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Chocolate: The Ultimate Valentine

It’s that time of year again. Heart shapes are everywhere (even Duncan Donuts has heart shaped donuts) and red and pink color schemes seem to be as common as air. That’s right, it’s Valentine’s Day. This holiday either makes you giddy and so grateful for being with the love of your life (or whoever seems to hold your infatuation at the moment) or it instills fear and anxiety. No matter how you feel about this particular holiday, there is always one positive: Chocolate. Except for those odd few people who don’t like chocolate. (I still don’t understand how that is possible….)

Anywho, besides being delicious and the (unofficial) cure to all bad days, chocolate actually has health benefits such as….

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve cholesterol
  • Prevent memory decline
  • Lower risk of CVD
  • Improve blood flow
  • Enhance brain function
  • Activate brain receptors (causing a calming sensation that can boost your mood and ease stress)

The cocoa in chocolate is the prominent source  of the health benefits. Cocoa is a super good source for flavonols, which are an antioxidant. The less processed the chocolate, the more flavonols it contains. So, be sure to pick the least processed chocolate possible to get the most benefits. It’s quality over quantity here! Dark chocolate also packs more favonols than its milk chocolate counterpart. You would need to eat 1,500 calories of milk chocolate to get the same amount of flavonols as 300 calories of the dark variety.( i.e. more bang for your caloric buck!) You have got to be careful when reaching for chocolate labeled “dark”, though. The key is to look for at least 70% cocoa. Some chocolates labeled “dark” have only a mere 40% cocoa *Cough, M&M’s, cough* Also, take a look at the ingredients. Is cocoa the first ingredient or is sugar? We want cocoa to be #1.

Now, chocolate is pretty calorie dense and has lots of sugar, so you have to be careful about adding it into your diet. Cacao nibs, an unsweetened chocolate bar or unsweetened cocoa powder are your best bets. Try adding it to your smoothies, oatmeal or even cookies (Maybe I will try a chocolate version of my infamous breakfast cookies, sounds yummy, right?). Chocolate covered strawberries are also pretty popular around V-day. You can kill two birds with one stone here, flavonols AND fruit, score. I love adding a tablespoon or two of unsweetened cocoa powder to my protein shakes (I usually use Trader Joe’s Soy Protein Powder, the two really complement each other). Give one of these a try and tell me what you think!

Remember, one ounce of dark chocolate contains about 160 calories, so be sure to keep your serving sizes in check!

So, valentine or not, treat yourself to a little high-quality chocolate and feel good about doing it!


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The Best Healthy Eating Apps

Where would we be without technology? Kinda scary to think about.

I don’t have a smartphone, but I got an iPad last summer and since then I have become an app junkie. There is one for everything! Cynthia Sass, an RD, gives a low-down on some of the latest-and-greatest apps geared towards healthy eating.


Chemical Cuisine

Purpose: Ever see something listed on the ingredient list of a food and have no idea what it is? This app will give a description of a wide array of food additives and an overall evaluation of “safe”, “cut back”, “caution”, “avoid” or “certain people should avoid”.

Dirty Dozen

Purpose: This app lists the “dirty dozen” which is a list of 12 most contaminated produce items as well as the “clean fifteen”, which is a list of foods least likely to contain pesticide residues.

Seafood Watch

Purpose: Leading you to the most sustainable seafood options, this app will tell you your safest bets. The app uses a color-coded rating system of red, yellow, or green. The app also has a list called “Super Green” that has the most sustainable choices that are low in contaminants and high in omega-3 fatty acids. Download this one before your next shopping trip!

Food Tripping

Purpose: To help find a healthy alternative to fast food.  This app is really good at telling you about little whole in the wall joints including artisan food shops, vegan options, juice joints and farmers markets. Great for finding an alternative to Mickey D’s on your next road trip or vacation.


Purpose: This is a database of over 200,000 food products stating their nutritional value with a letter grade. You can also use your phone to take a picture of the bar code of a product and the database will identify that particular product. Fooducate takes the guess work out of grocery shopping. No buyer’s remorse!

Seasonal and Simple

Purpose: Find out what produce is in season. I love this one! Not only does it tell you when each food thrives, it gives tips on how to select store, and prep them!


Purpose: Is it a take-out dinner kind of night? Use this app to find a healthy meal that can be delivered to your door!

