A Sweet and Healthy Valentine’s Day

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February is a big month for chocolate, and how appropriate that February is also American Heart Month. The health benefits of chocolate and cocoa are numerous, from lowering cholesterol and blood pressure to being a potent antioxidant. That’s why I’ve been so excited lately to open my email inbox full of healthy chocolate recipes put out by bloggers and the media. The photos and recipes look so scrumptious, I just have to share! There are so many great ways to use chocolate in all its forms, from raw cocoa to dark chocolate bars to cocoa nibs. Lucky for us, all are healthful and when you choose Organic Fair-Trade chocolate, it’s also a healthy choice for the planet. I decided to cull a few recipes that I thought Zing-lovers would enjoy, using the same ingredients that make Zing bars such a healthy treat – coconut, hazelnuts, peanut butter, almonds, quinoa and of course chocolate! So go for it, treat your own heart to a special Valentine’s creation… because nothing tastes better than a bit of guilt-free sweetness. Your special Valentine’s breakfast doesn’t have to give in to mounds of powdered sugar and bleached flour when The Queen of Quinoa has a recipe for Gluten-Free Chocolate Raspberry Waffles with Chocolate-Peanut Butter Drizzle to share. Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you off, most of these are basic ingredients found in any gluten-free kitchen. This hearty recipe uses a flavorful blend of gluten-free flours and is also dairy-free. And the peanut butter drizzle is genius! Boxed chocolates usually look so pretty, but those red velvet packages can be filled with all sorts of artificial colors and flavors. Ricki Heller of Diet, Dessert and Dogs has inspired me with her Raspberry-Filled Truffle Cups. Can you imagine whipping up a batch of these to give to your sweetie? She uses a mixture of chocolate and carob for the coating, and fills each one with coconut, almonds, agave and raspberries which lend a vibrant pink color. This next recipe is for all the Zing Dark Chocolate Hazelnut fans out there. The Blender Girl gives us a recipe for a sweet raw treat with her Valentine’s Day Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut “Nutella” Smoothie. The recipe calls for hazelnut milk and sweeteners such as dates and maple syrup. If you’d like to make this recipe lower glycemic, you could easily replace the syrup with agave nectar. Since it is sweeter you may want to use just a few tablespoons of the nectar. What sorts of healthy chocolate treats are you making in February? Have a lovely Valentine’s Day! Christine Weiss MS, RD is a dietitian and Bastyr University graduate who counsels people dealing with food allergies, diabetes and digestive issues. She enjoys working with Zing Bars to raise awareness about healthy living through online media. She can be found at Eating It Up online.