Chef Tim Says...

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Chef Tim Says....

Desserts are good, chocolate is better!

This question was posted to the eatTHISdiet Support Group the other day:

“I like the idea of dessert, but do you have to adjust the daily menu? How often can you have dessert?”

Dessert is part of eating well and is part of eatTHISdiet. The instructions for how dessert fit into eatTHISdiet can be found on the website.

The key to making dessert part of your healthy diet is that you should consider desserts as a special part of your life. They are not something that should be eaten every day. If you are using eatTHISdiet to lose weight, then dessert should be considered a serving that you substitute for another portion maybe once a week.

Dessert, as a gold star, is equivalent to 1 blue circle (a breakfast serving) OR 1 yellow triangle (a lunch serving) OR 1/2 a red square (one-half of a dinner serving).

1 gold star


1 blue circle


1 yellow triangle


1/2 red square




If you are using eatTHISdiet as a guide to eating healthy, include a yellow star each week, using the equivalents above. You'll be substituting one dessert serving for another serving in that day's meal plan. It doesn’t matter when you eat dessert, but again, my belief is that it should be special (that’s why desserts are “treats”).

When I am working on dessert recipes, my goal is for them to be 200 calories or less. I try to minimize the simple sugars wherever possible. There are a lot of great, ready to eat desserts that you can have that are well under 200 calories and are right off the shelf. Here’s some ideas:

  • Healthy Choice No Sugar Added Ice Cream
  • Turkey Hill No Sugar Added Ice Cream
  • Edy’s Light No Sugar Added Ice Cream
  • Breyer’s No Sugar Added Ice Cream
  • Häagen Dazs Fat Free Sorbets
  • Jello Pudding Cups
  • Häagen Dazs Chocolate Sorbet Bar
  • Fudgesicle No Sugar Added Frozen Bar
  • Häagen-Dazs Raspberry & Vanilla Frozen Yogurt Bars
  • Nabisco 100 Calorie Packs Chips Ahoy Thin Crisps
  • Nabisco 100 Calorie Packs Planters Peanut Butter Cookie Crisps

I am a big fan of chocolate and there’s a lot of good scientific research that has shown chocolate to be full of antioxidants.

Cocoa beans are very high in a type of antioxident known as flavonoids. As with other antioxidants, flavonioids have been associated with a reduction in the risk of heart disease.

Unsweetened powdered cocoa contains the highest quantity of these antioxidants, followed by dark chocolate and then milk chocolate. The more diluted the finished cocoa, the fewer flavonoids in each serving. According to one research study, a 40 gram serving of milk chocolate (about the size of a standard chocolate bar) contains about 400 milligrams of antioxidants. This is equal to a typical serving of red wine, which has also been recommended for its flavonoid content.

The lovely little cocoa bean is the source of both chocolate and cocoa powder. The beans are fermented so as to destroy the germ. They are then dried, roasted and ground resulting in a thick paste known as chocolate liquor. This is further refined by drying and grinding to produce cocoa powder. Because cocoa usually has most of the cocoa butter is extracted during processing it contains very little fat.

Sometimes cocoa butter is used to make finished chocolate, but manufacturers do use other fats. The fats in cocoa butter may be better for you because they are a type that don’t cause a rise in blood cholesterol levels (stearic and oleic fats). With many chocolates you don’t know for sure what kind of fat been used. Premium dark chocolates generally contain only cocoa butter.

Because chocolate is made from a plant, it contains other beneficial substances associated with other foods of plant origin. There are small amounts of copper, zinc, iron and magnesium along with polyphenols (chemicals that have been implicated in research studies as providing potential health benefits).

My approach to chocolate is the same as with all ingredients -- purchase the best quality, eat less and savor every bite.

There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about whether chocolate is good for you. Up until recently we had some indication that it might be but in a recent 15 year study (Arch. Int. Med 2006; 166:411-417) researchers have shown that cocoa not only lowers blood pressure but reduces both death from heart disease and all other causes.

Wow! You really want to repeat that!

Researchers studied 470 men in the Netherlands over a 15 year period to evaluate diet and risk of disease. All of the men were free of disease at the beginning of the study and the participants filled out food consumption questionnaires every five years. The information collected was evaluated for 24 cocoa containing foods that were reported by the men and an average daily consumption of cocoa was calculated.

Blood pressure was lower in the 25% of men who consumed the most cocoa. The researchers adjusted for a host of confounding factors including age, BMI, alcohol intake, physical activity, smoking, medication use. Using different models of these variables yielded the same results: blood pressure was about 4 points lower.

There were similar findings in those who ate the most cocoa when the scientists looked at death from heart disease as well as death from all causes. Different models were evaluated to see if other variables could be causing the results, but still there was not much difference. Overall there was about a 40% reduction in the risk of death in the group that ate the most cocoa containing foods.

So how do you make chocolate part of your life? One way is to follow the French and eat one or two small pieces of the highest quality chocolate and savor every bit. More satisfaction than lower quality chocolate, fewer calories and more flavinoids. For treats there are a few great, rich chocolate goodies in the dessert section on the Dr. Gourmet website.

As with all food (but especially chocolate), eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!

Dr. Gourmet
March 9, 2006