Happy Valentine’s Day!
The joys of a commercial holiday – pre-fixed dinners jacked up from the normal a la carte menu, roses galore, expensive cards… nothing like holidays in the US. Okay, okay, no need for my negativity because I shouldn’t be so harsh on a holiday that gives us a reason to eat chocolate.
Chocolate, chocolate chocolate. A piece of chocolate isn’t just a piece of chocolate. How it’s made and what it’s smothered on top of can make all the difference. Because not all sweets are created equal, there are some healthier choices to be made.
Top 5 Survivor’s Guide to Chocolate:
1. Chocolate has some health perks. It has heart-protecting and antioxiant benefits, including lowering blood pressure, increasing blood flow and preventing harmful oxidation of LDL cholesterol, helping to prevent stroke or heart attack. I wonder if it’s a coincidence chocolate and hearts are linked together on V-day. It also has anti-inflammatory effects, which is linked to reducing cancer risk. It’s an un-roven aphrodisiac, but I’ll leave that to you to decide. Despite the perks, most chocolate is high in fat, sugar and calories that can lead to weight gain, which will not help your heart.
2. The darker the better. It’s really the cocoa that has the benefits, so the higher the percent cocoa, the more antioxidant benefits. Aim for at least 70% cocoa, like Scharffen Berger Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Super Dark 73% Chocolate, Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate. Milk chocolate, just as it’s named, has cocoa and milk fat. White chocolate isn’t made with any cocoa, so it doesn’t have any of chocolate’s benefits. Besides tasting amazing, it’s just fat and sugar. Work your way from milk–>semi-sweet–>dark/bitter.
3. The simpler the better. Getting a plain piece of good dark chocolate is so decadent on it’s own. Chews with caramel, peanut butter, nougat and toffee add more calories and sugar (dentist not approved). Keep Snickers, Three Muskateers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, Twix and Whatchamacallits on the shelf. Do people even eat those anymore? Hershey’s kisses, plain chocolate bars, or chocolate covered almonds, dried fruit or strawberries are better choices.
4. It’s a give and take. If you have dinner plans that will include dessert, give up that soda, juice or slice cake during the day.
5. If you want that piece of chocolate then have it. Enjoy it. Don’t feel guilty. Just try and keep portion in check to 1 ounce or one or two squares.
Thinking Outside of The Box:
Giving a valentine to your child, friend or lover doesn’t have to be chocolate. For kids, try stickers, cards, pencils, beaded jewelry. And for the lady, flowers and a card will do just fine.