I’m excited to bring you an incredibly delicious recipe for healthier chocolate bars. It’s from Hungry Healthy Happy by Dannii Martin.
Dannii describes these chocolate bars as one of the recipes she’s most proud of, and I can confirm they’re totally delicious. Though high in calories, they make a great occasional treat as they are packed with healthy fats and nutrients that will satisfy your body as well as your sweet tooth.
She says, “Kids LOVE them and people never even know that they are a healthier version. They have always been popular on my blog and I just know anyone that buys the book will love them too.”
And it’s true, my too love them, and so we’ve been cutting them into individual little squares and they’re lasting ages in the fridge as each bite is nice and satisfying.
Here’s how to make them.
For the base:
- 500 g mixed nuts (I used pecans and almonds, but any will work)
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, warmed to a liquid
- 4 tbsp cocoa powder
- 440g pitted dates, softened in boiling water for 10 minutes then drained
For the topping:
- 4 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 4 tbsp cocoa powder
- 4 tbsp coconut oil, warmed to a liquid
Line a square 25 cm/10 inch shallow baking tin with cling film (plastic wrap). First make the base. Put the nuts in a food processor.
Pulse until finely chopped.
Add the coconut oil, cocoa powder and dates and process until smooth.
Tip the mixture into the baking tin.
Pack it down evenly. Transfer to the fridge for 2 hours.
When the base is ready, make the topping. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and stir until combined.
Pour the mixture over the base.
Use a spatula to spread it out evenly. Return the bars to the fridge for another hour until the chocolate topping has set.
Slice into pieces and serve.
These bars melt quickly, so are best stored in the fridge until you are ready to eat.
If you’d like to print this recipe to try at home, just hit PRINT on the recipe card below.
Healthier chocolate bars
A healthy alternative to store-bought chocolate bars, these treats are made from chocolatey dates and nuts with a cocoa and maple syrup topping.
For the base:
- 500 g mixed nuts I used pecans and almonds, but any will work
- 2 tbsp coconut oil warmed to a liquid
- 4 tbsp cocoa powder
- 440 g pitted dates softened in boiling water for 10 minutes then drainedFor the topping:
- 4 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 4 tbsp cocoa powder
- 4 tbsp coconut oil warmed to a liquid
- Line a square 25 cm/10 inch shallow baking tin with cling film (plastic wrap).
- First make the base. Put the nuts in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the coconut oil and cocoa powder and process again to combine. Finally, add the dates and process until smooth. I like it with a few chunky pieces of nuts through it.
- Tip the mixture into the baking tin and pack it down evenly. Transfer to the fridge for 2 hours.
- When the base is ready, make the topping. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and stir until combined. Pour the mixture over the base and use a spatula to spread it out evenly. Return the bars to the fridge for another hour until the chocolate topping has set.
- Slice into 15 pieces and serve. These bars melt quickly, so are best stored in the fridge until you are ready to eat.
An interview with Dannii
Emily: Your journey to a healthier lifestyle is inspirational. Did you ever think at the beginning that you’d be sharing it with such a huge audience and inspiring so many people to make similar changes?
Dannii: It never even crossed my mind when I started up the Hungry Healthy Happy Facebook page (which actually came before the blog) that it would become what it has and I guess it really does show the power of the internet. What started off as just family and friends reading my posts has turned in to a wonderful community of people looking to be healthier and happier. I just wanted to show people that it wasn’t just celebrities with personal trainers and chefs that could change their lives, but it was every day people like me and them. I also wanted to show both the ups and downs of the journey.
I love that rather than your story being about any kind of dramatically restrictive fad diet, you talk about maintaining a varied diet – the same sorts of food you loved before – but in a healthier form. What was the thinking behind this?
The main thinking behind it was that I LOVE food, and always have, and I didn’t want to give up the foods I loved and I didn’t think I needed to either. Like most people, I had tried every diet out there and they were all restrictive and punishing and I always gave up on them. Then I thought, how about I don’t restrict myself, and just make healthier versions of my favourite foods, in healthier portion sizes and see how that goes. The moment that I stopped “dieting” was the moment that I started losing weight.
You refer to yourself as an emotional eater prior to your lifestyle change. What would you recommend for people who are struggling with the same issue and trying to rebuild a healthy relationship with food?
