Q: How can I get my chocolate fix while trying to eat healthier?
A: Many of us reach for chocolate when we need to relax or just want a taste of something sweet. While this is not necessarily a vice, it can certainly be detrimental to your diet. Luckily, there are several alternatives to milk chocolate that not only taste great, but are much healthier. These three low-impact, big-flavor substitutes can help you reach your health and fitness goals without going through chocolate withdrawals.
You mean cocoa right? Well, yes and no. Cacao is actually the original term for what many of us know as cocoa. The term cacao was originated by the Olmec people, who preceded the Mayans and the Aztecs. Th name of the plant chocolate comes from is “Theobroma Cacao.” Recently, the raw food community has revived the term “cacao,” most commonly used in the U.S. You can call it whatever you like so long as you’re aware of its excellent health benefits. Per tablespoon, organic cacao powder contains less than 30 calories, nearly 3 grams of fiber and zero sugar! Pure cacao powder is very strong and is meant to be added to food or shakes to give them a rich, chocolate flavor. Check out our growing collection of cacao-based recipes here.
While dark chocolate may be not taste as sweet as milk chocolate, it’s a much better choice if you’re watching your weight. The percentage of cacao in the bar is what determines whether it’s “dark” or “milk.” Bars with at least 55% cacao content are usually deemed “dark” chocolate. Dark chocolate is an antioxidant powerhouse with polyphenols, which are the same antioxidants found in red wine and green tea. Chocolate treats with 70-99% cacao content tend to have a more bitter taste (many would call it an acquired taste), while lower cacao chocolate will be more reminiscent of the milky stuff you already know and love. Dark chocolate is also an excellent pick-me-up, because it contains caffeine and theobromine – two mild stimulants. It won’t provide the same type of jolt as a cup of coffee, but it could come in handy if you’re sensitive to caffeine and stimulants.
You may have seen carob powder at the health food store or online, but most people have no clue what it is or what it’s used for. Carob powder is native to the Middle East and does a wonderful job at emulating chocolate’s color and flavor. Unlike chocolate, carob doesn’t contain caffeine or theobromine. Carob is also incredibly low in calories and has no fat at all, but does contain sugar that you won’t find in raw cacao. Carob powder can be used as a substitute for cacao or chocolate in cakes, cupcakes, cookies and more. You can even find carob chips, which can be used in place of chocolate chips.
Let’s face it, chocolate is great and we shouldn’t have to completely omit it from our diets. Experiment with the milk chocolate alternatives above to find an ideal replacement. Creating delicious and healthy recipes using carob or cacao powder can be fun and rewarding. Additionally, dark chocolate has an uncanny ability to sneak up on you. Many chocoholics begin replacing their milk chocolate bars with 55% cacao dark chocolate bars and eventually move up to strong and savory 80% cacao, because it becomes a much more satisfying treat. Try it and you may surprise yourself!