Healthy Substitutions for Milk Chocolate

These days, there’s no shortage of articles about how healthy chocolate is. Don’t get me wrong, chocolate can have lots of health benefits, but only if it’s dark enough. It’s easy to be fooled by Dove or Hershey’s “dark” chocolate. Surely that must be healthy…right? In reality, big name brands like these do not use a high enough percentage of cacao for them to really be beneficial. They come with so much fat and sugar that it would kind of cancel out any goodness.

When shopping for chocolate, try to buy ones that have at least 60-70% cacao to reap the benefits. Brands such Ghirardelli, Godiva, Lindt, and Endangered Species to name a few all have varieties that are dark enough. It’s important to always read the ingredients and look at the nutrition facts to know if it truly is clean.

However, there can be an extra layer of complication to chocolate shopping if you’re allergic to tree nuts like me. Although all of the brands I just mentioned are totally clean and great options, they are processed on equipment with nuts or in the same facility with them.

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After a long search for safe, clean, dark chocolate, I finally found one that qualifies! As I browsed the chocolate section of  my local Trader Joe’s one day, I was getting discouraged as usual…that is until I stumbled upon their Dark Chocolate Lover’s Bar! It is 85% cacao and is not even made in facility with nuts! The allergy statement explains how the manufacturers are very careful about segregating allergens, but it is “made on shared equipment with milk”. The chocolate does contain soy lecithin as well, so unfortunately this wouldn’t be safe for any of my soy or dairy allergic readers.

If you’re not used to really dark chocolate, try to ease into it. When I dove head first into 85%, I’ll admit it was tough to get used to. Then again, it was my only option, so I just dealt with it and now I love it! If allergies aren’t an issue for you, try taking a gradual approach. Start with something like 50% and work your way up to 60%, 70%, and maybe even 85 or 90! (Honestly, I don’t think I could handle anything darker than 85%, but if you can, that’s fabulous!)

Overall, when it comes to chocolate, the darker it is the better. 60% cacao is about as low as you can go to still reap the benefits. As always, read ingredients and if you struggle with nut allergies (or even if you don’t), I definitely recommend Trader Joe’s “The Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Bar”.

What are your favorite types of dark chocolate? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

 

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Healthy Substitutions for White Bread

Bread is a staple in most households because of its versatility. It can be used for sandwiches, toast, or anything in between. The problem arises when it becomes difficult to find a clean version of this basic commodity. Bread is all too often full of refined grains, high fructose corn syrup, and preservatives–even if it’s whole-wheat or multi-grain.

Starting with these whole grain options is certainly a good substitution for refined white bread, but it doesn’t make them totally clean despite what the packaging says. Finally, I found the perfect solution to my bread predicament when stumbled upon Angelic Bakehouse. They use sprouted grains, no eggs, no preservatives, and all their products are non-GMO! There is no going back for me. Aside from homemade bread, this is the only bread I eat. Not only is it really delicious, but it’s completely clean!

I definitely recommend giving Angelic Bakehouse a try, but if you can’t find their products in your area, just remember to read the ingredients on bread before buying it or bake a scrumptious loaf from scratch. When shopping, look for whole grain breads without preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, or any other mystery ingredients.

Shopping: The Roots of Clean Eating

Throughout my clean eating journey, I’ve found that the roots lie in grocery shopping. If you shop unclean, you’ll eat unclean. Likewise, if you buy healthy food, that’s what you’ll eat. It sounds simple, but it can still be difficult at times. As a result, I’ve compiled a few savvy shopping tips to help keep you on track.

1. Where to shop

There are three main categories of places to get food. The first and best option is your very own backyard–if you have a garden that is. If at all possible, producing your own food is a cheap, fun way to get local, organic food.

If a garden isn’t a plausible option, farmer’s markets are just as great. Although they can be a little pricey at times, they support local agriculture and fresh, organic food is at your fingertips. If you happen to be near Madison Wisconsin, the Dane County Farmer’s Market is amazing! Tons of local farmers come and line the Capitol Square with fresh, healthy food–much of it being organic.

Of course the most mainstream way to grocery shop is the traditional grocery store. My top recommendation is Trader Joe’s if there’s one in your area. Trader Joe’s is where I find most of my staples such as Greek yogurt, hummus, feta cheese, roasted plantains, dark chocolate, and fresh produce. Not only is there a vast array of clean foods to choose from, but they come at reasonable prices. If Trader Joe’s isn’t an option, don’t worry–clean food can be found at any grocery store!

2. Shop the perimeter

Regardless of where you buy your food, most grocery stores are laid out about the same. On the outside are fresh produce, meat, and dairy while the inside aisles house the sugary cereals, salty snacks, and instant “potatoes”. My recommendation is to stay in the perimeter and only enter the aisles for necessities such as baking supplies, quinoa, brown rice, whole grain bread etc. By staying on the outside, you’ll be more likely to fill your cart with fruits and veggies, lean meat, and fresh dairy rather than be tempted with junk food.

3. Take a basket

Studies have shown that the bigger the cart, the more one will put in it. If possible, stick with a small cart or even a basket if it’s a short shopping trip. Having less space to put food will help you stick with your list and only buy what you truly need.

4. Don’t shop hungry

I know–it sounds cliche, but regardless, it’s so true! In middle school and high school, I worked at my town’s grocery store for nearly four years. I cannot even tell you the number of times people blamed their $300 order of “food” on being hungry. They all “came in for only a few things” and several hundred dollars later they were at my checkout lane. Moral of the story is to have a quick snack before shopping and follow a list.

5. Read the ingredients

Growing up with food allergies, I’ve always had to read the ingredients on everything I eat. Allergies or not though, it’s a good idea for everyone to be informed about what they eat. Try to stick with foods with no more than 10-15 ingredients if possible–the less the better. Also be wary about ingredients you’ve never heard of or can’t pronounce.

Hopefully these five quick tips help you in your clean eating journey. Feel free to comment below with your own suggestions and check back periodically for new ideas. Happy shopping!

 

Clean Eating

Clean eating isn’t just a health kick or a random phase. It’s a lifestyle. It doesn’t happen overnight either. I first started  “clean eating” about a year or two ago. Since I’ve lived with food allergies my entire life, I’ve always had to read labels. It wasn’t until recently though that I realized I had no idea what the majority of the ingredients in my food actually were!

I started out slowly by trying to eliminate high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, palm oil, foods with more than 15 ingredients, and anything deep fried. I did my best, but I made exceptions all the time. Gradually, I started adding more “rules” and got better at following them. I still make exceptions and have off days, but I do the best I can and try to make improvements to my lifestyle each and every day. Below is a list of what I personally deem unclean and clean.

Unclean:

  • Hydrogenated oils
  • Palm oil (environmental reasons)
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Fried foods
  • Artificial colours and flavours
  • Preservatives
  • Cellulose
  • Food with more than 10-15 ingredients
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Soda
  • Juice

Clean:

  • Fruits and veggies
  • Lean meats
  • Real cheese
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Fish
  • Greek yogurt
  • Low fat/ skim milk
  • Hummus
  • Seeds
  • Dark chocolate
  • Homemade goodies from scratch 🙂

Eggs, tree nuts, and shellfish are also clean and nutritious, but I leave them off my list due to my allergies. I also want to note that these lists are just suggestions of what I try to adhere to. (I certainly don’t do it perfectly.) Hopefully you find these guidelines helpful!