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Most people have experienced cravings for chocolate at some point in their lives. In fact for many people trying to lose weight chocolate is diet enemy number one, and a food with which people often have a love/hate relationship. Known to be high in fat and calories and a key contributor to weight gain when consumed too often, chocolate is often the treat we just can’t turn down.
Is chocolate addition a diet killer?
Many claim chocolate addiction is the root of their dieting problems, and indeed chocolate has been found to contain many compounds that have pleasure stimulating effects on the body. However, there are many other foods that are higher in these chemicals that are not nearly so craved as chocolate. So no excuses there. Many of us are also clinging to that earth shattering research that found that chocolate contains antioxidants and is good for the heart, as a good excuse to polish off a block or two. While this is certainly the case, along with those health promoting compounds there is also a huge amount of fat, sugars and calories and there is no doubt it can contribute to weight gain.
It would be much more beneficial to eat a tomato or some strawberries, also packed full of antioxidants and other vitamins, but low in calories and virtually fat free. It is also important to remember that while dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids will impart these benefits, a king size Mars bar will not have quite the same healthful properties.
Why do we crave chocolate?
So why do we crave chocolate so much? One possibly is that the craving is based on the stigma chocolate is given. Many see it as something to be avoided and so deprive themselves, leading to stronger cravings later on. Or maybe it is simply the great taste and high sugar and fat contents that we are addicted to.
Whether you eat chocolate as a snack, because you are hungry, or to satisfy your sweet tooth, if you are eating too much too often, it will contribute to weight gain. If you are a serial chocolate snacker, it may be better to avoid buying chocolate at all. If it’s not in the house then when the cravings hit, the effort of going out to buy some may be enough to deter you. When you are craving chocolate try going for a walk or distracting yourself with another activity. If this doesn’t work try replacing your chocolate fix with one of the satisfying but low calorie treats below.
10 Healthy Alternatives to chocolate under 100 calories
(Calorie values given are averages and may vary from brand to brand)
1. Frozen Chocolate banana
(1/2 a small banana dipped in 2 squares dark melted chocolate and frozen)
This treat involves chocolate so you still get that chocolaty taste, but by combining it with the healthy, low fat banana you are likely to eat less actual chocolate. The banana also provides important vitamins and minerals such as potassium and adds fibre and bulk to your snack, meaning it will keep you feeling satisfied for longer. As an added bonus frozen banana tastes just like banana ice cream.
2. Hot cocoa
(Made with one cup of non-fat milk and two teaspoons of unsweetened cocoa powder)
Another way to get that chocolaty flavour without the fat and calories, this drink also provides a good dose of calcium for strong bones and protein to keep you full. That’s a lot more than a Hershey’s bar will give you. If you find the cocoa a little bitter add artificial sweeteners to taste.
3. Chocolate milk
(Low fat and calorie, 200ml)
There are many low fat, sugar free chocolate beverages on the market that can satisfy your chocolate craving and provide valuable nutrients such as calcium. Some are even fortified to contain even more nutritional value. Many brands offer small, portion controlled tetra packs which are great for having on hand at work or on the run and prevent you from going over the 100 calorie limit.
4. Dried fruit
A small handful
40-80 calories (depending on fruit type)
Dried fruits are a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth and gain nutrients in the process. Dried fruits contain all the same vitamins and minerals as fresh versions but in a more concentrated form. This means they taste sweeter to help curb cravings. However, it is important to remember that they are a fairly concentrated source of calories, so it is essential to control portion sizes. Buy small packets such as boxes of raisins for a portable, portion controlled, sweet treat. Make sure you choose natural varieties and avoid those packaged in oil or with added sugar as this will add to the calorie count.
5. Dark chocolate
30-80 calories (depending on square size, brand and % cocoa)
While this is not really an alternative to chocolate, it is the best way to satisfy a chocolate craving with the real thing, but minimizing calories. Choose the highest percentage cocoa that you can, as these contain the most beneficial antioxidants. To help you stick to just two squares, buy an expensive luxury block and savour each bite. If you spend a little more you will want to make it last longer and the experience will be even better with a higher quality chocolate.
6. Chocolate flavoured cereal
(About half the recommended serve size with 100ml of non- fat milk)
97 calories (Wheat based chocolate cereal)
Cereals are not just for breakfast. Small servings can make the ideal nutritious snack and chocolate flavoured options can give you your chocolate fix. Look for varieties that are high in fibre, low in fat and sugar and fortified with other vitamins such as iron for the most benefits. Check the recommended portion size and half this for a calorie controlled snack.
7. Low fat chocolate dessert
There is a wide variety of low fat and sugar chocolate flavoured desserts on the market. Most of these will also provide you with some calcium and protein and so is a more nutritious option than chocolate. Many of these desserts are designed for dieters and come in small serve sizes
8. Cherries and other berries
50-90 calories (depending on the berry)
Berries and cherries also have the luxurious, treat feel that we associate with chocolate. They are sweet and flavoursome and make the perfect after dinner treat. Berries are the lowest calorie fruits and are full of antioxidants and fibre making them an ideal chocolate replacement. Best of all you can eat a lot for very few calories, so they make a healthy grazing option.
9. Low fat and sugar ice creams and frozen yogurts.
100 calories per serve
From Weight Watchers to Skinny Cow and a whole host of other brands in between, there are a huge number of 100 calorie per serve ice creams on the market. Modern food technology means the flavour of such products continues to improve and they are a good options to satisfy a sweet tooth, or a chocolate craving if the chocolate options are chosen. Most of these products promote the fact that they only have 100 calories per bar, sandwich or tub, so it’s easy to know how much you can eat for the calories.
10. Chocolate yogurt pudding
This pudding is a delicious homemade, low calorie chocolate fix. Providing calcium and protein, but with all the rich flavour of a calorie laden treat. Mix a tub of non fat natural yoghurt with 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder for a mousse like treat with a fraction of the calories.