Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Is Healthy Chocolate an Oxymoron?

Jumbo shrimp. Definitely maybe. Seriously funny. Healthy chocolate?

Is healthy chocolate a contradiction? Well, I believe the term "healthy" can be interpreted many ways, there are now tons of chocolate options on the market to fit into many diets including: low sugar, no sugar, dairy free, gluten free, etc. I wholeheartedly support this because I believe everyone should have chocolate!

It's one of my life goals to get chocolate from as many countries as I can. So far, Italy has had the best chocolate (if you go, find Venchi!). Clearly, I'm an un-certified chocolate aficionado. So it is my duty to try all the "healthy" chocolates that I can get my hands on!

JOJO Chocolate Bark

This chocolate comes in two varieties: 70% dark chocolate bark and peanut butter delight. The dark chocolate bark encases raw almonds, pistachios, and dried cranberries. It's non GMO, has only 8g sugar and a boost of Non GMO casein protein! I really loved the nuts and cranberries and the dark chocolate had a good flavor. The peanut butter delight is studded with pieces of peanuts, made with peanut flour and plant based protein. It contains just 6g sugar and boasts 6g plant based protein. It is also non GMO and made with their premium German chocolate. If you like peanuts and chocolate, this is the bar for you! They also guarantee you will love it or they will refund your money - you can't lose! JoJo's was designed to help people kick their sugar cravings by cutting down on sugar and boosting with protein!

Nibmor Chocolate

Nibmor is a line of organic, non GMO, vegan and gluten free dark chocolate bars and squares. They have several flavors so I have not tried them all but what I have tried, I have thoroughly enjoyed! I'm normally not one to love fruit in my chocolate, but their all natural superfruit bars (cherry and blueberry) are really enjoyable. They also have boxes of "daily dose" chocolates. These contain individually wrapped squares of dark chocolate and I loved the covenience of just unwrapping one single square to get my daily dose of chocolate! They also have organic drinking chocolate that I have yet to try! A serving of the 80% dark chocolate bar is 160 calories with 8g sugar, 12g fat, and 2g protein so it doesn't have the protein boost but it still keeps the sugar in the single digits (if you can keep to one serving, that is!) This is a great brand to try for any dark chocolate lovers. 

Learn more: http://nibmor.com/

CocoPolo Chocolate

This chocolate is gluten free, Non GMO, and has no added sugar all while tasting ridiculously good. They utilize stevia as a natural, sugar free sweetener but there no stevia aftertaste. They were created to be Diabetes friendly and now everyone can benefit from this healthy chocolate. They have both milk and dark chocolate and several flavors that incorporate superfood ingredients! These bars truly melt in your mouth and taste great. The 70% dark chocolate bars are vegan as well. 10/10 recommend if you can find them! You won't believe there's no sugar!


FlavaNaturals dark chocolate bars preserve the cocoa flavanols in their processing resulting in 5x the cocoa flavanols of a comparative dark chocolate bar. From the bean sourcing to the processing, they have this down to a science! What are cocoa flavanols aka why do we care? Cocoa flavanols are plant based antioxidants shown to benefit circulation, brain, heart and skin health. So I guess I should eat more chocolate to be the pinnacle of health, right? I won't get into the nitty gritty of the science because I'm no expert on that, but you can read more about it at flavanaturals.com and cocoaflavanolscience.com. Anyway, these bars come in six flavors: blueberry and green tea matcha, crystallized ginger and Saigon cinnamon, classic dark chocolate, espresso ground coffee, pure cocoa nibs, roasted almond and Himalayan pink salt. These chocolate bars are not for the faint of heart - they have a deep, rich and satisfying dark chocolate flavor and each variety I've tried so far is very true to it's name. For instance, the crystallized ginger was literally studded with crystallized ginger and the rich dark chocolate was complimented by the subtle spiciness. The sugar count, however, does creep into the double digits as the classic chocolate bar has 12g sugar (this is a 35g serving vs JOJOs 34g serving and Nibmor 31g serving). If you like deep, dark chocolate and the prospect of potential health benefits from natural antioxidants, try these out!

The Good Chocolate

With a name like that, it better be good! The Good chocolate is a bean to bar, organic, zero sugar chocolate bar. They are vegan (with the exception of the milk chocolate flavor), soy free, antioxidant rich and have only 1g net carb! They utilize erythritol, stevia, mesquite and vanilla as a natural sugar free sweet-blend to create a melt in your mouth chocolate experience. I recommend the Himalayan salt flavor! You just can't beat the salty sweet combination! This is a great option for those following a low carb/keto diet or anyone! How could something that tastes so good, be bad?

