It’s hard to imagine Valentine’s Day without a sweet confection like chocolate. Even if you’re trying to gear up for swimsuit season in a few months, it’s not easy to escape the allure of the delicately wrapped packages and the heavenly taste. Don’t fret! There are ways to make it healthier – go organic or make sugar-free chocolate at home.
Valentine’s Day. Chocolate is everywhere. It’s wrapped in pink ribbon, adorned with sweet sentiments, or maybe imported from Switzerland. There’s milk chocolate and dark chocolate and sugar-free chocolate and chocolate with hazelnuts lining the aisles of every grocery and convenience store, and there’s even bite-size morsels for sale at the bookstore checkout. If you’re looking to curb your sugar or calorie intake, this is an especially tricky time of the year.
The good news is that chocolate itself doesn’t have to be avoided all the time, though, because it has many benefits! In fact, chocolate is a natural aphrodisiac that is loaded with antioxidants. It boosts heart health, lowers cholesterol, and improves your overall mood. Talk about a miracle food! The trick is finding ways to indulge in chocolate without packing on the pounds and wrecking your diet.
Many traditional Valentine’s Day chocolates (and chocolates in general) contain excess sugars and a laundry list of unnecessary added ingredients, such as soy lecithin, dextrose, or TBHQ. (We aren’t even sure what that one is ourselves.) And those tiny bite-sized treats can set you back hundreds of calories. Three pieces of candy from one of those cute red heart boxes can contain a whopping 200 calories and 26 grams of sugar, and on Valentine’s Day (Okay, on any holiday…), who stops at just three?
Store-bought, sugar-free chocolate isn’t necessarily a better choice either. When companies remove the sugar, they often replace it with artificial sweeteners – some of which have been linked to cancer, and all of which trick your body into thinking real sugar is coming, increasing your desire for something sweet. (Hello, downward spiral.) In the end, they really don’t differ all that much in the calorie department.
So, what are you to do? Well, not all store-bought chocolate is a total no-no. If you stick to these simple rules, you can dig in and reap the benefits. Look for chocolate that:
- Has more than 70 percent cacao
- Is organic
- Is sweetened with coconut sugar and has no additives
If you’ve never attempted to make sugar-free chocolate before, what better time to put your chocolate-making skills to the test than Valentine’s Day? Consider making some homemade sugar-free chocolate for your sweetheart… or yourself! These truffles are naturally sweetened and call for dark chocolate with more than 70 percent cacao. For Valentine’s Day, why not add some chopped almonds or a little cayenne pepper to heat things up a bit?
– 8 oz dark chocolate (70 percent cacao), chopped
– 1/4 cup coconut oil
– 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
– pinch sea salt
– 1/4 cup cocoa powder, for rolling
– assorted toppings: cocoa powder (mix different brands for an ombre effect), finely chopped nuts (pistachios, Marcona almonds, hazelnuts), or toasted unsweetened shredded coconut
1. Heat chocolate, oil and 3 tablespoons water in a double boiler, stirring, until just melted. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and sea salt.
2. Transfer to an 8-inch baking dish and refrigerate until mixture is set but still pliable, about 2 hours.
3. Using a 1-inch scoop or melon baller, scoop out chocolate mixture and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat hands in cocoa and roll chocolate into balls.
4. Refrigerate on parchment-lined baking sheet 10 minutes.
Moral of the chocolate story? Its benefits are plentiful, and by making careful choices or whipping up some of your own homemade sugar-free chocolate, you can enjoy that delicious chocolatey taste while saving yourself some unwanted additives and excess sugar. What could be sweeter than that?
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