Dishing With Bailey

The Superfood Known as Chocolate

Once you learn the difference between good and bad chocolate, you can serve a lava cake that will give broccoli and blueberries a run for their money.

Written By Alainn Bailey
Photography Peden+Munk

In some families, dessert arrives with a side-serving of drama. The parents push fruit, while the kids are envisioning something more Wonka-esque. Treating your minis to the right kind of chocolate from time to time can be a tension-reliever and a major nutritional upgrade for the whole family.

By the right kind of chocolate, we mean dark chocolate. When you’re at the grocery store, look for chocolate that is 70 to 85 percent cocoa. (Pro tip: If sugar is the first ingredient, then you’re holding a candy bar and need to put it down.) Good chocolate is a natural, minimally processed food made from whole roasted cacao beans. It has been prized for centuries in South America for its medicinal properties. Although many kids find the flavor of dark chocolate too strong and bitter, it makes an excellent ingredient to mix with other natural foods to produce healthy desserts and treats. A little goes a long way, and its intense qualities enhance the flavor and texture of recipes and help minimize the need for additional sugar.


So what makes bad chocolate bad?

Although sugar is derived from natural foods like corn or sugar cane, the highly processed version ends up in most candy bars. In naturally sugary foods, such as fruit, the sugar exists in small amounts (about 3 tsp in a single fruit). Fruit also contains healthful nutrients and fiber, which slows digestion. Processed sugar doesn’t have any of these benefits. It is quickly digested, easy to eat in large amounts, puts stress on the metabolism and sequesters essential nutrients from the body to process it. In small amounts, sugar is not harmful but in many packaged foods — including “healthy” options such as low-fat fruit yogurts — too much sugar is added to improve taste.

Benefits of Good Chocolate

As chocolate is a whole food and isn’t processed, it has a broad mix of different nutrients, including balanced healthy fats, protein and vitamins. It is particularly unique for the following properties:

Fiber: Chocolate is a bean and is very rich in fiber. For every 2 oz of dark chocolate, there is 6g of fiber, which is more than in 2 cups of raw broccoli.

Antioxidants: Chocolate is perhaps equal to blueberries in active compounds such as catechins, polyphenols and flavanols. These compounds protect our cells from free radical damage, prevent degenerative disease and may enhance long-term brain function.

Minerals: It’s not easy to obtain a full array of minerals from most foods but chocolate is an unrivaled powerhouse. 2 oz of dark chocolate contain 1/3 of daily needs for iron and magnesium and ½ of daily needs for copper and manganese. Together, these minerals underpin almost every chemical reaction in the body, supporting growth, metabolism and the immune system.

Happiness: As an extra advantage, studies show that chocolate naturally stimulates the production of endorphins in the brain, giving a gentle feeling of happiness without the sugar rush or cravings.

Here are some easy-to-make recipes that use good chocolate.

Healthy-ish Chocolate Lava Cake

Yield: 8 servings Nutritional Information: 10g carb, 4g protien, 190 kcal

This warm chocolate treat is wonderful on its own for kids or adults! Or add some mixed berries and a tablespoon of yogurt for an indulgent dessert packed full of fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. The portions are small but the recipe is rich and incredibly filling!

4 oz bitter sweet dark chocolate (80% cocoa or greater)
2 oz butter, cubed (or coconut oil)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 banana, mashed
1/8 tsp salt

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. 2. Butter eight 2 oz ramekins. You can also use a muffin tray.
3. Set a double-boiler on the stove and bring the water in the pot to a gentle simmer. 4. Add the butter and chocolate, and stir occasionally until melted and smooth. You can also do this in the microwave if you are careful: Heat for 30 seconds on high, mix and heat for another 30 seconds.
5. In a large bowl, mash the banana, then add the eggs and sugar and whisk for 2 to 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
6. Carefully fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. 7. Evenly divide into ramekins. 8. Place them on a baking tray and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
9. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes until the ramekins have cooled. The soufflé should be warm, baked on the outside and soft on the inside.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Pancakes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings Nutritional Inforamation: 20g carb, 7g pro, 180kcal

This super-easy recipe is perfect for winter mornings. You can throw together the ingredients in one big bowl in a few minutes. To ensure the pancakes remain light and fluffy, don't over-mix the batter.

1 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tbsp melted butter
½ tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup dark chocolate chips
Olive oil spray for cooking

1. Place all dry ingredients, except chocolate, in a large bowl and mix together.
2. Slowly add the wet ingredients and stir until just combined (no pumpkin stripes). 3. Fold in the chocolate chips.
4. Spritz oil in a large skillet and set heat to medium-low.
5. Cook in batches of 2 to 3. The batter should make12 to 16 2-inches pancakes.

A Healthy Sundae

When your kids want a sundae, a better alternative is to start with a base of whole milk Greek yogurt. Add some chopped strawberries, a tablespoon of granola and a teaspoon of dark chocolate chips for a delicious weekday dessert. Your kids are sure to love these recipes … and all of them have 2 teaspoons of sugar or less!

Alainn Bailey MS RD CNSC is a clinical nutritionist at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and founder of Hamptons Clinical Nutrition.