Avoiding a meltdown: Balancing desire for chocolate, healthier products

Chocolate curl
Photo from Barry Callebaut.

Recently, a Financial Times article by Ralph Atkins — in timely seasonal fashion for Easter — suggested that Swiss chocolate, and chocolate consumption in general, may be losing its shine and, dare we say it, melting in popularity because of health concerns.

And although Atkins does quote several analysts and trots out dire statistics to make his case, this call to alarm could be called a bit of a stretch, somewhat akin to the sensational headlines last year indicating a looming chocolate shortage.

In this new era of opinionated reporting, stringing along several statistics and facts doesn’t always provide a complete picture. While recent reports do confirm a slowing in consumption, past history suggests this is a temporary holding pattern, one that will right itself as consumers determine which kinds of chocolate will meet their eating occasions and desires.

And it’s not as if cocoa and chocolate suppliers have buried their heads in banana leaves; they are very much attuned to current health trends affecting shopping cart decisions. Take sugar, for example, which continues to be “demonized” in the press and has become a major concern among certain shoppers, the demographics encompassing mothers and Millennials, Baby Boomers and bargain hunters.

As Mark Adriaenssens, v. p. of R&D for Barry Callebaut Americas, notes, the move toward less sugar hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“Yes, our customers are inquiring about products with less sugar in them,” he says. “We can meet these requests by replacing part of the sugar with an alternative in an individual recipe or by replacing all the sugar entirely with a substitute. We see also a surge in demand for newly trending alternative sugars as maple and coconut sugar. However, taste still remains a top priority and with some sugar replacers, this can become a concern. Overall, our customers and end consumers do not want to sacrifice the indulgent taste of chocolate for less sugar.”

Rinus Hemskeerk, Olam International’s global head of innovation, concurs.

“Helping our customers keep pace with consumers’ changing tastes for healthier options is incredibly important, and something we are well positioned to do,” he says. “Equally important is that the product must taste great, which is exactly why our Cocoa Innovation Centres develop high quality, delicious products such as a dark cocoa powder without added sodium that our Latin American customers can use to reformulate their products. This provides our customers with a powder that has the same flavor and color impact, but which allows them to reduce sugar in their own recipe.”

But it’s not just about reducing sugar anymore; fat content has also entered the picture.

“Here different solutions are also possible for reducing the amount of fat; however, some fat reduction solutions can affect the ‘cleanliness’ of a product label, which is also important to keep in mind,” Adriaenssens says. “Fat also has an important function in melt, texture, and flavor delivery of the chocolate, and for an indulgent item like chocolate, consumers generally don’t want to sacrifice taste for less fat.”

Moreover, with cocoa and chocolate there are several options to consider. Hemskeerk notes that Olam International produces a range of cocoa powders for its customers with varying levels of fat.

“As the level of fat required depends on what product is being produced, we leave the decision of what to use regarding their own formulations up to them,” he says. “However, as consumers are more health conscious, a driver for us is to make our products as ‘clean-labelled’ as possible. Here, our natural cocoa powders come to play; they are not alkalized, yet provide the same color, flavor and functionality in application.”

To address this niche, The Blommer Chocolate Co. developed the Wonder Line, indulgent and creamy white, milk, dark and yogurt coatings that have significantly reduced calories, fat and saturated fat. The reduction in calories ranges from 36-37 percent, the total fat is reduced by 60-63 percent and the total saturated fat is lowered by 63-66 percent, depending upon the type (i.e. white vs. dark).

According to the company, any number of claims may be made, depending on the application and what is being created. Low Fat, Reduced Calorie, Reduced Fat, Reduced Saturated Fat claims may be made depending on the application and usage level. It comes down to permissible…

This recipe proves that there’s a healthy way to have chocolate for breakfast

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Photos: Botanica

Thanks to unicorn everything, breakfast is starting to regain a little bit of its childhood magic—you know, back when cereals in wildly artificial colors were the only thing that could get you out of bed in the morning. (Other than a new episode of Saved By The Bell, that is.)

But let’s get real: As fun as it is to mix elaborate pastel spreads for your toast, it’s not always possible to make an Insta-worthy breakfast when you’re rushing to work.

