Dark Chocolate Foods: Healthy Brands, Tips & Ways To Use Dark Chocolate

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When you think of "chocolate," what comes to mind? Its taste? The rich aroma? Its creamy mouth feel? In his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, Michael Pollan shares that people's responses to "chocolate cake" were "guilt."  Michael writes, 

“He showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: “celebration.” 

Research suggests that those who associate chocolate cake with guilt report less perceived control over eating -- and they are also often less success at maintaining and/or losing weight! (1)  Associating foods with guilty feelings isn't helpful nor healthful in the quest for optimal health for the mind, body and soul!

My hope is that you feel good - not guilty - about the foods you choose...and that includes foods like chocolate!  You see, beyond its delicious taste, chocolate can actually be good for us -- and something that we can say YES! to frequently! Chocolate can indeed fit into a healthy diet.

Chocolate is made from cacao and cacao brings a variety of nutrition benefits - including antioxidants (like flavonoids and theobromine) and nutrients that help support the health of your heart and brain.

Here's how you can say YES! to chocolate: 

Healthy Tips for Enjoying Chocolate

  • The darker the chocolate, the more cacao and less added sugar compared to other chocolates.  I recommend looking for chocolate that's at least 65% cacao!
  • Dark chocolate features a nutrient profile that's mostly carbohydrate and fat. I recommend adding a little bit of protein to a dark chocolate snack, so combine your favorite dark chocolate with handful of nuts or seeds or add a layer of nut butter overtop your square. 
  • Choose a respectful, delicious portion. One ounce (about the size of a small matchbox) is a good measure! 

Delicious Chocolate Foods - YES! Nutrition Favorites

Dark Chocolate Almond Perfect Bar:

What happens when you mix dark chocolate, almond butter and 20+ organic superfoods?  This Dark Chocolate Almond Bar...which tastes unbelievable (who knew healthy could taste this good!)  I find these bars in the refrigerated section at the grocery store and keep them in my refrigerator at home. They're great to grab on-the-go or to enjoy after a good workout!  


Hail Merry Dark Chocolate Espresso Cups:

Sink your teeth into the creamy ganache and the crispy cookie crust of these dark chocolate espresso cups. They are made with simple ingredients and of course they're delicious. Treat yourself! 


Navitas Organics Cacao Nibs

Cacao is what chocolate is made from, so cacao nibs (like these cacao nibs from Navitas) deliver the most nutrition (flavonoids, magnesium, theobromine, etc.) compared to equal portions of dark chocolate or milk chocolate! I like adding a tablespoon of cacao nibs to my morning oatmeal, as part of trail mix, or overtop a smoothie made with protein powders and cauliflower (like my Strawberry Cauliflower Smoothie!).


Square Organics Bars:

With 13 grams of plant-based protein, these bars make for a delicious mid-day fuel up. I like that this Dark Chocolate Coated Peanut Butter Bar delivers a fair amount of iron and magnesium, too (thanks to dark chocolate!).  The Square Organics brand delivers other yummy bars, too, like Cherry Coconut, Almond Spice, and Mint. Mmmm!


Eating Evolved Dark Chocolate Coconut Butter Cups

I can't wait to try these dark chocolate coconut butter cups from Eating Evolved, which come as a "you've got to try this!" recommendation to me from Registered Dietitian Ashley Koff. For those with special diets, they're paleo and vegan-friendly (gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free too). 

 


Do you love dark chocolate? What is your favorite chocolate food? Share it with me in the comments below or over on Facebook @YESNutritionLLC!


References:

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24275670

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26076934

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24734311

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23810791

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5432604/

 

Disclosure: This blog post includes some affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you follow the links and choose to purchase the items.

Getting Enough EPA and DHA Daily? If Not, This Tracking Tool Can Help!

I THOUGHT I WAS HEART SMART...

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I believe that I am Heart-Smart. I understand that eating well, moving more, not smoking, managing stress and staying connected to the people I love can help support my overall health -- and can especially support the health of my heart.

