Sunday, January 15, 2012

How to Eat Chocolate Every Day and Stay Thin!

The #1 question we get as a Gourmet Walks Chocolate Tour Guides is “How is it you don't weigh 400 pounds?” This month we’re venturing into women’s magazines territory with our tips on how to enjoy gourmet chocolate daily without gaining weight. No, we don’t pop diet pills or get our stomachs stapled or spend our evenings on the treadmill. But for the most part, we eat chocolate every day and we’re happy with our weight.

1) Eat only the Best Chocolate you Can Afford – This is essential. Fine chocolate tastes better and is generally better for you – no preservatives, no artificial ingredients, less sugar. If you spend $10 or more on a gourmet chocolate bar, you are more likely to savor every bite and make it last rather than demolish it in one sitting. When you indulge in sugary candy bars, they usually don’t satisfy and you find yourself eating more and more.

Adam Smith, slim proprietor of Fog City News, says “With fine chocolate there is so much more flavor and nuance to it than say a bag of M&M’s. I always encourage customers to think about quality over quantity. So folks should resolve to eat less-but-better chocolate in 2012!” It’s Adam’s job to taste chocolate each and every day. And yet, he and his staff members are surprisingly trim.

2) Slow Down – I am a slow eater, and while my husband might say I talk too much, the benefit is I eat less than my dining companions. It honestly makes me cringe when I see someone devour a box of truffles without pausing even to figure out the flavor names.

Nicole is a Gourmet Walks Tour Guide who eats chocolate every day, and also samples the city’s finest baked goods and pastries on a regular basis. She is the closest thing to a cupcake connoisseur I know, and yet can only be described as thin. She says, “I eat slowly and never eat past full.”

John is a Gourmet Walks Tour Guide and part time sales associate at Scharffen Berger. He says, “When it comes to great chocolate - a little goes a long way. I used to wonder why I was compelled to plow through a #1 box of See's nuts and chews, but then I discovered gourmet chocolate. I'm now literally surrounded by chocolate for sometimes hours a day, but I don't need a pound of it to get that blissful feeling of chocolate satisfaction.”

3) Dark Chocolate Bars Most of the Time – When I say I eat chocolate every day, about 90% of that chocolate is in bar form. Gourmet truffles are undeniably delicious, but let’s be real…you just can’t eat that much sweet milk chocolate and fresh cream every day, even if it is organic! I save truffles for special occasions and treat them as desserts, served up on white china after a nice dinner. But fine chocolate bars are a daily indulgence – as long as it’s dark chocolate.

Dark chocolate (not milk) contains antioxidants, and that's where almost all the health benefits lie. Once these studies started coming out, dark chocolate sales (along with red wine) have steadily improved in the U.S. It doesn’t mean that milk chocolate isn’t worth eating. But if you’re interested in health and maintaining your weight, then make milk chocolate a special treat just a few days a week. Soon, your palate will adjust and the average candy bar will taste as sugary as a Pixie Stick.

4) Eat Only the Baked Goods YOU Make – This one I owe to Michael Pollan. In his Food Rules he says if you only eat desserts you make (rather than store-bought cookies and cupcakes) then you’ll eat a lot less of them. ("Eat all the junk you want as long as you cook it yourself.") Plus, you’ll feel good about what you’re eating because you know what’s in it! So indulge your inner domestic goddess and make a chocolate torte or homemade brownies. I know you won’t have enough time to do this very often, so don’t worry about it and enjoy when you do.

Oh, and what happens when that chocolate torte turns out to feed 16 people and your family of 4 only made a dent in it? Give it away. After I’ve had 2 servings of the dessert, I find it another home. Currently that means my au pair and her friends. Everyone leaves happy.

5) When You Have No Choice, Then Make it a Salad Night – Some days I have no choice but to indulge. For instance, I’m judging the San Francisco Chocolate Salon. Or even worse, I’m spending the day at the Fancy Food Show. This means unlimited chocolate, cheese, cookies, brownies and more over a 7-hour period.

After a day of excess, my body tells me exactly what to do. It craves a salad, or sushi, or a tofu quinoa salad followed by a spin class. It’s exactly the opposite from the rich, creamy tastes I’ve soaked up all day. Does this qualify as binge eating? Maybe, but I’m pretty sure it will keep you from gaining that chocolate weight and make you feel better the next day. These are my tricks.

6) Not Just For Dessert – My favorite time to eat dark chocolate is mid-afternoon, just as my energy is starting to lag. When it represents food and not dessert, I’m not expecting something sweet and I’m open to the wide realm of flavor profiles. I don’t overeat and I’m happy with just a few fine squares.

Honestly, eating a 70% plus chocolate bar for dessert can be a bit of a disappointment. It’s not going to taste sweet and so you’ll crave something else sweet and then you’ll end up overeating once more. Sounds like a viscious cycle that will end in a Snackwell overdose.

7) Think European – It’s challenging enough to lead Chocolate Tours, but how about being married to a chocolatier? Can you imagine the temptation? Take one look at Jacky Recchiuti (who runs Recchiuti Confections with husband Michael) and you’ll know she doesn’t lounge around popping bon bons in front of cooking shows all day.

Jackie Burrell, of The San Jose Mercury News, recently spoke to the Recchiutis about their very French lifestyle. “They shop every couple of days, European style, for what’s fresh and seasonal. They walk everywhere. And they revel in all the flavors and experiences the Bay Area has to offer.”

I’ve never been in better shape than when I’ve lived in cities where walking is the best way to get around. That’s why I centered my business on gourmet walking tours, rather than tours by bus or limo. We want our guests to see everything and to get the chance to walk off all that chocolate. As for my tour guides, they all agree that without the walking aspect of tour guiding, all those chocolate samples would linger on the hips far too long.

Have a tip on how to eat chocolate every day and stay thin?
Please share.