Los Angeles-based chefs Heather Sperling and Emily Fiffer have figured out a simpler, yet still healthy, way to bring some of those fourth-grade vibes into your busy weekday mornings: cacao coconut granola. The mineral- and antioxidant-rich concoction is currently on the menu at their new Silver Lake restaurant and market, Botanica, which just debuted (along with its own companion culinary e-zine).

“Packed with cacao powder and nibs, and sweetened only with honey, it’s an excellent energy booster.”

“We love this granola because it’s an awesome, wholesome excuse to eat chocolate for breakfast,” says Sperling. It’s also super-energizing (without any accompanying sugar crash), thanks to the fact that the only sweetener in it is honey. Just ask the chef: “We’ve been sustaining ourselves throughout the insanity of our restaurant opening with handfuls of it nearly every hour, on the hour.”

The duo likens their creation to grown-up Cocoa Puffs, so it makes sense that they’d dish it up it in an elevated way, too. “At Botanica, we serve the granola with house-made cashew-date milk, organic cow’s milk, or sheep’s-milk yogurt…

Is Halo Top Ice Cream Actually Healthy?

I can confirm that Halo Top ice cream does indeed taste amazing.

After hearing hype for months about this low-calorie, high-protein “healthy” ice cream, I finally caved and bought a pint of their Black Cherry. I devoured it in minutes and was amazed at how much it tasted like traditional ice cream. If I went to a scoop shoppe and someone served me a bowl of Halo Top, I wouldn’t think twice. I would think it was some pretty great ice cream.

But there’s a common saying in the nutrition world—if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Just because a product’s low in calories doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. Heck, zero-calorie diet soda has its own set of issues. So, is Halo Top ice cream actually healthy? Here’s your answer.

Getting The Facts Straight

Halo Top Ice Cream
Photo via Halo Top’s official Facebook page

Before we dive into the ingredients in Halo Top, let’s discuss its nutrition facts.

In short, they’re spectacular—at least compared to the nutrition facts for traditional ice cream. Halo Top is currently available in 17 flavors. Each flavor falls in the range of 240-360 calories per pint. Let’s focus on the chocolate variety, since it’s fairly simple.

One pint of chocolate Halo Top ice cream contains:

280 calories, 10 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 160 mg of cholesterol, 440 mg of sodium, 48 grams of carbohydrate, 8 grams of fiber, 20 grams of sugar, 20 grams of protein, 40% DV calcium, 16% DV iron.

Now, let’s compare that to one the most popular traditional ice cream brands in the world—Häagen-Dazs. The nutrition facts for one pint of chocolate Häagen-Dazs ice cream:

1,040 calories, 68 grams of fat, 40 grams of saturated fat, 360 mg of cholesterol, 180 mg of sodium, 88 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of fiber, 76 grams of sugar, 20 grams of protein, 32% DV calcium, 32% DV iron.

There’s really no contest—Halo Top blows traditional ice cream out of the water in almost every important nutritional category (especially for those concerned with weight management). The calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar totals for Halo Top are a fraction of what’s inside traditional ice cream. Halo Top does this while being just as high in fiber and protein as the traditional brands (if not more so). It’s still ice cream, so it can’t replace veggies, fruit, whole grains, etc. in your diet. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a delicious dessert with more impressive nutrition facts than Halo Top.

The next question is how the heck do they do it?

Ingenious Ingredients

Ice Cream
One reason Halo Top is able to keep their calorie count and sugar totals so low is because, unlike traditional ice cream manufacturers, they actually use a trio of sweeteners in their product.

The most prominent is erythritol, an all-natural sugar alcohol that looks and tastes like sugar yet contains just 0.24 calories per gram. The second most prominent is organic cane sugar—which is basically a fancy way of saying plain ol’ sugar. Sugar contains 4 calories per gram. A pint of Halo Top contains 20 grams of sugar, so 80 of those calories can be directly attributed to its sugar content. The third sweetener is stevia, a plant native to Paraguay that’s long been used as a low-calorie natural sweetener. It contains no calories and is roughly 250 to 300 times the sweetness of sugar.

Let’s crunch the cumulative calorie numbers for these sweeteners:

  • Stevia contains no…

Just One Bite of this Vegan Chocolate Caramel Bar Will Make You Feel Divine

Vegan Chocolate Caramel Bar
Image via Minimalist Baker

Golden gooey caramel is encased in rich layers of dark chocolate, combining to create the perfect dessert. With only five ingredients, this dairy-free vegan chocolate caramel bar couldn’t be any easier to make!