UNDERSTANDING MY OMEGA-3 INDEX

So when a brand I am working with, MEG-3, asked me if I knew my Omega-3 Index, I was stumped. Sure, I know my cholesterol and triglyceride numbers (and woot woot, they've been trending better over the last several years!), but I honestly did not know where to begin when it came to knowing my Omega-3 Index. Did I have to calculate something? Go to my doctor? Have a blood draw? 

Nope. All I had to do was take the at-home OmegaQuant Test. With a quick finger prick to collect a small blood spot, I sent my dried sample off to the lab and waited for my results. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF EPA AND DHA

I hoped my report would show stellar results. After all, I know the importance of omega-3s when it comes to health and I have been working hard to choose quality sources of omega-3s in my diet often. Found primarily in oily fish and in omega-3 dietary supplements, healthy omega-3 fatty acids, like EPA and DHA, help support the health of a person's brain, heart and eyes. And together, these fatty acids contribute to a person's Omega 3 Index, a score that helps define if someone is in a "desirable," "intermediate," or "undesirable" position related to the risk for many chronic diseases. 

My results from the test? Well, I have a LOT to say about them (yep, even a Registered Dietitian has opportunities to improve her diet!) so I am going to talk them over with you in a Facebook LIVE chat over on the MEG-3 Facebook page next Friday, September 29, 2017 at 12:00pm ET. Give MEG-3 a follow so that you can receive an update when I'm LIVE! 

TRACKING MY EPA AND DHA CONSUMPTION

But for now, I will leave you with this one-page PDF that I developed in response to my results. I realized that in order to stay on track, I need to track myself. So, I developed a two-week tracking tool to help me monitor how much EPA and DHA I get daily. I printed this worksheet, laminated it, have it hanging in my kitchen cabinet, and at the end of each day I use a dry erase marker to give myself a check mark on the source of EPA and DHA I have chosen that day. After two weeks, I'm able to see how I did. I erase my work and start all over again tracking EPA and DHA consumption for the next two weeks. 

You can download the EPA and DHA Tracker for yourself by clicking the link here or by opening the photo below in a new tab.

I hope you will join me for the Facebook Live on Friday, September 29 at noon ET - and during that lunch hour, I hope you enjoy a rich source of EPA and DHA (like oily fish!) so that you can give yourself a check mark on the tracker, and help support your health too! PS: You will also have the opportunity to win an OmegaQuant Test Kit for yourself during/after the live. Mark your calendar and tune in! 

Disclosure: I am a paid contributor to the MEG-3 brand. 

4 Simple Tips to Feel More Energized

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It's true.  We are all in an energy crisis.  There is work, school, family responsibilities, caring for a home, caring for parents and/or children and the pressure to get everything on the never-ending To Do List completed better, quicker, and more efficient than before. 

Cartwheeling with enthusiasm through it all might be more of an aspiration than a reality, and at the end of the day, we may be left with wishing we had more energy to do more, see more, and be present more. 

So, we turn to energy drinks. 

From late night studying to working third shift, poor quality energy drinks may give you the stimulant boost you want to get through it all, but they just don't deliver on their promise of bringing you the real energy you need (case in point: this product). 

So, instead of looking for more energy (you just can't get "more") and instead of choosing poor quality stimulants as your liberation, focus on saying YES! to these four simple things to help you get better energy, more often.  

1.) Choose Real Energy

The word "calorie" is a unit of ENERGY! That means that when you are looking for energy, you must get it through calories - and to get calories, you must eat food! I recommend choosing whole foods in a balance of carbohydrates (they give your body quick energy!), proteins (they give your body communicative and power-energy), and healthy fats (they give your body sustained energy!) and choosing to eat in a frequent manner (likely every 3-4 hours or when hunger cues prompt eating).  Eating frequently and choosing a balance of nutrients helps avoid the highs and lows of blood sugar to keep your energy more stable throughout the day. 