Overall, I would recommend any of these brands for dark chocolate lovers. If you're a milk chocolate lover, CocoPolo is the way to go in my opinion! Whatever your dietary preference, delicious chocolate is within your reach and thank goodness for that!

These are just a few of the "healthy" chocolate brands on the market right now! Have you tried any "healthy" chocolate? What did you think of it?

Keto Friendly: CocoPolo, The Good Chocolate
Diabetes Friendly: JoJos, CocoPolo, The Good Chocolate
Vegan: Nibmor, FlavaNaturals, all other brands have vegan options

Thursday, November 16, 2017

How to Avoid Getting Sick!

Here we go again. Cold and flu season.

I hate getting sick. I refuse to get sick. So when someone around me gets a sniffle, paranoia sets in. What can I do? Getting sick is not completely within our control, but there are some steps we can take to try to avoid it!

Tips for Avoiding the Cold or Flu

  1. Avoid people who are ill. I mean, duh, but I might as well say it. Try to avoid close quarters with people who are sick to the best of your ability and definitely don't drink or eat after them. 
  2. Wash your hands. You've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times because it works!
  3. Eat healthy foods. Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals that will help your body stave off illnesses and build up your immune system. 
  4. Zinc, echinacea, Vitamin C and Vitamin D supplements may be helpful to preventing a cold or even shortening it if you have already caught it. 
  5. Don't overexercise or under-eat. These things stress the body and cause you to be more susceptible to sickness. 
  6. Get your ZZZs. It's no mystery that many people don't get enough sleep, but giving your body the rest it needs will help it to be strong in defending itself against harmful invaders!
Now what if you caught the cold? I'm no doctor, but I think Netflix + bone broth will help you feel better in no time!

What's your latest Netflix binge-worthy addiction?

It's Hip to be Square!

By now, this is practically old news, but Square Organics, a company that makes plant based chocolate coated protein bars, came out with NEW products.
That New New
And let me tell you, it's hip to be square.

I have loved their protein bars already but they recently released:

  • Crisp Bars
  • New flavor chocolate coated bar
  • Protein Popcorn

Crisp Protein Bars

These new crisp bars come in three flavors: Chocolate Sea Salt, Vanilla Cashew, and Toasted Coconut. They have a perfect crispy texture, just like a rice crispy treat packed with 10g plant based protein. The sugar is in the single digits for all three flavors and they are a source of healthy fats with cashew butter being the first ingredient. They are gluten free, dairy free, soy free and have no sugar alcohols or artificial flavors. The ingredients are simple and the taste is great! I'm a sucker for chocolate sea salt, but I'm nuts about chocolate anything!

Chocolate Coated Cookie Dough Bar

Woah. Chocolate. Coated. Cookie Dough. Yes, they did it. It is one of my top three chocolate coated flavors for sure. They used a base of cashew butter, vanilla extract, and cacao nibs to create the doughy middle and then coated it in chocolate. As always, their ingredients are organic and simple, no sugar alcohols, no artificial flavors. 

Protein Popcorn

Most people who know me, know that I adore popcorn so I was so excited to hear they were coming out with protein popcorn and I was not disappointed. I hate to be partial, but this may be my favorite new release from Square Organics. The popcorn comes in three flavors: sea salt, mild spicy, and lightly sweet. I truly can't decide which flavor is my favorite! You're going to want to eat the whole bag but don't worry because an entire bag is just 240-260 calories with 10g plant based protein, 8-9g MCTs, 5-6g naturally occurring fiber, not to mention they are organic, non GMO, gluten free, dairy free, and soy free! Snack on!

Have you tried any of the new Square Organics products? What do you think of them?

Find them here: Square Organics and use my code "HEALTHY_HAPPY_AND_FREE"  to save 20% off! 

P.S. Anyone catch the song reference in the title?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Eat Enlightened!

Have you found Enlightenment?

While spiritual enlightenment may be a continual search for many, snacking enlightenment is well within reach!

I have been a big fan of Enlightened products for a while now so I thought I would do a little post about my love for Enlightened!

Snacks on Snacks on Snacks!
Enlightened has 3 types of products right now including: roasted broad bean crisps, marshmallow crisp treats, and ice cream!

Roasted Broad Bean Crisps - The name of this snack totally does not do it justice. Every time I munch on them, I'm reminded just how good they are. They have both sweet and savory flavors to satisfy any snack craving. I love the 100 calorie snack packs for a quick grab-and-go snack to put in my purse. I also love using the sweet ones on smoothie bowls, yogurt bowls or protein fluff bowls. I've even used them as a topping for ice cream. The savory ones are great on their own or on avocado toast or as a salad topper for some added crunch! My favorite flavors are cocoa, barbecue, and sriracha!

