Saturday, June 6, 2009

Dieting for Chocolate by Steve Steinbock

Dieting For Chocolate by Steve Steinbock

Steve Steinbock, reviewer and educator, mentioned he had recently lost 20 pounds-and he did it by eating chocolate. Too good to be true, I asked him to tell me and readers how this was possible.

If you could only eat chocolate, imagine how much weight you could lose. I mean, how much chocolate can a person actually eat in one day, day after day? I used to say this to my family, only half jokingly, as I unwrapped a dozen Hershey’s Kisses® and popped them into my mouth, three at a time.

The half that wasn’t joking was on to something.

During my middle years I’d packed a fair amount of paunch onto my smallish frame. Six months ago, with one of those cornerstone birthdays approaching, I wasn’t happy with what I saw in the mirror. I made some changes, and have lost just over twenty pounds. And I’m eating more chocolate than ever before.

I don’t go in for fad diets. I’ve never watched a single episode of “The Biggest Loser.” (If I did, it would only be to look at Jillian Michaels). I hate to exercise, I love to eat, and I tend to sit at my desk most of the day. To lose the fat I found I had to make some basic, realistic changes. I wasn’t about to give up carbohydrates, or subscribe to a prepackaged meal service, or hire a personal trainer. The keywords of my strategy have been moderation and metabolism.

Instead of going to the gym four times a week – having to drive, change, sweat, and shower – I break up my day with three mini workouts. Three times a day I stop what I’m doing, do some stretches, do a set of sit-ups, a set of push-ups, a set of crunches, and a few more stretches. It gets my blood pumping and my muscles sore, but I barely break a sweat. And it gets my metabolism charged up.

I said that I’ve never watched “The Biggest Loser,” and it’s true. But I have seen Jillian Michaels interviewed on television, and what she has said about metabolism I’ve taken to heart, literally and figuratively.

Half of the life change strategy was to get my furnace burning more fuel. The other half has been putting the right fuel in the furnace. And chocolate is a great fuel. Below are a few of my specific chocolaty secrets.

Darker is Better

I’m a lifelong lover of milk chocolate. But milk chocolate contains more of the bad fats and less of the healthy properties of chocolate. I still have a weakness for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and an occasional truffle. But I generally avoid the light stuff. Generally, the higher the cacao percentage, the less cacao butter you’re getting, and the more your body will benefit. These days there are plenty of options on the supermarket shelves. Ghirardelli makes a bar called “Midnight Reverie” that has 86% cacao content. Another of my favorite bars is the “Lindt Excellence Chile” bar made by Lindt & Sprungli. As the name suggests, it has a spicy bite to it from the red chili extract. But my chocolate of choice for snacking is Callebaut’s semi-sweet baking chocolate. This is a high quality baking chocolate from Belgium that can be found in a lot of American specialty food stores. I always keep a brick around – for medicinal purposes.

Cacao nibs

The broken husks of cacao beans take a little getting used to. Dryer, crunchier, and more bitter than chocolate, they nevertheless have that distinct chocolaty je ne c’est pas. You can find packages of nibs at certain health food or specialty food stores. They go great in yogurt. I keep a little bowl of them on the counter, and a couple times a day I’ll grab of pinch of them and toss them in my mouth. In this form, the raw material of chocolate is high in fiber, high in antioxidants, and promote the vim and vigor needed to maintain an active lifestyle.

I’ve crushed cacao nibs into a course cocoa that I mix with chili powder, cumin, vinegar, and olive oil for an incredible marinade.


Drinking Chocolate has come a long way from Swiss Miss. There are a number of high quality “adult” chocolate drinks on the market. I’m particularly fond of traditional Central American chocolate, or Xocolatl. A cup of thick hot cocoa done with a good dose of chili is a wonderful way to regenerate. There are several products on the market. Dagoba and Lake Champlain both make a nice Aztec style mix. They’re good, but hardly low cal. You can make your own by melting bittersweet chocolate with milk (or soy milk), a bit of sweetener, a splash of vanilla extract, and a punch in the eye of chili peppers.

Pancakes and Waffles

I’m in the habit of fixing myself waffles each morning, adding some raw oats and crushed flax seed to a third of a cup of instant pancake mix, then adding a small handful of semi-sweet (or dark) chocolate chips. Yummy and guilt free. Recently I’ve been finding that the waffles have been sticking to the waffle-iron, so I’ve switched to pancakes.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. If Janet will have me, I’d be happy to come back and share a recipe or two. Meanwhile, please pass the chocolate.

Steve Steinbock: Grew up across the pond from Seattle. Survived high school. Studied religion at Univ. of Wash. before going off to grad school. He's the author of three books (plus several booklets and guides). He has written a few hundred published book reviews, articles, and interviews. He lives in Maine with his family.

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