associated with reduced blood pressure, protection against heart disease and sharper minds, among other benefits. Still, it’s important to remember that not all chocolate is created equal. Dark chocolate provides more good-for-you compounds than milk chocolate. Plus, milk can contain about twice as much sugar as dark.
For a healthy dose of flavanols without a big boost of calories and sugar, choose a chocolate with at least 65 percent cacao. In general, the higher the percentage of cacao, the larger the amount of healthy compounds you get. Regardless of the variety, stick to a sensible, half an ounce portion (two dark chocolate minis), which count as three Extras on Nutrisystem.
However, if you’re like most people, no amount of chocolate ever seems enough. Thankfully there are so many ways to enjoy the deep, rich flavors of this decadent treat, without the sinful sugar and calorie counts. Eating chocolate is no longer the only way to get your chocolatey fix.
Sounds easier than it is, right? We know.
That’s why we’re serving up some creative, healthy snack hacks to help you survive your chocolate cravings:
1. Warm up with some chocolate flavored coffee or tea.
The selection of flavored coffees and teas grows by the minute. Whether it’s your favorite local brew, or a bag of fresh leaves you picked up the other day at the local coffee shop, you’ll know you’re getting something absolutely delicious. Almond Joy, Mocha Coconut, Chocolate Raspberry… the list goes on and on. It’s easy to see how some of these warming drinks could fill your stomach in place of some of the most indulgent desserts. Coffee and tea have health benefits, too. Protecting from heart disease, aiding in weight loss and preventing diabetes are just some of the possible advantages to this diet addition. It goes without saying that the most wholesome way to enjoy your cup is black, but just a pinch of milk, or zero-calorie sweetener can add a boost for those that don’t adore these refreshments in their natural state. Steer clear of the lattes and flavored cappuccinos—these are diet destroyers with their heavy milk bases and syrups.
2. Just a touch of cocoa powder hits food hard with flavor.
One tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder typically ranges from 10-15 calories, but all you need is a sprinkle. Cocoa powder adds a depth to dishes of all varieties that can’t be beat. Try it dusted over your favorite nut butter, blended in your smoothie, added to your oatmeal or graced on fruits like strawberries or frozen bananas. Just a little goes a long way to give you a chocolatier day.
3. Rev up your body with chocolate flavored protein shakes.
Protein is a diet must for long lasting energy and fuel to repair your body after exercise. Why not delight in all of the chocolate flavored options? Plant and whey protein powders all come with the taste of an amazing chocolate shake. Protein powders are insanely versatile so you can really experiment to create your favorite treat. Chocolate protein powder with almond milk and frozen raspberries are a recipe for taste that spells splurge city, even though its not.
4. Milk your Extras.
Hot cocoa enthusiasts, rejoice. One tablespoon of sugar-free chocolate syrup is an Extra on Nutrisystem. Incorporate this Extra with nonfat or unsweetened nondairy milk for a chocolate milk or hot cocoa that satisfies. No sugar, no hunger and no guilt. Chocolate syrup can also be used to dress strawberries, bananas, apples or “Nice Cream” to make the velvety, sweet fix all the more filling.
5. Give your magnesium a makeover.
If you crave chocolate all of the time—and we mean all of the time—it’s possible you’re running a bit low on the nutrients your body needs, specifically magnesium. Low magnesium is commonly associated with increased crankiness, anxiety and soreness, all symptoms many instinctively treat with chocolate. Augmenting your diet with wholesome, magnesium-containing foods like dark, leafy greens and fish might be the key to seeing your extreme chocolate cravings disappear.
6. Nosh on some sweet fruit after your meal… or chocolate dessert.
For the love of fruit, there are so many reasons for the widespread obsession with chocolate. But, even after enjoying a nice (perfectly portioned!) piece of chocolate, a flavored chocolate drink or cocoa infused snacks, a piece of fruit can be the (forgive the pun) cherry on top… and just the thing to bring closure to your craving. Fruit is sugary, but in the natural way. Nothing added. Just enjoyed whole, fruit is refreshing and filling and can perfectly complement whatever you ate prior. Nothing will nix your chocolate craving faster than finishing it off with one piece of fruit. There are so many varieties of fruit, you’ll find one to meet any mood and nutritional goal. Finding one that complements chocolate? Even better. Our favorites? Raspberries or pomegranate seeds.
7. Get creative in the kitchen with a healthier chocolate recipe.
Last, but not least, if you really do need a chocolate dessert—and there are absolutely times that warrant them—skinny dessert recipes come in for the clutch. Weight loss blogs and healthy recipe pages, like the one here, at The Leaf, offer smarter options for every desire. Keep your health in line and your weight loss success in sight, with smoothies, shakes and mug cakes that provide balanced nutrition in the proper portions.