2.) Get Better Sleep

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between the ages of 26 and 64 get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night (no less than 6, no more than 10). (1) Along with numerous other benefits, sleep -- specifically REM (rapid eye movement) sleep -- helps restore and prep the body for handling social and emotional activities for the next day. (2) Can't seem to fall asleep at night? Cut caffeine in the hours before bedtime, power down electronics before bed (or turn on "night-shift" on your phones and tablets), adopt a bedtime routine, and make sure your bedroom is a cool, dark environment. 

I find that many people will turn to caffeine if they didn't get enough sleep. But, although caffeine from energy drinks, coffee, or otherwise may provide a bit of a stimulant boost, research suggests that "the effects of caffeine are limited and caffeine does not protect against all the adverse effects of sleep loss." (3)  For better energy and better health, you must get your ZZZs. 

3) Exercise for Better Energy and Better Sleep

Get more movement for better energy! According to one 2011 study, more physical activity means more alertness, excitement, and enthusiasm. (4) Struggling to make exercise part of your day? Do something you love - whether it's walking on your lunch hour (short 10 minute bouts of exercise count!), biking with a friend, dancing on the weekends (yep, that counts too!), or exercises during your favorite TV show - every little bit adds up!  

Worried that exercise might hinder your sleep? Some research shows that physical activity helps support a longer duration of sleep and better quality sleep - even in shift workers! (5)

4.) Energize Yourself by Doing What You Love

Do activities you love - activities that give you a sense of purpose - and energize you from the inside out. Simply spending time thinking about the ones you love can improve energy, confidence and alertness. (6) Spending time DOING what you love can be important too - research demonstrates that volunteering, though it takes time and energy, can foster a better sense of balance and may positively alter health. (7)

What helps you feel more energized? Share it with me in the comments below - I love hearing what YOU have to say! 

References:

  1. https://sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times/page/0/1
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4286245/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4264529/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22059484
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2784228/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24924647
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25654517

Cauliflower Steaks with Pesto and Hemp Seeds

From cauliflower rice to cauliflower pizza crust, people everywhere (including me!) are getting crazy about cauliflower...and for great reason!

Cauliflower Steak with Pesto and Hemp Seeds

This cruciferous vegetable is home to fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and vitamin B6. Plus, its versatility as an ingredient makes it a fun and nutritious solution to help you get more vegetables more often.

So if you love cauliflower and love creating healthy, delicious meals with vegetables (or are looking for ways to eat more vegetables daily), or perhaps you are looking for more healthy recipes with cauliflower, you're going to love this Cauliflower Steak with Pesto and Hemp Seeds. 

This recipe is hearty, full of flavor, and it's a combo you'll keep coming back to again and again.  It's SO simple to make and it's PACKED full of good-for-you nutrients from cauliflower, plus a healthy amount of protein and omega-3s from hemp seeds.

Watch below to learn how to make Cauliflower Steaks with Pesto and Hemp Seeds!

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower from Foxy Produce
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil 
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Your favorite pesto - homemade or store-bought
  • Hemp seeds
  • Fresh parsley (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F. 

  2. Wash one head of cauliflower, remove cauliflower leaves, and cut the cauliflower into 1/2 inch thick slices.

  3. Create the cauliflower steak basting oil by stirring together 1/2 cup avocado oil, 1/2 teaspoon basil, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

  4. Lay the 1/2 inch thick cauliflower slices on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

  5. Baste the cauliflower with the oil/herb mixture. Flip. Baste again. 

  6. Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes.

  7. Remove from oven. Baste with remaining oil/herb mixture.

  8. Bake at 375°F for another 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is golden brown.

  9. Remove from oven. Transfer cauliflower steak onto a plate. Top with your favorite pesto and hemp seeds. Garnish with fresh parsley and dig in! 

Like this recipe? Plan to make it? Share your photo of it on Facebook when you do and tag @YESNutritionLLC so I can see your creation! 

 

[Disclosure: This video was made in partnership with Foxy Produce. Thank you for supporting brands that support YES! Nutrition]