Pumpkin Yogurt Bowl with Cinnamon Crisps
The marshmallow treats are HUGE. I usually eat half at a time but you can feel free to eat the whole thing. They are low in sugar and a nice treat to snack on! My favorite flavor is either birthday or double chocolate. I just can't decide!
Birthday Cake Pint with 1/4 a birthday rice treat!

The ice cream - ah the ice cream. If you know me, you know my love for ice cream runs deep. Enlightened makes a vast array of flavors of healthy, protein packed ice cream. They use quality ingredients and are lower in sugar and calories than typical ice cream. They are so rich and creamy, you could probably fool someone into thinking it's regular ice cream. The peanut butter chocolate chip, cold brew coffee, sea salt caramel, caramel oatmeal cookie crunch and frozen hot cocoa are just a few of my favorites. 

You can purchase Enlightened ice cream from http://www.icecreamsource.com/ or check their store locator to find where it's sold near you. If it's not sold near you, submit a product request form to your local grocery store. They really work! That's what I did and Enlightened ice cream is now sold in two stores in my area. 

The crisps and treats can also be found in stores or ordered from their website. If you order from their website, you can use the code HEALTHYHAPPY20 for 20% off. Find crisps and treats here: https://eatenlightened.refersion.com/c/d068df

Have you tried any Enlightened products? Which are your favorites?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday Finds!

It's time for Friday Finds - a round up of some things I've been enjoying lately or have recently discovered!

  • S.W. Skincare and Functional Fragrances
The people at S.W. Basics were so kind to send me some of their products to try. I tried the Cleanser and Lavender functional fragrance so far and will definitely try the cream scrub and who knows what else. The products are made with minimal ingredients that are natural. The cleanser makes my face feel like a baby's bottom, but that's not all, it removed my makeup without having to scrub like a maniac. They also make a make up remover if your makeup is particularly hard to remove. The lavender functional fragrance was such a good choice for me. It helps to ease anxiety and has soothing and cleansing properties plus I smell like a flower! It's a win-win and I really enjoy it. It's diffused in sunflower oil so you can apply it right to your skin. All their products are cruelty free and they use all natural ingredients that are certified organic, fair trade or sourced from family farms. Check them out here: http://swbasicsofbk.com/

  • Healthy Human Stein
Water, water, water. It seems like I can never drink as much as I should. I recently got a Healthy Human Stein and I have been carrying it with me every day and drinking all my water. I love how stylish they are - they come in an array of designs and colors. They are more than just a cute water bottle, though. They are made of premium food grade stainless steel, keep cold things cold for 24 hours, hot things hot for 12 hours, BPA free, made ethically and are on a mission to reduce waste. That's a lot from a water bottle! Check them out here: https://healthyhumanlife.com/

  • Stranger Things
Image from wikipedia.org
If you haven't heard of Netflix' series "Stranger Things", where you been??? I heard all the excitement over the release of Season 2 so I figured I would see what all the fuss is about. I started watching Season 1 and I am really loving it! It's like Twilight Zone meets Goonies meets alien encounter. I have a lot of episodes to go though so don't give anything away! 

  • Krunchy Melts
What are Krunchy Melts? They're meringue cookies that are all natural, fat free and gluten free! Meringue cookies are cookies made from egg whites and sugar and not much else but there is a bit of an art to baking them to achieve the proper texture. Krunchy Melts has mastered that art because they are crunchy on the outside but then you just let the sweet bliss melt in your mouth! They are so good and satisfy any sweet tooth! They also have tons of fun flavors and even come in sugar free varieties if you're looking for a super macro friendly sweet treat. I haven't tried the sugar free so I can't say how those are, but the regular are delicious and still just around 90 calories for 8 cookies! Locally, I have found them at Big Lots but they are also sold in a few other retailers and online at Amazon. Check them out here: https://www.krunchymelts.com/

Cappuccino Krunchy Melts on top of Halo Top

What have you been loving recently? Have you watched Stranger Things?

Beer and Pancakes 5K 2017

Another 5k in the books, my friends.

I've expressed my enjoyment of 5ks before, but this NC MedAssist 5k on November 4, gave me an extra dose of anxiety with my excitement. Why?

1. My work sponsored it.
2. They found out I placed in my age division last year and were counting on me as their "star athlete" (jokingly, but the pressure was on).
3. I sprained my ankle the week before!

I sprained my ankle running through a pile of leaves the week before so I transitioned to using a stationary bike to maintain my cardiovascular endurance but a stationary bike is really not the same as running.

