It is bound to happen. And once it hits, a chocolate craving can be difficult to shake.
If you don’t satisfy the craving with healthy chocolate snacks, you may end up binging on chocolaty sweets that will ruin your mood and add to your waistline. While there are many health benefits attributed by the cacao bean, the added ingredients to make chocolate (processed sugar and often dairy) are unhealthy.
Health Benefits of Raw Cacao (the OG Chocolate)
To eat the healthiest version of chocolate, choose raw cacao. Not only is it chocolate, but it is a superfood! So, it tastes good and it’s good for you! It is more expensive than baking or Dutch-processed cocoa, but raw cacao has many more health benefits. Here is why raw cacao is so awesome:
- Unprocessed (raw) cacao has 40 times more antioxidants than blueberries. Antioxidants remove free-radicals and toxins from the body to reduce tissue damage and minimize the risk of cancer growth and other diseases.
- It is packed with magnesium, which is necessary for bone, heart, and brain health.
- Cacao has tons of iron to help blood carry oxygen to cells. Without adequate iron levels, you will feel sluggish and have low energy.
- It has high amounts of calcium to maintain strong bones and proper nerve and muscle function.
- Cacao makes you happy! Raw cacao provides neurotransmitters, like serotonin and tryptophan, that are associated with blissful feelings and comfort. This can help alleviate depression. So it makes perfect sense that we turn to chocolate when we are sad!
When it comes to sweetened chocolate, the good does not outweigh the bad. So what can you do to curb the cravings without disturbing your health? Here are 15 healthy and simple ways to get your chocolate fix using the superfood raw cacao:
1. Chocolate Oatmeal
Add a teaspoon or two of cacao powder to your oatmeal. Oats are known to be super healthy, thanks to their fiber, vitamins and minerals. The goodies in oats help to improve digestion, lower bad cholesterol, and oats provide nearly 20% of the recommended daily iron intake. Adding in raw cacao powder will add antioxidants, magnesium, and even more iron. For the healthiest version, add cacao to plain oatmeal and sweeten with dried fruit, like dates, or pure maple syrup. Packaged sweetened oats have other preservatives and ingredients that are not healthy, so using plain oatmeal is the best option. But if you’re just not feeling up to plain oats, then packaged oatmeal is still better than a chocolate candy bar.
2. Homemade Hot Chocolate
A cozy cup of hot chocolate can really cheer you up and knock out chocolate cravings. The packaged hot chocolates often contain unhealthy added ingredients. Making your own hot chocolate is easier than you may think and it always delicious. For a low-calorie hot chocolate, swap out dairy milk for unsweetened almond milk, which has only 30 calories per cup. Here is a simple decadent hot chocolate recipe to warm you up and put a smile on your face:
- 2/3 cup almond milk
- 1/3 cup coconut milk
- 1-2 TBSP raw cacao powder
- 1-2 TBSP maple syrup, or other sweetener
- Pinch of salt
- Optional: 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, sprinkle of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
Whisk all ingredients except vanilla and cinnamon in a microwave at 30 second intervals until hot and the powder dissolves. Stir in the vanilla and sprinkle on the cinnamon before serving.
Tip: Turn this healthy hot chocolate into a healthy mocha, simply by adding in black coffee!
3. Chocolate “Milkshake”
Thick, creamy, and decadent chocolate milkshakes are always superstars when it comes to satisfying a chocolate craving. But they can be super unhealthy too. Luckily, there is a way to make a healthy low-fat chocolate milkshake that you won’t believe is really healthy. Try out this healthy chocolate milkshake recipe:
- 2 cups frozen bananas (peel and break into pieces before freezing)
- 1 1/2 cups almond milk
- 2 TBSP hemp seeds
- 1 TBSP cacao powder
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1-2 pitted dates (optional)
- Optional (but amazing): 1-2 TBSP peanut or almond butter
Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender until super smooth. Enjoy!
4. Raw Brownie Balls
No-bake brownies will ensure that all the nutrients from the cacao powder and other ingredients are maintained. These raw brownies balls are rich, chocolaty, and sure to satisfy a chocolate craving. The other ingredients in this blissful ball of deliciousness add healthy fats, fiber, and an abundance of vitamins and minerals. Try out this healthy brownie ball the next time you need to treat yourself:
- 2 cups pitted dates (the softer and gooyer the better. If they are hard, soak them in warm water)
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup hemp seeds
- 1/2 cup almonds
- 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
- 1/4 cup flaxmeal
- 1/2 tap vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut, oats, or almond flour for rolling
Blend all ingredients, except the coconut for rolling, in a blender or food processor until well combined and sticky. You may need to wipe down the sides a few times to get everything blended together. Then, roll the mixture into 1 to 2-inch balls. Roll the balls through shredded coconut, oats, or almond flour until well coated. This coating is optional, but it will prevent the balls from sticking together and making a mess on your hands when eating.
These healthy brownie balls are full of healthy fats, like omega-3, thanks to the nuts and seeds in this snack recipe. The nuts and seeds also add protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to the mix. Flaxmeal (ground flaxseed) helps to lower blood pressure and provides the perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Having too much omega-6 fats in the diet can cause inflammation. However, having higher levels of omega-3 than omega-6 can reduce inflammation in the body.
