Think Feb. 14 and what comes to mind? Cupid, hearts, flowers and . . . chocolate.
According to the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, we will spend $665
million on the sweet stuff this Valentine's Day and consume an average 11.5
pounds per person this year. That's great news for the chocolate industry,
but can those of us trying to eat healthy, low-fat diets have our chocolate
and eat it too?
Fortunately for chocolate lovers everywhere, the delicious morsels are no
longer the cardiovascular culprits we once thought. We've known for years
that chocolate contains a high amount of saturated fat and that saturated
fat in most people contributes to high serum cholesterol levels. But lately,
reports on one of the saturated fats in chocolate-stearic acid-has made
headlines. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have concluded that
unlike most saturated fats, stearic acid does not raise serum cholesterol.
Additional research supports these findings, and many scientists concur
that stearic acid appears to have a neutral effect on serum cholesterol.
That's the good news. The bad news? Chocolate is still a high-fat food and
packs a caloric punch. So how can you satisfy your cravings and still satisfy
your fat and calorie budget? Try some of these tips to incorporate chocolate
in a healthful diet:
With a little planning, chocolate can certainly be part of a balanced diet.
The key, as with all foods, is to enjoy chocolate in moderation. So on this
Valentine's Day (and every day), have a chocolate heart . . . but only one
- Do a chocolate trade-off. If you plan to have an average-size (1.4
ounces) chocolate bar during the day, omit one tablespoon of mayonnaise
from your sandwich, or use fat-free salad dressing instead of two tablespoons
of regular dressing.
- Use half the amount of chocolate chips called for in cookie recipes.
Replace with oatmeal or a crispy cereal.
- Make low-fat brownies using cocoa powder and substitute an equal amount
of applesauce for the oil called for in the recipe. You'll get great flavor
without the fat.
- Chocolate syrup is fatfree. Mix with low-fat vanilla yogurt for a
great dip for fruit. Blend in with fat-free cream cheese for a delicious
spread for bread, bagels or crackers.
- Most commercial chocolate-flavored graham crackers and breakfast cereals
are lowfat. When you need a sweet treat, these are good options.
- Choose candy bars with less than three grams of fat per 100 calories
in a serving. These are lowfat, and they do exist. Old favorites such as
Peppermint Patties and Tootsie Rolls are also low-fat. Many of our favorite
candy bars now come in miniature bite-sizes. Opt for a few of these to tame
your sweet tooth instead of the king-size bars
- Need a cafe mocha? Ask for a skinny, made with skim milk, and save
eight grams of fat.
- Hot cocoa and chocolate pudding made with skim milk can provide a
chocolate kick and a calcium boost to your diet.
Colleen Doyle is program director for the Seretean Center
for Health Promotion in the Rollins School of Public Health.
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