If you’ve been known to call this decadent dessert “the nectar of the gods,” you’re not alone. If you have recently had a chocolate attack where you felt like you simply couldn’t live until you had a bite of this rich, dark, slightly bitter delicacy, we feel you. And if you can’t imagine a life in which chocolate is banned and would frankly rather move to Sibera than live without it, welcome to the club. While chocolate is a popular and delicious treat, however, it is too often loaded with sugar and fat, compromising your attempts to eat healthfully and derailing even your best intentions. Not all of it is like that, thankfully. Let’s take a look at the different types of chocolate and the best ways to keep this treat in your life.
Dairy Versus Non-Dairy
Many types of chocolate contain a high percentage of dairy. You need look no further than the names themselves: while “milk chocolate” has lots of dairy solids, “dark chocolate” either has a low percentage of dairy or no none at all. If you are allergic to dairy or trying to cut unnecessary calories, eating dark chocolate is a good way to do so. Beware, though: 15 percent of chocolates labeled “dairy free” or “lactose free” still contain dairy, says the FDA.
Fat in Chocolate
In addition to milk products, a lot of the fat in chocolate comes from cocoa butter. Think white chocolate, which is basically all cocoa butter, as opposed to dark chocolate, which is mostly cocoa solids (made from the cacao tree). Dark chocolate tends to be a lot lower calorie than white or milk chocolate because of the considerably lower amounts of cocoa butter and higher amounts of low-calorie, heart-healthy cacao. Just another reason to go dark where possible.
Sugar Versus Sugar-Free
Many people associate sugar-free chocolate with clever fakery. Why even bother? you might wonder. The truth is, while many sugar-free treats taste exactly like that – as if they don’t have any sweetness in them – others are much better substitutes. Take chocolate bars sweetened with Lakanto. They use a one-to-one substitute of sugar to calorie-free monkfruit sweetener, so the consistency of the chocolate bar is the same as what you’re used to. It’s a delicious way to cut out calories and kill the cycle of spiking and crashing associated with real sugar.
It’s important to keep even healthy sugar-free treats in perspective. While chocolate bars sweetened with zero-calorie sugar replacements might have no calories in the sweetener, they do still contain calories. Even if you buy high-quality chocolate made with healthy sweeteners, you still can’t eat them all the time. Limit your intake to one serving, and eat as a small dessert after a lean, protein-heavy meal or as a snack rather than as a meal replacement. This is a healthier way to view treats.
Of course, everything is fine in moderation. If you love milk or white chocolate, eat it once in a while as a treat, but try to avoid it for everyday. For more common sweet treats, turn to dark, sugar-free chocolate for your fix.