Chocolate: Make it Healthy

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Chocolate Fruit Truffles

Chocolate contains phenolic compounds called flavenoids, that act as potent antioxidants to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer.

These phytochemicals are found in a greater concentration in cocoa powder than regular chocolate, which is higher in saturated fat, sugar and calories than cocoa powder. Other plant foods such as red wine, tea, onions and parsley also contain high levels of flavenoids.

The flavenoids in chocolate are thought to protect the heart two ways: by inhibiting low -density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol oxidation and by stopping blood platelet aggregration- processes which contribute to atherosclerosis.

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a holiday centered around the heart. Here are a few ideas that will show clients how to make/give gifts for their friends’/family’s/significant other’s heart.

Portion Downsizing:

Remind clients that a portion of chocolate is rather small.

1 serving of candy = 1.55 oz./44 grams. This translates to approximately 3 pieces of boxed chocolates or a standard Hershey bar and contains 210 calories and 13 grams of fat.

If the chocolate contains heart-healthy nuts, there will be two more grams of fat, 20 additional calories, as well as extra fiber and protein. If the candy contains mostly mint or cherry, with only a coating of chocolate, there are approximately 180 calories and 5 grams of fat in a serving. Illustrate the above servings and emphasize that clients read candy labels carefully to help them choose wisely and watch calories.

Instead of buying a big box of chocolates this year, why not suggest that your clients purchase a small high-quality candy bar and pair it with something else?

Show them ways to make fun Valentine gifts using a smaller chocolate bar. Here are some ideas:

• Coffee mug packed with a chocolate bar and gift certificate

• Stuffed animal with chocolate bar

• Socks (hopefully workout socks!) stuffed with a chocolate bar

• Plant or flowers with chocolate bar

• Custom picture frame with chocolate bar

• Jewelry with chocolate bar

• Bath & beauty gift basket with chocolate bar

• Aromatherapy candle gift set with chocolate bar

• Fresh seasonal fruit basket with chocolate bar

• Make your Valentine chocolate covered strawberries (see following recipe)

Cocoa Powder Demo

Show clients ways to use cocoa powder to enhance their valentine desserts:

• Breakfast: put a cocoa powder heart on everyone’s oatmeal for breakfast. Make a simple cardboard stencil with a heart cut out of the middle and use a tea sieve to lightly sprinkle the cocoa powder in the middle

• Dessert: Make a fruit plate and garnish it with small scoops of chocolate sorbet, some light chocolate syrup and a dusting of cocoa powder on the rim of the plate.

• More dessert: Make a chocolate pudding with 1 box of silken tofu (12 oz), 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa powder and 1/3 cup skim/soy milk.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

24 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

16 large strawberries, washed, dried and refrigerated

Place the semisweet chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering water and melt while stirring. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from the heat. Line a sheet pan with waxed paper. Grasp the stem of the strawberry and dip into the semisweet chocolate, twisting as it is lifted out. Allow the excess chocolate drip off and then place on the waxed paper. Repeat with the rest of the strawberries. Set the strawberries aside and allow the chocolate to harden, about 30 minutes.

Serving: 1 chocolate covered strawberry; 209 calories, 14 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 mg sodium, 28 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 2 g protein.

Chocolate for the Heart:

Suggest ways clients can include chocolate into a heart-healthy diet using the following recommendations:

• Cocoa powder is a low fat substitute for chocolate. Sprinkle it over your favorite low-fat frozen dessert or hot oatmeal.

• For the least fat, try York Peppermint Patties, junior Mints, Hershey’s Sweet Escapes, or 3Musketeers to satisfy your chocolate craving (read serving sizes!)

• Fit your “budgeted” chocolate serving into a balanced heart-healthy high fiber, low fat diet.

• Choose most of your snacks from the “Heart Healthy Snacks” handout in this issue.

• Eat dark chocolate to satisfy your craving with fewer bites. Dark chocolate contains more pure chocolate (and more antioxidants and less fatty cocoa butter) than milk chocolate.

By Sandy Hernandez, MS,RD.

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