So I tried to go vegan last year, and I was pretty successful for a few months. Then came the holiday season, which fell during one of my stints on the night-shift in the hospital. Helloooo sugar-cravings. My biggest pit-falls? Cheese and chocolate. One thing that people don’t know about ICU and ER nurses, especially the night-shift ones, is that there is ALWAYS a stash of candy. Med school and residency has taught me to learn from every failed exam, every bad evaluation, every wrong decision. I have decided that last year was a learning experience, and the only way to combat the endless candy resources during Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and New Years is to bring in my own chocolate craving artillery. Here are my favorite secret, oh-so-decadent, weapons. Besides, it is the sugar in chocolate that is bad for you. Chocolate itself is just chock-full (pun intended :-p) of anti-oxidants and essential minerals like magnesium.
Hail Merry Chocolate Tart: With an almond shell and tart made of chocolate and coconut butter, this is one of the most decadent treats you will ever have, whether or not you are vegan. It is especially good for special occasions. I have also made similar recipes to this and it is quite reproducible, although the crust is hard to make as good as the original. It’s great to take to parties! The best part about this treat is that it is so decadent it is hard to eat the whole thing.
Fearless Brand Exploding Coconuts Chocolate with 70% Cocoa: This is one dark chocolate that melts in your mouth. Half of one of these bars has 6 grams of fiber and only 9 grams of sugar. Because of how dark the chocolate is, it is super satisfying, and lasts me 3 days usually. As a plus, the chocolate is fair-trade, gluten-free, soy-free, vegan and every other kind of ethical you can imagine. Just check out their FAQ.
Justin’s Hazelnut Butter: My husband loves Nutella, so naturally it is around my house. Someone at my residency brought some and stuck it in our lounge too. Even if I don’t use it, I end up with dog-gone craving for sweets. Then I found Justin’s. I kid you not this stuff tastes like chocolate icing and 2 tablespoons of it only has 7 grams of sugar. To die for.
Cacao nibs: When you buy these suckers, remember initially that they are bitter – it is like eating 100% chocolate. My friend Ingrid clued me into this one – dip a spoon full of honey into cacao nibs, and it will be full of chocolatey goodness! You can also put them in a smoothie. My favorite company to buy these is David Wolfe’s company sunfood.
Finally, a constructive way to deal with cravings is to try to dissecting them. Chocolate is a complex food with lots of flavors and textures. Is it the richness you are craving? Is it sweet? Is it that cocoa smell? The bitterness? Sweetness can be combated with salt sometimes (try an olive or a sun-dried tomato based food), but you can also try eating something sweet that is healthful can be helpful. If it’s the richness, a smoothie with frozen banana and your choice of healthy milk might be the ticket. Maybe try something flavored with a healthy oil. If it is bitterness or aroma, you can try dark chocolate or coffee that has cocoa undertones. Of course, I have to say, eat your greens. Greens have lots of magnesium in them. In the holistic nutrition world, it is thought that cravings may be related to micronutrient deficiencies. In this case, a chocolate craving could be a craving for magnesium, which is found in high amounts in leafy green veggies. In Ayurveda, chocolate would be a dry, bitter and astringent food. Tea, coffee and many leafy greens fall into this category and would make a good replacement for chocolate.