This chocolate recipe uses our vegan caramel sauce for its sweet and chewy center. The key ingredient in vegan caramel is Medjool dates. Medjool dates are not only naturally sweet but also have the perfect gooey texture for making caramel.

Chocolate Caramel Bar Nutrition

Medjool dates are also an ingredient you won’t feel guilty about eating. Medjool dates are an excellent source of many minerals and vitamins. Particularly, they are rich in potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, niacin, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin K, vitamin A, and zinc. Dates are also a great source of fiber which will help sustain you and prevent blood sugar levels from rising.

The dark chocolate in this recipe is also healthy, especially…

Vegan Zucchini Chocolate Cake

What you’ll need:

Cake:

  • 280g shredded zucchini
    150g coconut oil
    260g spelt whole wheat flour
  • 100g coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp baking powdrer
  • 3 tbsp chia seeds
  • 3 tbsp unsweetended cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt

Chocolate topping:

  • 150 g dark vegan chocolate
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 200 g coconut milk

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius
  2. Wash, peel and shred zucchini
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the cake
  4. Line the baking form with parchement paper
  5. Evenly spread the cake mixture in the baking form
  6. Let it bake for 20-30 minutes (Tip: Use a toothpick & insert it into the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready to be taken out oft he oven)
  7. Let the chocolate melt over low heat, then add the coconut milk and oil and stir together until well combined
  8. When the cake is ready, take it out of the oven and let it cool down completely – then evenly spread the chocolate topping, leave it to set and cut the cake into squares.
  9. Enjoy! ?

You Can’t ‘Beet’ the Secret Ingredient in These Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe
iStock/esseffe

Gluten-free and vegan chocolate cupcakes no longer only exists in your dreams. They’re happening – right here, right now. What makes these cupcakes so cake-like and moist is the addition of beets, which does the job that animal-based products like milk, butter, and eggs are often called in to do. The beets don’t make the cupcakes taste like beet–instead, its presence magnifies the deep, earthy flavors of the chocolate. Enjoy!

Chocolate cupcakes are supposed to be decadent, but what if they were low-key vegan and gluten-free too? Win, win, and win.

  • For the cupcakes:
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup coconut nectar
  • 1 cup roasted beet puree
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 3/4 cup gluten-free flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • For the frosting:
  • 12 ounces coconut milk (chilled in the fridge)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut nectar…

From Lemon Cake To Chocolate Cream Pie: 15 Unforgettable Easter Desserts

Jelly beans and chocolate bunnies are fine, but these Easter treats will make your holiday celebration unforgettable. From the lemoniest lemon pound cake to the silkiest chocolate cream pie, there is something on this list for everybunny.

If ever there was a cake for lemon lovers, this is it. Lemon zest and lemon juice are added to the batter, which lightly perfume the cake with lemon. After the cake is baked, it’s doused with lemon syrup and drizzled with a tart lemon glaze. GET THE RECIPE

This dazzling, delicious trifle can be made in under 30 minutes — just be sure to plan ahead as it needs to sit in the fridge at least 8 hours before serving. GET THE RECIPE

Who doesn’t love Rice Krispies treats?! In this version, they’re toasty, caramel-y, salty and gooey. The secret ingredient? I’ll give you a hint: it starts with “golden” and ends with “grahams.” GET THE RECIPE

Carrot cakes can be heavy and dense, but this one is light with a fine texture. The secret is finely chopping the carrots in a food processor rather than grating them. GET THE RECIPE

Banana Pudding is an old-fashioned Southern dessert traditionally made with layers of Nilla wafers, vanilla pudding and sliced bananas. This gourmet version bucks tradition a bit, but still tastes wonderfully nostalgic and delicious. GET THE RECIPE

Inspired by the “Obsessive Ricotta Cheesecake” in Gina DePalma’s Dolce Italiano, Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen, this cheesecake is a hybrid between…

PB&T Chocolate Pudding

If you live on the East Coast, chances are you are recovering from a snow day this morning. For us, there is no better time than a snow day to try out a new recipe! Besides, if you are going to stay in and cuddle up on the couch, why not make something sweet and healthy to indulge in?

Check out this recipe for my PB&T Chocolate Pudding, straight from “The Everything You Need To Know About Diabetes Cookbook!” The book features 70 healthy and delicious recipes to help you control your diabetes and weight loss, and I also help you navigate the key challenges of living with diabetes. Buy it here now!

