We Heart Chocolate

Did you know chocolate’s botanical name, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods”?

My son’s first taste of chocolate was memorable. The look on his face expressed exactly how chocolate makes you feel: His eyes sparkled, his facial muscles relaxed and lips smacked as the chocolate melted away on his tongue. What a treat!

So, what does chocolate have to do with healthy snacking? Chocolate can make an ordinary snack a special treat that still falls on the nutritious snack list. (Not to mention it can put you in good standing for Valentine’s Day.)

It is no myth, just our good fortune, that some chocolate can be good for you and your family. Dark chocolate is rich in fiber, magnesium and antioxidants. Chocolate is one of the richest food sources of naturally occurring antioxidants known as flavonoids. Dark chocolate can provide you and your kids with a mood boost and a dose of prevention when it comes to long-term health benefits, such as maintaining a normal blood pressure and reducing inflammation for a healthier heart.

As you might expect, moderation is the key. Adding a small amount of chocolate can collectively boost overall nutrition, but a bite is all it takes. Chocolate does contain a lot of calories, half of which come from fat. So be sure to look at other nutritious sources of flavonoids including fruit, tea, and vegetables, which also contain wondrous amounts of other important nutrients.

So how to do you add chocolate to your family’s menu without over doing? First of all, steer clear of conventional candy bars, and treat your family to the good stuff that states the percentage of chocolate you are getting right on the wrapper. A higher percent means more chocolate and fewer additives like milk or sugar. If you are not into darker chocolate, you may want to start with the 50-70 percent range. Chocolate can pair up with other nutritious stacks to make them a special, healthy, treat. Here are a few of my son’s favorites:

• Graham cracker topped with peanut butter and ten chocolate chips

• Favorite fruits dipped in chocolate sauce – chocolate covered bananas, strawberries and raspberries

• Rice pudding with a square of slightly melted chocolate in the middle

• Low-fat chocolate milk

• Small hot cocoa made with low-fat milk

• Zucchini Chocolate Cake (recipe below) to help sneak in some veggies


 Zucchini Chocolate Cake


  • 2 cups all-purpose organic flour
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup organic apple sauce
  • 3/4 cup light extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups grated organic zucchini
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan. Stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add the eggs, apple sauce, oil and mix together. Fold in the nuts and zucchini until they are evenly distributed. Pour into the greased pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, checking for completeness by inserting a knife into the center. If it comes out clean, it is time to cool. If not, pop it back in for five to 10 minutes.


Tara DelloIacono Thies is the children’s nutritionist at ClifBar, based in Emeryville.

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