No dairy? No gluten? No egg? A nutritionist on the chocolate alternatives you can eat.

Video by MWN

Have you ever gone for “just a few squares” of your favourite chocolate block, and then next minute you’re left with an empty wrapper and a few crumbs? As adults, we can be guilty of indulging every now and then. But what about our kids?

It’s a common misconception that swiping that chocolate out of your child’s hand is the best way to keep them healthy. But put simply, if you make the right choccy-choices you can ditch the guilt for both you and your little ones too.

The health benefits of dark chocolate can’t be denied, with an increasing number of studies pointing to rich concentrations of beneficial antioxidants and polyphenol.

Yep, by opting for a good quality dark chocolate, you’re making a more nutritious choice than other chocolates (not to mention lollies!). But don’t be misled – this only applies to authentic dark chocolate with a high concentration of cacao seeds.

Come with me to the dark side and I’ll explain…

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Health benefits of dark chocolate.

1. It makes kids happy! The phenylethylamine in chocolate tells your child’s brain to release feel-good endorphins, which is why they (and we) often crave some when they’re feeling tired or even a little down.

2. Due to its high concentration of antioxidants, dark chocolate has anti-inflammatory properties and can protect the body from the damaging effects of toxins we both eat and absorb from our environment.

3. It’s loaded with good stuff. Copper, iron, magnesium for energy, manganese, potassium, phosphorous, selenium to boost immunity and even zinc can all be found in a dark chocolate. Who knew?!

4. A good quality dark chocolate can help improve circulation, reduce high blood pressure, and help prevent white blood cells clogging up artery walls. It can also help guard against cardiovascular disease by reducing bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol.

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Cacao vs Cocoa.

While both raw cacao powder and cocoa come from cocoa beans, they differ in the way they’re processed.

Raw cacao is created by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans, which protects and maintains living enzymes in the cocoa and removes the fat (cacao butter).

Cocoa powder on the other hand, may look the same but it’s far more processed, made from cacao that’s been hot-roasted. This means less of the healthy nutrients and enzymes survive, and although still a healthy option, it’s not as nutritious as pure raw cacao.

So bear in mind when you see studies proclaiming the amazing health benefits of chocolate, they’re not talking about the standard choccy at your local supermarket. Instead, they focus on the good quality dark kind with a high cocoa or cacao content.

Cacao vs Carob.

What is Carob?
Carob comes in different forms as well. Here you have the carob husk, pod and powder. Image: supplied.

The flavour profile between cacao and carob differs as well.

Cacao has a deep, bitter-chocolate taste, which can be heaven for dark chocolate fans but little taste buds may find it too much. It can also be overstimulating for some children, so carob is a neat alternative as a milder, sweeter and less stimulating version for diehard sweet-tooths.

While carob has fewer minerals, less fat and much more natural sugar, its high in fibre so still a nutritious alternative. The subtle flavour is great in a creamy smoothie too.

How to choose that choc…

My rule of thumb is the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you. The higher the cocoa solids, the higher content of all that good stuff and less of the not so good stuff (like sugar and other additives), so a short ingredient list tends to be a very good sign.

Here are five nutritious chocolate recipes that are guaranteed to delight even the most hardened chocoholic:

1. Homemade Chocolate.

homemade chocolate
Pretty to look at, and delicious too. Image supplied.

With only five ingredients, these beauties are so incredibly easy to whip up. Plus, they’re gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free – perfect for everyone to enjoy. You could even get your little ones hands-on in the kitchen because the recipe is so versatile –pour them into moulds, or alternatively cool the mixture in a single layer and sprinkle fruit or nuts on top to make chocolate “bark”.

2. Chocolate Quinoa Crackles.

Quinoa chocolate crackles
Just like the kid's party classic but so much more nutritious. Image: supplied.

Your kids will love this nutritious and scrumptious snack. Gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan friendly, these can be made in minutes and will store in the freezer for up to four months (if they last that long!). Plus, they’re packed with healthy fats, fibre and are free from refined sugars and nasties commonly found in store bought options, so you won’t feel guilty about this afternoon craving-crusher. Why not swap out the quinoa puffs with rice, millet or corn puffs, too?

3. Healthy Chocolate Spread.

Chocolate almond spread
Just as good as its sugar-filled alternative. Image supplied.

Goodbye store-bought chocolate spread. This recipe is a perfect alternative to sugar-packed spreads and can be smothered on your favourite bread or even popped into muffin recipes or used as icing. I came up with this healthy substitute during my first pregnancy when the chocolate cravings hit hard and it’s since become one of my most popular and celebrated recipes.

To make this recipe school-friendly, replace the tahini with other allergy-friendly seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

4. Chocolate Almond Scones.

Chocolate and almond scones
The perfect after-school treat to keep the kids, and their sweet-tooth, satisfied. Image supplied.

Scones fit for the Queen herself – or the whole family when they’re craving something sweet. The base of these scones is made from almond flour, which is high in fibre and protein, a combination which will help to stabilise blood sugar levels and keep little bellies (and big ones) feeling full for longer.

5. Chocolate Black Bean Brownies.

Chocolate Black Bean Brownies
Perfect for a play date, party or lunchbox, add these brownies to your baking repertoire. Image: supplied.

This is my go-to chocolate treat when my kids have playdates (and the adults often indulge too!). By using black beans for the base they’re gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free, not to mention high in folate and a good source of iron and fibre. Phew, that’s a lot of good stuff.

Prep Time: 10 min
Cooking Time: 25–30 min
Servings: 16 mini brownies (approx)

Ingredients:

400g Black Beans, rinsed and drained
3 eggs
3 tbsp coconut oil, plus a little more for coating the baking dish
1/3 cup raw cacao powder
2 tbsp carob powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 tsp vanilla powder or extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/2-3/4 cup coconut sugar

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 160Cº.
2. Grease a small square baking dish with coconut oil.
3. Place all the ingredients in a blender and process at a high speed until smooth.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
5. Place in oven and bake for 25–30 minutes. Check after 25 minutes by sliding a knife into the brownie. If it comes away clean, the brownies are ready.

Serving and storage: Allow to cool before cutting into little squares. Serve with coconut cream and fresh strawberries for a finger-licking good dessert. Yum.

To learn more about Mandy Sacher you can visit the Wholesome Child's website. Mandy’s book, Wholesome Child: A Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook, is also available for purchase online and from iTunes and you can connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

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