Five ways to indulge without the bulge

By Karen Borsari
September 13, 2012

September 13th may be one of the happiest days of the year: it's International Chocolate Day! That's right, this holiday has gone global. And for good reason: Not only does chocolate release those pain-reducing endorphins into our brains, it contains theobromine, a caffeine-like stimulant, and anandamide, which is naturally found in the brain and said to produce those elusive warm fuzzies, similar to the effects of marijuana. Now it's a little easier to understand why we love chocolate so much, isn't it? Whether it's those feel-good effects or simply the chocolate flavor you love, it's hard to hold back when it comes to this sweet treat. Here are five of my favorite ways to enjoy chocolate in moderation.

My current obsession, I've been eating one before bed every night this month. With only five grams of sugar and 200 calories, it's the perfect fit. The sea salt enhances the dark chocolate flavor but if that's not for you, try the Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan, Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein, or Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidant-just a few more of my fave flavors!

Remember when Fit Foodies went raw? I was obsessed with Stacy Stower's raw chocolate pudding recipe. Every day after work, I enjoyed the avocado-based dessert. For 125 calories, 10.1 grams of fat, and four grams of sugar, I satisfied my sweet tooth and got a heavy dose of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

I just learned about this one from September cover model Jillian Michaels and it was a great find! UNREAL makes "unjunked" versions of your favorite candies like Snickers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups without corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial ingredients, GMOs, or preservatives. For 190 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 19 grams of sugar, you can enjoy an entire package of their "M&M's," versus 230 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 31 grams of sugar found in the original.

Hot Chocolate

I'm not quite ready for this one, but when the wintery weather rolls in, there's nothing like a hot cup of cocoa at the end of the day. Most packet mixes clock in around 140 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 24 grams of sugar. What I love about this option is slow sipping. Keeping your hands busy keeps them out of the cookie jar!

I don't know about you, but I'll wolf down cheap chocolate like it's my job but when it comes to the good stuff I savor every morsel. Every so often I like to swing by some of my favorite chocolatiers like L.A. Burdick's (they deliver) or FIKA and pick up a few chocolate truffles. Three of these decadent treats always satisfy me and for 200 to 250 calories and 10 to 15 grams of sugar (depending on what you choose). I say-worth it! Don't have any local chocolatiers nearby? Try three individually wrapped Lindt balls for 230 calories, and 13 grams of sugar.

How are you celebrating International Chocolate Day? Or do you celebrate every day like me? Today, I'll be enjoying the Ghiradelli sundae pictured here!