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The Best Dark Chocolate on the Planet: Well-Balanced

You wouldn’t know it from how much we talk about cookies, but Birchbox staffers are a pretty healthy bunch. We love our veggies and mind-clearing workouts, and are always up to try the latest fitness class or nutrition bar. Which is why we have new regular column: Well-Balanced. Check back weekly for our latest wellness obsession.

It’s a well-documented fact, that I am a Cookie Monster of the first order. I’ve about given up on conquering my sweet tooth, but I am attempting to make healthier choices. When I chatted with Food Matters founder Tricia Williams, she told me that one of her favorite snacks is dark chocolate, preferably raw and/or organic, which has the highest concentration of antioxidants. Fun fact: raw cacao has more antioxidants than any other food. With that glowing endorsement, I embarked on the herculean task of finding the best healthy chocolate on the market. Click through for my favorites.

One Lucky Duck: This New York-based raw food cafe has a knack for making virtuous food taste absolutely decadent (witness their beloved Mallomar). I recently discovered their line of raw (and organic and vegan) chocolate bars, and I’m hooked. Their five-bar gift set would make a great Valentine’s Day present for your greens-loving buddies. My favorite: The Buckwheat Chocolate Bar, which sounds ridiculous, but tastes amazing. Think grapenuts plus chocolate. Or just toasty chocolate—either way, it’s fantastic.

Pacari Ecuadorian Chocolate: This family-owned company is known for its artisanal bars, made in small batches from single-origin Ecuadorian cacao. All of their products are organic, but they also have a line of completely raw bars, which are produced at extremely low temperatures. Unlike some organic chocolate, Pacari’s bars have a smooth and melty mouth feel, and come in a range of exciting flavors. My favorite: The Salt & Nibs, which pairs flaky Peruvian sea salt with organic dark chocolate nibs.

NibMor: our director of marketing, Deena, introduced me to this line of New York-based organic, vegan chocolate. It’s dairy-free, gluten-free, GMO-free, refined sugar-free…and somehow still tastes indulgent. My favorite: Dark Chocolate Almond, for its nutty crunch factor.

Fine & Raw: I love everything about this Brooklyn-based line, from the gorgeously designed recycled paper wrappers to their high-brow flavor combinations. I’d eat a bar a day if I could. My favorite: Bonbon Bar, a deep dark bar laced with vanilla, sea salt, and agave.

What’s your favorite healthy chocolate? Tell me in the comments!

The flip side of being a cookie addict? Being equally loyal to exercise. Check out our take on the latest fitness craze.

Healthy Snacks and Ice Cream Alternatives From Food Matters NYC: Well-Balanced

You wouldn’t know it from how much we talk about cookies, but Birchbox staffers are a pretty healthy bunch. We love our veggies and mind-clearing workouts, and are always up to try the latest fitness class or nutrition bar. Our weekly column, Well-Balanced, is dedicated to our latest wellness obsessions—they might become yours, too.

Nutritionist and chef Tricia Williams in the kitchen.

Photo: Food Matters NYC

For this month’s Birchbox Magazine, I test-drove Fitist, a new startup that brings boutique fitness classes together into a single program. In addition to creating a custom workout plan for me, Fitist also introduced me to Tricia Williams, the founder of Food Matters NYC, a personalized food delivery service.

Williams, who is a chef/nutritionist, works with clients to design meal plans based on health history, workout routine, and goals. Instead of using calorie counts, she employs medicine guidelines to create the routines—that means no gluten, dairy, or refined grains, and Williams even focuses on the pH of the foods by cooking ingredients in high-alkaline water. If you’re looking to rehab your diet on your own, Food Matters also has health coaches and professional chefs who can visit your house to do a full “pantry purge.”

I gave Williams a rundown of my diet and asked her for simple changes that I can make. Read on for a healthy ice cream alternative, cocktail party saver and more.

Better Than Ice Cream: Dairy is a no-no, but ice cream doesn’t have to be. Williams approved nut milk ice creams, which can be found at natural food stores or spots like Lula’s Sweet Apothecary in New York. I’m partial to Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss ice cream, which tastes even more decadent than the traditional stuff. (Note: these are not low-calorie by any means.)

A Smarter Pre-Game: For nights when you’re going to be drinking, Williams has a special pre-game cocktail: chia seeds and water. “Put a tablespoon in water and wait until the seeds expand. It will fill you up so that you’re less likely to nosh and also helps reduce inflammation.”

Eat Grains Earlier: You don’t have to give up grains altogether; just take them off your dinner plate. Williams says, “Have them earlier in the day so that your body can burn them off and use them as fuel. When you eat them at night, they just convert to sugar.”

Top Snacks: Dark chocolate ranks high on Williams’ approved snack list, as long as it’s raw or 70 percent or darker. She also loves, almonds, pistachios (the ones in the shell, so you eat them more slowly), fresh fruits and veggies, and nuts. 

—Mollie

Want more healthy eating tips? Read what the world’s best spa chefs have to say.