I think this is something that I will always have to deal with, as I have such an emotional attachment to food, but it’s definitely something that I can limit. I found that keeping an emotional eating diary really helped me to address the reasons why I was overeating. I would track what I was eating and then I would write how I was feeling before I ate and how I felt after. If I overate on junk food, then I would be able to see the reason for it and what my triggers were and it was easier to cut those things out.
I think it also really helps to not demonise specific foods. Ice cream isn’t “bad” the same way that salad isn’t “good”. Being healthy comes down to consistent choices, not the things that you eat every now and then. It’s all balance!
Making a long-term lifestyle change is challenging, and you’re very honest about it sometimes being hard to stay motivated. When you have a tough day what helps you to stick at it?
Sometimes I do have to drag myself out of bed to go to the gym and other times I really have to talk myself out of having a second (or third) slice of cake – that’s what makes me human, I am no perfect. But on those days that I find it really difficult, I remind myself of all the reasons why I started. I remind myself of how good I will feel after my workout or how sick I will feel if I eat more cake than I need. I also have a lot of motivational quotes around my house.
Your blog passes on your learnings and tips to others who may be struggling with making the change to a healthier lifestyle. Where did you find your support from during your own journey? It seems like your Facebook page is a fantastic daily motivator for the community you’ve built there?
It was Facebook that really helped me in the beginning. I found that knowing that people were expecting me to post my meals each day on Facebook kept me accountable. I couldn’t post pictures of pizza every night for the week, so I guess that kept me on track. Offline, my support came from my husband. I could myself as very, very lucky that I had the support from him, as I know some people don’t. Don’t get me wrong, there were times that I was drinking a smoothie and he was eating a crème egg, but he did overhaul his diet with me. He loved me no matter what my size was and only cared that I was happy and healthy and that helped a lot.
Your new book, Hungry Healthy Happy, focuses on healthier ways to cook the food we all love. Do you think this is the key to sustaining good habits?
I truly believe it is. There are lots of fad diets out there that are filled with foods and meals that people hate, yet they force themselves to eat them because they think they will have the “perfect” body after. It’s no wonder people give up on those diets after about a week. My recipes don’t use out of the ordinary or hard to source ingredients, they are just every day meals that the whole family will love, which I also think is important, as no-one wants to be making 3 different meals for the whole family.
I remember a piece of advice from you that I loved and that has really stayed with me, around allowing yourself a treat meal (e.g. a takeaway) occasionally, but not considering it a failed day/week but rather a ‘meal off’ – can you share a bit about that?
As much as I love my healthier alternatives, sometimes they don’t cut it and you just need the real thing – a burger, a cheesy pizza, full-fat ice cream, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. As I said above, there are no bad foods, just consistent choices. If you are having takeaways for every meal, then chances are you are not going to be at your healthiest, but one takeaway is not going to do any damage, the same way that one salad doesn’t instantly make you healthy. That one takeaway does not undo all the healthy meals that you have eaten through the rest of the week. Just relax, and enjoy it!
It’s more than just a cookbook; you also cover the principles of losing weight, the importance of exercise and a meal planner. What inspired you to structure it in this way?
There are so many recipe books out there, especially healthy recipes, but healthy eating is SO much more than that. Although I like to think people will discover things they haven’t thought about before in my recipes, most people know how to eat healthily, but being healthy is so much more than the food we eat. What most people struggle with is how to be healthy on a diet, or how to motivate their selves to workout or to do all of that with a busy work schedule. So I wanted to include all of that so they had the support to go along with the recipes.
Your recipes are proof that healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive, do you find that people are surprised by this?
Yes, and it’s probably the topic that always causes the most debate when I bring it up on social media. It’s difficult, because the word expensive is subjective and I know some people are really living on the bread line and can barely afford to eat. But, personally, I found that I saved money on my food shopping when I started eating better. I think that if you buy in to all the new trendy healthy ingredients, then you can spend a fortune. But it doesn’t have to be that way – junk food is expensive and so much cheaper to make yourself. The trade off for that though, is it will take a bit more time to make it yourself. People pay for convenience, which is why I have made my recipes as easy and as quick as possible.
Name your top five ingredients that you couldn’t live without.
Avocado (followers of my blog would not be surprised by that), Greek yoghurt, feta, sweet potato and chocolate.
Hungry for more? Dannii has a new book of Healthy Slow Cooker recipes coming in autumn. I can’t wait.
Recipe reproduced with the publisher’s permission. Pics my own.