No-GMO Project

Purpose: GMO food products aren’t labeled, so sometimes it can be tricky to know what you are getting. This app has a nice rolodex of products enrolled in the Non-GMO Project’s Product Verification Program.

Eat Slower

Purpose: Who hasn’t inhaled a meal because you have been rushing around all day? I sure have. This app is SO simple, yet SO beneficial. You set a pace, from 20 seconds to 3 minutes, and press start. In that time you take a bite and savor it for the set amount of time, don’t take another bite until the time is up. Eating slower makes you feel more satisfied which will lead you to eat less, naturally!

Do you have any others to add to the list?

I would love to add to my collection!


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Chicago Restaurant Reviews and The Truth About Late Night Eating

I’m back! I feel like this past weekend in Chicago was just one big breath of fresh air. It was so nice to be away from the daily grind, I loved it.

I headed down to the windy city on Friday with Joseph’s house (He is an Evan’s Scholar). On Saturday we walked up and down Michigan Ave and did a little shopping (Aren’t girls supposed to have a better fashion sense than guys? Not in this relationship…) and had lunch at The SoupBox. I HIGHLY recommend this place (Big shout out to my dear Maren for recommending it!). It was featured on Rachel Ray’s Tasty Travels on the Food Network and voted best soup in Chicago. 12 freshly made gourmet soups daily! We both got side salads (freshly prepared in front of you, right down to chopping the cucumber and mushrooms!) and a split lobster bisque in a giant bread bowl. We fell into a food coma after, but it was so worth it. Seriously delish. Soupbox also has full nutrition info for all of their soups on the website, which is a definite gold star in my book. Plus, they let you sample as many as you want before you order. No buyers remorse!


After a well-deserved nap after wandering the city we met up with a couple of friends for dinner at The Carriage House. (Can you tell Joseph and I really like food??? I may or may not have chosen my dress for the ball based on the fact it was a little loose so I could eat more during the day…) This place specializes in modern southern comfort food. They have about 4 entrees and a huge list of small plates. The idea with small plates, if you are unfamiliar, is to order a handful for the table and share them and try a little of each. Here is what we ordered:

  • Fried Green Tomatoes( whipped pimento cheese, spicy hominy,creamed ham, buttermilk vinaigrette)
  • Skillet Cornbread (sweet cornbread with a pear preserve and whipped cream cheese on top)
  • Pickled Acorn Squash Salad (salt roasted pears, torn herbs, asher blue cheese, toasted squash seeds, peppered honey)
  • Tea Brined Scallops (oxtail marmalade, hushpuppies,apple & turnip piccalilli, sage aioli)
  • Beef Short Rib (buttermilk blue cheese grits, creamed brussels sprouts,red onion jam, horseradishvinaigrette, braising jus)

I really can’t tell you what was my favorite. They were all so good, you could definitely taste how fresh and organic the ingredients were.


Price-wise, Soupbox was very inexpensive making it a perfect pit-stop for lunch. Carriage House was a little more on the upscale side, more of a special-evening-out type place. Both got two thumbs up from me though.

Saturday evening was the “Golf Ball” dance. So we got all dressed up and headed out to mix and mingle with scholars from other universities. It was a great time.

I couldn’t help but overhear a lot of the girls saying how they shouldn’t be eating so late at night (they had sliders and chicken fingers from 8pm-12am) because it would make them gain weight (Yes, I did enjoy a nice little burger and I did so guilt-free. What’s my favorite phrase??? Moderation? Exactly!)

So, let’s take a look at this whole late night eating and weight gain thing, shall we? I did some research and will tell you if this is fact or fiction.

Does late night eating cause weight gain?

Several clinical studies have been done and there is no conclusive evidence that there is a connection between eating at night and weight gain. The AND (Remember, this is “The Man”) agrees that it is the amount eaten, not the time of day, that causes weight gain.

What tends to happen a lot of times is people don’t factor their night-time snacks into their daily caloric intake. This causes them to be eating a lot more calories than they think they are, which can cause weight gain. Think about it, do you mindlessly eat while watching tv or pick at leftovers before putting them in the fridge? Those calories add up.

In short, the body processes food the same way after dark that it does during the day. Eating too many calories and a lack of physical activity is what causes weight gain, not eating your calories in the dark.