5. Black Bean Avocado Brownies
If you are in the mood a hot baked brownie, try a black bean and avocado brownie. It may sound crazy… beans and avocado in a brownie? Trust me. It is amazing and you won’t even know you’re eating a “treat” that is full of fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. And besides, how do you know, if you haven’t tried it yet? Next time you’re in the mood for a brownie, try this recipe:
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 flax eggs (2 TBSP flaxmeal + 6 TBSP water, let sit for 10 minutes)
- 1 small avocado, skin and seed removed
- 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar (substitute: lemon juice or white vinegar)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup coconut sugar
- 2/3 cup raw cacao powder
- 1 TBSP baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil an 8×8 inch baking pan (Tip: use silicone baking pans or baking paper to avoid oil).
- Blend wet ingredients in a food processor until well combined. Add in the dry ingredients and blend until a smooth batter forms. The batter will be thick. However, if it is too thick to blend, add a tablespoon of water to help it along.
- Spoon the batter into the pan. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife comes out mostly clean. Let cool for at least 20 minutes. Enjoy!
Black beans are loaded with filling fiber, iron, and B-vitamins. This will help keep your energy levels up and steady so you can do what you need to do. Avocado in this healthy snack recipe adds more fiber, as well as potassium to help control blood pressure, and vitamin E to improve skin health.
6. Raw Cacao Syrup Drizzle
Don’t have time to bake brownies? Do you have time to stir something really quick? Making your own chocolate syrup is easy. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder with 2 tablespoon maple syrup. Whisk until the powder finally dissolves into the syrup. It will take a couple minutes, but it will be oh-so worth it.
Drizzle your new found love over a banana with some nut butter. Or over berries, pancakes, popcorn, or anything else you want to add chocolate to. Adding this syrup to fruit, over oatmeal, or granola will provide additional health benefits due to fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber helps slow digestion of sugars, so you won’t get a sugar rush from the maple syrup and will have sustained energy instead.
7. Sprinkle on Nut Butter Toast
If you are feeling lazy and would like to put as little effort into food preparation as possible, you can still use raw cacao powder to your advantage. Make some toast, spread on a bit of nut butter, and sprinkle with raw cacao powder and a touch of cinnamon. This toast may become your new best friend.
For a super healthy chocolaty toast, use whole grain bread and a nut butter without added oils or sugar. The only ingredients in a healthy nut butter are the nut (or seed), and maybe some salt. Cinnamon is a superfood too, with lots of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and the ability to help stabilize blood sugar levels.
8. Cacao Nibs
If you want a quick chocolaty snack that you can eat on the go, try cacao nibs. These crunchy snacks are little bits of raw cacao beans, which is where cacao powder comes from. Cacao nibs can be found in many grocery and health food stores. If you can’t find them in your area, they are widely available online too.
Here are a few ways to eat cacao nibs:
- By themselves, simply pop a few in your mouth and enjoy the crunch.
- Sprinkled on oatmeal or cereal
- Stirred into yogurt or a smoothie
- Mixed into trail mix in place of chocolate chips
- Sprinkled onto toast with nut butter and fruit
9. Chia pudding
Chia seeds are loaded with healthy omega fats, antioxidants, protein, fiber, iron, and calcium. The fun part about chia seeds is that they make a gel when soaked in liquid. You can take advantage of this phenomenon by using chia to make chocolate pudding! Here is a simple chocolate chia pudding recipe:
- 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 2-4 TBSP maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups almond or coconut milk
- 1/2 cup chia seeds
When the craving for chocolate ice cream hits, throw a handful or two of frozen banana pieces into a high-speed blender with 1 tablespoon of raw cacao powder and a splash of almond milk. Blend until smooth and creamy. Depending on your blender, you may need to wipe the sides down and mix it up with a spoon a few times to get the smooth texture. Once your bananas look like ice cream, it is ready to eat!
For extra chocolate, drizzle your chocolate banana ice cream with the raw cacao syrup (above).
- Mix the cacao powder, cinnamon, salt, syrup, and vanilla in a bowl until it makes a dough.
- Whisk in the milk a little at a time until smooth.
- Add the chia seeds and mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight (or you can start this in the morning for a healthy chocolate dessert that night).
- For a tapioca-like pudding, enjoy as is. For a smooth pudding, add the mixture to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth before serving.
10. Healthy Chocolate Banana Ice Cream
A classic chocolate dessert is chocolate ice cream, of course. But ice cream is loaded with sugar, fat, and will ruin your healthy progress. Lucky for you, there is a way to make rich chocolate ice cream that is super low fat, and super chocolaty. The trick is to always have frozen bananas in the freezer. When your bananas start to brown, peel them, break into 1-inch pieces, and freeze them in an air-tight container.
This simple homemade ice cream is healthy because it is low in fat and high in potassium. According to NutritionFacts.org, less than 2% of Americans get the amount of potassium they need each day, which is 4,700 mg. That means most people do not eat enough potassium! Getting adequate potassium lowers blood pressure, contributes to kidney health, aids in metabolism, and improves muscle strength and endurance. You can also make this healthy ice cream into other flavors too – add in peanut butter, fruit, or leave it banana-flavored! (Then drizzle with raw cacao syrup, of course).