The morning of the 5k was unseasonably warm, which I was thankful for. I fueled up with a Western Bagel and made the trip to the Brewery which was hosting the 5K. The proceeds go to a MedAssist program for people who can't afford insurance. It's hosted annually at a brewery where participants are treated to a breakfast of pancakes and bacon afterward. Oh, and beer, to replace glycogen stores I guess lol!

Don't worry - the bacon was unlimited for VIP!
I used KT tape and a YouTube video to tape my ankle for stability and nervously awaited the start time. I popped a piece of Neuro Gum and approached the start line not knowing how this race would go - I hadn't run in over a week!

The run did not feel great at all. I felt like my legs didn't want to go any faster. The course was pretty nice with no extremes, although it did end on an incline. My finish time was 22:33 with a 7:16 pace which is pretty good for me, especially with an injury!

I came in second place in my age group winning a beer glass. I chowed down on some bacon and tried to ignore the pain in my ankle.

I definitely made my ankle injury much worse and will be back to the bike for now but I'm happy I was able to finish strong!

My "trophy"!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Review: Dairy Free Halo Top

Vegans and dairy intolerant ice cream lovers rejoiced when Halo Top announced their new line of vegan ice creams!

I, personally, do not follow a vegan diet, however, I'm always open to trying new things, especially if those things are in the form of ice cream! 

The dairy free pints are soy free and made with a coconut milk base. They also incorporate pea protein and rice protein to add a vegan protein punch. 

The flavors range from 280 calories per pint to 360 calories per pint, which is pretty impressive for ice cream made with coconut milk!

They average about 14-16 grams of fat per pint, 52-72 grams carbohydrates (not excluding sugar alcohols), and 12-16 grams of protein. 

I first tried Chocolate which is the lowest calorie of the vegan line coming in at 280 calories. 

Topped with a Square Organics Crisp Bar!
This flavor was just alright to me. I felt like the pea protein lent to a bit of a graininess. It wasn't horrible but I wouldn't go out of my way to purchase this pint, whether I were vegan or not.

Just add chocolate.
The next flavor I tried was Oatmeal Cookie. This one I liked better than the chocolate! It had a great cinnamon, oatmeal cookie flavor and oat pieces throughout. I know that some people criticized the oats in the dairy version but I actually like them. I think the addition of mix ins detracts from any effects of the pea protein as well because it was much less noticeable.

The next flavor I tried was Sea Salt Caramel - that has to be good, right? Well..it may have just been this particular pint, but Halo Top really dropped the ball. There was hardly any caramel ribbons so the execution fell flat. The flavor wasn't outstanding and the vegan graininess was still there. I had high hopes. This flavor could be way better if it had more caramel ribbons, so maybe take a gamble and see if you can get one with more caramel!

Sea Salt "Caramel"
Next up, Caramel Macchiato! Again, the caramel ribbons disappointed me. It had a nice, lightly sweet, coffee flavor but the caramel aspect was lacking.

Where is the caramel?
Peanut Butter Cup - please let this be good! Ah, sweet success. This pint actually had ribbons of peanut butter swirled throughout which detracts from the grainier vegan texture. This is definitely in the top 2 ranking for Non-dairy. I would say the flavor is very similar to the dairy version of this flavor! If dairy is not an option for you, this is a great choice!
Peanut Butter Cup!
The highest calorie of them all, coming in at 360 calories - Cinnamon Roll was the one I had the highest hopes for and I was not disappointed this time. It did still have the grainier texture, presumably from the vegan protein sources, but it didn't overtake the great cinnamon flavor, gooey cinnamon roll filling swirled throughout, and chunks of cinnamon roll "dough" studded throughout. This pint takes the cake...er...roll. You get the idea. I rank this number one for the non dairy pints!

All the Cinnayum toppings!
Last and least, yes, least, was Chocolate Covered Banana. I really did not have high expectations for this one because I'm not usually a fan of banana flavored things. (Enlightened Banana's Foster ice cream is my one exception!) The flavor was very artificially banana. It did, however, have a nice fudge swirl although that could have been thicker. There's no such thing as too much chocolate! I did finish the pint and I will say it grew on me a little bit but I would not purchase this flavor in dairy or non dairy. I'm just not a fan.

That Swirl!

Overall Rankings

1. Cinnamon Roll 
2. Peanut Butter Cup 
3. Oatmeal Cookie
4. Caramel Macchiato 
5. Sea Salt Caramel
6. Chocolate 
7. Chocolate Covered Banana

My final verdict is that these pints are pretty good for the macros and being non dairy, however, if you CAN have dairy, the dairy pints have a much more pleasing texture for similar calories.
Do you eat dairy? Do you think you will try the Non Dairy Halo Top or have you already? Let me know!