With Valentine's Day right around the corner, chances are that you're planning a romantic, luxurious evening with your significant other. Or you're single and using Valentine's Day as an excuse to self-indulge with some well-deserved pampering. Either way, it's hard to avoid chocolate on this one day of the year.
Why would you want to?
Okay, we know that chocolate doesn't exactly rank up there on your list of healthy foods. But there are ways to celebrate the chocolate rush of the season without racking up the calories.
The trick is to get creative and use these healthy recipes to indulge in the sweet, succulent taste of chocolate without piling on diet guilt.
Is Dark Chocolate a Healthy Alternative?
Dark Chocolate actually does pack in some healthy antioxidants that will boost your overall health. What provides the antioxidant benefit of dark chocolate? Cocoa. The higher percentage of pure cocoa that is in dark chocolate, the darker it'll be. Usually this also means the darker the chocolate, the bitterer it is since cocoa is naturally bitter.
Indulging in a bit of dark chocolate can be a good way to enjoy the thrill of chocolate and promote overall wellness at the same time.
One study performed in Finland noted that consumption of dark chocolate increased levels of HDL cholesterol in the body, thus promoting a healthier heart.
No chocolate is low calorie, though, and chocolate shouldn't be eaten as a snack. The calories in dark chocolate are slightly more than cheese and slightly less than nuts. Chocolate is calorie dense and does not provide the fiber or protein necessary to balance the blood sugar spike you'll get from eating it.
Always remember to read the nutrition label on any chocolate bar you plan on indulging in and stick to a moderate amount. You can find dark chocolate treats that are fairly low in sugar, but don't forget to check for fat content.
It's far better if you can find ways to celebrate your sweet tooth that won't spike your metabolism or add unnecessary fat to your diet. The following recipes use chocolate protein powder or combine chocolate with other high-protein items that won't throw your metabolism for a loop.
Protein Is the Key!
By including protein in each of these recipes, you'll help balance out the nutrients in your "desserts" while promoting lean muscle and keeping you feeling great on your diet plan.
Here are a few ideas to get you started!
Whip Up Some Chocolate Protein Pudding
One of the simplest ways to fight a chocolate craving and indulge in something sweet with your significant other is to whip up some high-protein chocolate pudding. Everybody loves a creamy treat.
When you're craving something sweet and creamy like chocolate ice-cream or pudding, this recipe will satisfy that craving in record time.
- Sugar-free, fat-free Jell-O Chocolate Pudding Powder
- 2 cups Skim Milk
- 1 scoop Low-Carb Chocolate Whey Protein Powder
Prepare the chocolate pudding using two cups of skim milk. Note: If you want to make it extra thick, then reduce the skim milk down to just 1 or 1.5 cups instead.
When your pudding is ready, add in a scoop of your favorite chocolate whey protein powder. Continue blending until well mixed and then place into individual serving bowls.
Want to get fancy? Try these ideas:
- Alternate layers of Chocolate Protein Pudding with fresh Strawberries
- Use vanilla or white chocolate pudding instead (replace chocolate protein powder with vanilla)
- Make chocolate and vanilla protein pudding and then create layers of chocolate, vanilla, and fruit in the serving cup. Top with a few maraschino cherries for a beautiful effect.
Serving Size (1) Recipe yields 1
Cook Up Chocolate Crepes with Whipped Topping
Try this Chocolate Crepe recipe for another great way to enjoy the taste of chocolate while sticking with your diet plan.
Chocolate crepes are perfect for a decadent breakfast or try them as a delicious, warm dessert to finish off the evening.
- Fresh Banana, sliced
- Slivered Almonds or natural Peanut Butter
- Sugar-free Syrup, Honey, or Agave Nectar
- 1 package of powdered Whipped Topping
Combine one scoop of chocolate low-carb protein powder with your Egg Whites, creating a very thin-consistency batter.
Next, pour the batter onto the hot pan until a thin circle shape is formed.
Cook the crepe like a standard pancake, and once the edges are starting to bubble, use a spatula to lift the crepe and flip it over to cook the over side.
This whole process should only take a few moments per side, because the batter is very thin.
Flipping your crepe might be difficult, but you can get tips .
Once cooked, transfer the crepe over to a plate and then top with some sliced fresh bananas, a few slivered almonds, and just a small amount of sweetener.
Meanwhile, prepare some whipped topping according to the package directions and then spoon over top of the crepes.
Whipped topping, as long as you purchase the powder variety and make it yourself with skim milk, only contains a few calories per tablespoon.
So if you keep the serving size down, this is a perfect way to garnish this dish. Once you have the whipped topping on, serve immediately.
Try different fruits for different flavors in your crepes.
It's easier to use a non-stick pan sprayed with low-calorie non-stick spray.
Serving Size (1) Recipe yields 1
Enjoy a Mug of Mocha by the Fireplace
If you've just finished the main course, and you're getting ready to relax for the evening, consider trying this smooth mocha recipe to help you savor the moment.
This recipe is much healthier than the commercial varieties of hot chocolate, and it'll definitely hit your sweet spot on your romantic night.
Create a Masterpiece: Home-Made Chocolate Bars
This recipe for home-made chocolate bars will impress, inspire and delight. Your taste buds will thank you for this sweet, creamy confection, and you won't have to feel guilty about your diet.
Creativity Goes A Long Way With Chocolate
Those are just 4 fast and easy ways to include chocolate in your Valentine's Day plans without having to ruin your diet. But if you let your creative juices flow, you'll be able to come up with tons of chocolate-lover-health-friendly recipes on your own!
Just follow these basic guidelines:
Make it yourself-avoid store bought candies and out-of-box desserts.
Use unsweetened cocoa powder to add chocolate-y goodness. Pure cocoa powder is naturally healthy and has great nutrition facts: 1 tablespoon has 12 calories, 1 gram of fat, 3 grams of carbs (2 grams of fiber), and 1 gram of protein. Go easy, because cocoa powder is bitter.
Avoid sugar, use artificial or calorie-free sweeteners instead. Splenda is very popular and widely available, but you can also try stevia, which is becoming more available at grocery stores through brands like Truvia. And although Honey and agave are not calorie free, they are natural and make a good alternative.
- Nurmi, T. et al. (2004). Dark Chocolate Consumption Increases HDL Cholesterol Concentration and Chocolate Fatty Acids May Inhibit Lipid Peroxidation in Healthy Humans. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. Vol 37, Issue 9. Pp. 1351-1359.