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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Healthier chocolate choices

By Charles Stuart Platkin


Chocolate's getting a lot of attention these days, from its heart-healthy claims (which are only for dark chocolate) and stress relief to the new film "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," starring Johnny Depp.

So I was wondering: Is there a way to make better chocolate choices and keep our waists trim? Test your knowledge and see if you're a chocolate expert.

PowerBar vs. Hershey's Special Dark: Yes, an energy bar has a few extra nutrients, but unless you're a serious athlete, you probably don't need one. On the other hand, eating dark chocolate has heart-health benefits, but you can get the same benefits from tea or wine. The bottom line is both are snacks and just about equal in calories: Hershey's Special Dark has 220 calories for 1.4 ounces; PowerBar has 230 calories for 2.3 ounces.

Fit tip: Watch out for some of these "health" bars; the calories can creep up to the same as candy bars. For instance, a Clif Builder's Chocolate Bar (2.4 ounces) packs 270 calories, nearly equal to one Snickers. If you're looking for dark chocolate's antioxidant power, have a Dove Dark Chocolate Bar (1.3 ounces, 200 calories). Or if you want the biggest antioxidant bang for your buck, go for Mars' CocoaVia (80 calories, www .cocoavia.com). It's scientifically designed to pack on the heart-healthy flavanols.

Godiva Chocolate Liqueur vs. chocolate martini: A chocolate martini, with vodka, chocolate liqueur, cream and dark creme de cacao, averages more than 60 calories per ounce, with an average of 4 to 6.5 ounces per cocktail. On the other hand, Godiva liqueur is typically served over ice as 1- to 2-ounce drinks and averages 45 calories per ounce.

Fit tip: Keep in mind that drinks have calories, too, and they add up quickly. Alcohol also lowers your inhibitions, which can cause you to eat more.

Chocolate-dipped strawberries vs. chocolate-covered cherries: It's close, but the strawberries are your best bet at about 45 calories each; plus you get the health benefits of both dark chocolate and berries. The cherries (about 55 calories each) are made with a filling — the sugary sauce the cherries swim in — which adds calories.

Fit tip: Try dipping your strawberries into some Jell-O Sugar Free, Reduced Calorie Chocolate Pudding. Each container has 60 calories (for almost 4 ounces).

Oreo crumbs vs. chocolate sprinkles: You may be paying attention to the calories in your ice cream, but the toppings add up fast, too. Choosing chocolate sprinkles (1.5 ounces, 38 calories) over Oreo crumbs (1.5 ounces, 218 calories) saves 180 calories. Think of it this way: At 145 calories per ounce, your Oreo topping adds up to the same amount of calories in a half-serving of French vanilla ice cream.

Fit tip: Try dark Belgian Chocolate Dolfin Flakes (chocolatesource.com) at 75 calories for half an ounce. They are less sweet than other sprinkles, which helps curb the temptation to smother your ice cream, and you get the dark chocolate health benefits.

Hershey's Kiss vs. Russell Stover Truffle: Although the truffles — or any kind of boxed candy — are tasty and rich, they are very high in calories, about 70 to 90 calories each. And most of us can't stop at just one. Just two of the dark truffles have about 160 calories, equal to more than six Hershey's Kisses (25 calories each).

Fit tip: Tootsie Rolls (27 calories each) are a good bet because you have to chew them, which means they last longer, so you may be able to get away with just one. However, many sugar-free candies are just as high in calories as the regular versions. Hershey's Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate Candy has about 35 calories each. And avoid those new "Bites" candies you can just pop in your mouth: Each one is about 10 to 14 calories, and they add up quickly.

Chocolate frosted brownie vs. double-dipped chocolate cupcake vs. flourless cake: The cupcake (2.5 ounces, 240 calories) comes in a bit ahead of the brownie (2.4 ounces, 280 calories). And despite the current carb scare, flourless doesn't mean healthy. In the case of flourless cake, it just means there's more butter, chocolate, eggs and sugar for about 390 calories per 3.2-ounce slice.

Fit tip: Try Miss Meringue Chocolate Cookies: 13 cookies have 40 calories (www.miss meringue.com), or a Quaker Chocolate Crunch Rice Cake: 60 calories.

Charles Stuart Platkin is a syndicated health, nutrition and fitness writer.