Yes, you can eat chocolate and lose weight! 

Valentine's day is just around the corner and as the largest chocolate event of the year closes in, it's no wonder those trying to lose weight and make healthy changes begin to feel their willpower being put to the test.  Before you decide to suffer through it with nary a bonbon crossing your lips, or even worse, giving in completely and suffering the after-guilt, you need to know that you can actually eat brownies and burn fat. 

Life is full of things we have to give up or walk away from and chocolate doesn't always have to be one of them. Typically, the reason most people over indulge or binge eat is because they have denied themselves something they really love for a long time.  The constant thoughts of "I can't..." or "I really shouldn't..." finally give way to "I don't care" and half an hour later you not only feel sick with guilt, but sick to your stomach as well from all the sugar.  Now you may think this sounds a little over the top but for some, this love/hate relationship with chocolate (and other foods) is very real.

Chocolate it seems is one of those things that, for whatever reason, is a go-to food for all occasions and moods.  We celebrate birthdays with chocolate cake and weddings with chocolate fountains, we enjoy hot chocolate after ice skating and on cold winter nights, we indulge in chocolate mousse after a romantic dinner and mourn break ups with chocolate ice cream.  We hide chocolate bunnies for our kids, buy heart-shaped chocolates for our sweethearts, put chocolate Santas in stockings and buy boxes of cookies every time a Girl Guide come to our door.  And these are just the few that quickly came to mind.

The best way to avoid stressing out over how best to avoid the whole chocolate tsunami that is February, is to dive in and enjoy some. And yes, you can do it without gaining weight. Choose organic, dark chocolate whenever possible. High quality not only tastes better, you're more likely to eat less and savour it rather than just gobble it down as you might with a chocolate bar from the grocery store. Pair it with protein.  Chocolate is a carb and a fat so pairing it with some lean protein helps keep blood sugar stable and allows your body to burn fat rather than store it.  Having a few pieces after a meal of lean protein and steamed veggies and/or a leafy salad works well.

If  your passion is chocolate treats and desserts, swapping out ingredients to make a higher quality, more balanced item is a huge win.  Coconut oil is a delicious replacement for butter, almond or coconut milk work well in place of regular milk, ditching the highly processed white flour and replacing with almond, coconut or spelt flours, and swapping out white sugar with fruit puree, stevia and/or coconut palm sugar goes a long way to adding nutritional value.  No longer is your your chocolate creation an "empty" food devoid of nutrients. Taking it a step further and adding a good quality chocolate protein powder and a few extra teaspoons of pure, organic cocoa to your chocolately baked goods not only make your recipe taste richer, the added protein keeps blood sugar in check and minimizes fat storage. A sweet treat indeed! 

Right now I invite and encourage each of to get out that recipe box and pick something you'd given up but would love to enjoy.  Now using some of the suggestions above as well as thinking beyond the basic ingredients written down in front of you, I invite you to  resurrect that favourite chocolate recipe in a way that will benefit your body rather than just leave you with feelings of guilt.  And if you can't find yours, here's one of my all-time favourite healthy chocolate recipes.  You're welcome.  Enjoy!  

*to make vegan

1 - 14oz can black beans, drained
4 dates, pitted
1/2c cocoa/cacao
pinch salt
1 egg OR *3 tbsp chia + 1/4-1/3c almond milk (you are creating a chia egg)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp coffee powder (optional)
1/2 c stevia powder
3 tbsp coconut sugar
2 tbsp almond milk
1 tsp baking powder
1/4c coconut oil, melted
*dark choc chips
*unsweetened coconut

The easiest way is to put all ingredients, except choc chips and coconut, into a food processor or really good blender. I have neither (believe it or not!) so I blended the beans in my magic bullet in 2 batches - add a little water or liquid from the can to assist with a smoother blend. Blend the dates in the same way using a little water or almond milk to blend to a smooth paste. Put all ingredients except the choc chips and coconut into a large bowl and blend thoroughly with a hand mixer until batter consistency. Stir in some choc chips, reserving a few to sprinkle on the top. Line a 9x9 pan with parchment and pour batter in. Sprinkle choc chips and coconut on the top. Bake at 350F for 45mins. Knife will come out sticky when inserted. Let set until fully cooled before cutting for best results as they tend to fall apart when warm. I made them in the evening and by the following morning they were great! Enjoy everyone! Cut into 16 pieces. Nutritional value per piece Cal 106, Protein 2.3g, Carbs 15g, Fat 4.4g 
**Make it a fat burner when you enjoy as a dessert following a meal of your favourite protein with steamed veggies and/or a large leafy salad.  Enjoy!

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