Here’s How to Enjoy Chocolate on a Healthy Diet
Love chocolate? Here's how to make it love you back.
If you can't imagine life without chocolate, you'll be happy to know that you don't need to give up this deliciously decadent indulgence, even if you're trying to eat healthy. The key to incorporating chocolate into your diet without it wreaking havoc on your waistline, blood sugar or health is to make good choices when it comes to the type of chocolate you eat—and how much of it you consume.
Here are 6 tips to make healthier chocolate choices:
Go dark. The darker the chocolate, the higher percentage of cacao it has, and that's a good thing. Cacao beans are high in flavanols and antioxidants that are good for your heart. Also, the higher the percentage of cacao, the lower the percentage of sugar. Aim for chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao. It may take a while for your palette to adjust to eating chocolate with a higher cacao content, but it's a healthier way to incorporate chocolate into your diet.
Add some nuts. Although nuts are high in calories, they're also a good source of healthy fats and protein. Selecting chocolate that contains nuts can provide additional nutritional benefits over and above the benefits of cacao's antioxidants. Nuts can also slow spikes in blood sugar. Most other add-ins, however, do nothing more than add extra sugar.
Check the ingredients. Not only do you want to look for a higher percent of cacao in your chocolate, but checking what other ingredients it contains will also give you an idea of how healthy it is (don't be fooled by marketing claims—read the ingredient list). Ideally, chocolate should be made with cacao beans, cocoa solids and natural sugar. The fewer ingredients on the label, the better.
Pay attention to sugar content. If you need to carefully watch your sugar, check how much sugar is listed by serving size. Don't be fooled into thinking chocolate sweetened with natural ingredients, like agave, honey or dates, has less sugar. These ingredients still raise your blood sugar in much the same way as cane sugar.
Flavor food with chocolate. Eating a chocolate bar isn't the only way to satisfy a chocolate craving. Try adding unsweetened cocoa powder to coffee, oatmeal or smoothies. Cocoa nibs can also give you the flavor of chocolate without the sugar. These can be sprinkled on yogurt, granola, salads and more.
Watch portion sizes. Unless you have been told to specifically avoid particular foods for medical reasons, almost any food you love can be enjoyed on occasion in small quantities. Even if you prefer to have milk, semi-sweet or white chocolate instead of dark chocolate, eat it mindfully, stick to a small portion and enjoy. Life is too short to deprive yourself of the foods you love!
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Date Last Reviewed: May 15, 2023
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RDN, CLT