This post is from KS contributing writer Jamie Larrison of How To Just About Anything.
The holidays are a time where everyone seems to let loose a little with their dietary guidelines.
You’ll see even the strictest of eaters sneaking a cookie or two, like these gluten free jam thumbprints, during Christmas dinner.
Then there are those of us who like to stuff our faces with everything in sight. Pecan pie becomes an endangered species this time of year.
I’m glad to say though that there’s a happy medium ground.
Make Your Homemade Sweets & Eat Them Too
Healthier, real food desserts are simple to make and taste even better than their preservative laden, junk filled, store bought look alikes.
My biggest weakness is chocolate.
Every year at Christmas my grandma would make the best fudge using marshmallow cream. It was creamy and fluffy and chocolaty.
Everyone loved it and scarfed it down with sugar-crazed Christmas glee, but unfortunately it didn’t have a single wholesome ingredient.
I’ve since discovered that not only are healthier chocolate desserts possible, but they really are easy. We love drizzling this naturally sweetened hot fudge sauce on our ice cream. And I’ve been making this chocolate bar recipe for the past year that uses superfood ingredients like coconut oil and raw honey.
What’s Really in Store Bought Candy?
I mentioned in this Almond Joy cookie bars post just how much sugar is in one itsy bitsy candy bar, but take a look at the ingredients in some of the popular brands.
One of my favorites, Milky Way, has 31 grams of sugar in a bar that’s only 52 grams.
That’s 60% pure sugar!
The ingredients list doesn’t look any better.
“INGREDIENTS: MILK CHOCOLATE (SUGAR, COCOA BUTTER, SKIM MILK, CHOCOLATE, LACTOSE, MILKFAT, SOY LECITHIN, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR), CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, HYDROGENATED PALM KERNEL OIL AND/OR PALM OIL, SKIM MILK, LESS THAN 2% – MILKFAT, COCOA POWDER PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, MALTED BARLEY, LACTOSE, SALT, EGG WHITES, CHOCOLATE, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR.” (source)
Just reading it makes my teeth hurt from all that sugar!
So what makes these homemade candy bars so much better?
In addition to being free of GMO franken foods, refined sugar and hydrogenated oil (or the next manmade “food” to come along now that the FDA is kicking trans fats out on their buns), the homemade version uses ingredients that may actually help you stay healthy.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
Despite the bad reputation saturated fat has gotten over the past few decades, mainstream science is now beginning to admit that foods like butter and full fat cream are actually good for you and don’t cause heart disease. You’ll still find some who insist that saturated fat causes problems, but just spread some more grass fed butter on your homemade bread while they’re telling you why hydrogenated GMO canola margarine is better.
Another thing I love about coconut oil is how versatile it is.
There are too many uses for coconut oil to list them all, but I like using it in my homemade bodycare products, like this whipped mint chocolate body butter, or this skin soothing calendula salve. (We have some simple ideas from Katie at KS for how to use coconut oil as well.)
Raw Honey is Better
And even if you do snag some of the real stuff, if it isn’t raw, you’re losing out on the amazing benefits it has to offer. Local raw honey can help with seasonal allergies, soothe a burn and even improve cholesterol levels (source).
Cocoa or Cacao Powder Packs a Punch
This chocolaty powder is especially high in, phosphorous and iron.
It’s estimated that as many as 75% of Americans are deficient in magnesium alone. This mineral is vital for bone health, mental alertness and even helps reduce asthma symptoms, among many other things. Body odor and migraines are other signs of magnesium deficiency. (source)
Did you see our recent guest post on magnesium as an aid to ease morning sickness?
This chocolate bar recipe is completely customizable with whatever flavor floats your boat.
I like mixing unsweetened coconut flakes and slicedin mine for an “almond joy” type of bar. They’re also great with a crunchy nut butter or some peppermint extract. I’ve even mixed cereal in for some crunch before.
To this base recipe you can add…
(ingredients found at Amazon or Tropical Traditions)
- 1/4 c. nut butter
- 1/4 tsp. peppermint or orange extract
- 1/4 c. nuts like pecans, peanuts or
- 1/4 c. shredded, unsweetened coconut (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!)
- 1/4 c. cereal
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 c. dried fruit
Experiment with the amounts, adding a little bit at a time until you’re happy with the taste and texture.
- Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor until smooth. Be sure that the coconut oil isn't melted or the honey will sink to the bottom. You can increase the honey by a few tablespoons if you like your chocolate really sweet.
- Mix in any add in ingredients. Some do well processed right in the food processor, others you'll want to stir in with a spoon or sprinkle on top after pouring.
- Pour into a mold or spoon dollops onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Your servings yield will depend on what mold you use or the size of dollops.
- Chill or freeze until completely solid, about 20-30 minutes.
- Store in the fridge or freezer.
Trouble Getting Healthy Food on the Table Every Day?
Enter Real Plans
Real Plans is an online meal planning software & app that is probably smarter than I am.
It works with all food restrictions to help families find the perfect meal, generate a shopping list, scale it up if needed, and you’re totally in control. Use your own fav recipes, skip a suggestion and tell Real Plans all the foods you don’t like/can’t eat, and it will still do half the work of meal planning (or more) for you.
Real Plans takes the stress out of meal planning and puts the nourishing food BACK on your table. There’s a plan for every diet type, including GAPS, Paleo, AIP, Whole30, vegetarian and more!
These chocolates will melt if your house is above 70 degrees. For many that isn’t a problem, but our house is warm so I like to pull one out of the fridge right before eating. It will also melt in your hand very quickly, so be sure to use a plate!
Do you have any favorite Christmas desserts?
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Amazon, From Nature with Love, Mountain Rose Herbs and Tropical Traditions from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. See my full disclosure statement here.