Silken tofu gives this pudding body, and it adds protein too. Don’t worry, the addition of the cocoa powder and peanut butter means that no one will know you snuck in the tofu.

1 lb (450 g) silken tofu
1/3 cup (30 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup (60 ml) maple syrup or agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons peanut butter

Serves 4–6 

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour the pudding mixture into mini cups or bowls and enjoy.

Per serving (if serves 6): 216 kcals, 12.5 g fat (3.3 g saturates), 15.9 g carbohydrate (11.2 g sugars), 10.2 g protein, 2 g fiber, 0.2 g salt


Recipe from The Everything You Need To Know About Diabetes Cookbook by Dr. Karin M Hehenberger, MD, PhD (CICO Books, $19.95) Photography © CICO Books

Forecast: Yum! 8 Snow Day Treats To Bake With Kids

After the kids tire of sledding, bring the fun into the kitchen with these easy baking recipes.

Snickerdoodles are sweet, buttery sugar cookies lightly dusted with cinnamon. With their whimsical name, crackly tops, perfectly crisp edges and soft centers, I don’t know anyone who can resist them. Kids love to form the squishy dough into balls and roll them in cinnamon-sugar. GET THE RECIPE

Homemade chocolate pudding is silky-smooth and intensely chocolate — a world apart from instant or store bought. Kids love it — like lick their bowls clean, clank their spoons, get all quiet when they eat it love it — but don’t think of it just for kids. Adults love it too. GET THE RECIPE

These have got to be some of the world’s cutest cookies. They look like little yo-yos, thus the name, and are popular in Australia. You make them by joining together two buttery shortbread disks with a layer of creamy chocolate-hazelnut spread. GET THE RECIPE

If…

You Guys, Girl Scout Cookies Really Do Suck (But You Can Still Offer Support)

You Guys, Girl Scout Cookies Really Do Suck (But You Can Still Offer Support)
istock/catlane

As sure as spring flowers and butterflies arrive each year comes the siren call of Girl Scout cookies.

Most of us have bought them for years, nay decades, and many of us also sold them as little girls.

I did. I joined Girl Scouts because of the cookies – I thought we would get to bake them, too. My sweet tooth emerged early in life. But these days, I keep boxes of cookies and other sugary treats out of my house lest my sweet tooth commandeer my brain. I had managed to avoid buying the cookies for years until one fateful Saturday afternoon when I heard a small knock at my front door.

Would You Like to Buy Some Cookies?

Two adorable Girl Scouts wearing patch-covered vests stood beside a little red wagon piled high with boxes of cookies. One had a sprinkle of freckles on her nose and the other, a snaggletooth smile. Much like their sweet treats themselves, the Girl Scouts were impossible to resist. I bought two boxes for $4 each: Thin Mints and Samoas.

Back inside, I ripped into the package of Thin Mints like a fiend and crammed one in my mouth. Hmm. It didn’t taste nearly as good as I remembered. I tried the Samoas next – and they too fell short of expectations. Crumbly, dry, and a little bit waxy.

The Chocolatey Truth

This 1-Day Meal Plan For Weight Loss Lets You Eat Chocolate and Pizza

Have you heard of the concept called “If It Fits Your Macros,” or IIFYM? Essentially, you create your own specific guidelines for macronutrients (macros) based on your goals (like losing weight, for instance), and you eat “whatever you want” so long as it fits your macros — your goal number of grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

No, this doesn’t mean you can eat pizza all…

Celebrate Valentine’s Day With This Delicious Vegan Treat

Happy birthday to you! OK, so maybe it’s not your birthday, but it’s somebody’s birthday somewhere, so there’s a good reason right there to immediately bake a batch of these chocolate cupcakes smothered with homemade chocolate frosting. And when you have your first decadent bite, you just might drop the rest of your cupcake when you realize that they’re low-calorie and totally vegan, plus the frosting is made with avocados instead of butter!

The healthy fats in the avocado make these cupcakes as healthy as a bowl of kale and bean soup! OK, maybe not that healthy, but healthy enough to feel good about reaching for more. Each cupcake offers almost five grams of fiber and is just 230 calories. A real-deal chocolate cupcake is 459 calories! That’s a crime when you can make these chocolate gems.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

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