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Just a Kid in a Chocolate Factory

For the longest time I've had Vermont on my bucket list, just so I could see and experience where my favorite chocolates are madethe factory of Lake Champlain Chocolates, an award-winning family owned company. I crossed that off my list this summer as we relaxed in Burlington for a few days. The weather was unusually spectacular for August, 80s and dry, so that we would pick up a healthful lunch at City Market and picnic next to Lake Champlain. We enjoyed watching fleets of boats from sailing classes drift by and seeing families bike along the pathways. Everything about the town was quaint including the chocolate factory, which I wasn't expecting. I'd imagined it to be a large building in the middle of a green valley with a separate store showcasing all of their amazing candies. Instead the factory is located on an industrial street in the center of Burlington. When you first walk in, you're greeted by the retail store. There is a cafe towards the back offering hot chocolate and other drinks. 

The free factory "tours" are actually a 20-30 minute seated lecture that takes place on the hour, located to the left of the cafe. Our seats next to the open-window factory allowed us to peek at the assembly lines of chocolates being fitted into various molds. Our lecturer was a long time staff member who gave us the lowdown on everything from the origins of the factory because of a chocolate making "dare" by owner Jim Lampman in 1983 to their earning last year of a Fair Trade certification, Fair for Life, for their organic chocolate line.

Of course we also learned where chocolate comes from, starting with the cocoa pod filled with beans, to roasting and deshelling the beans into nibs, and further processing of the solids into chocolate liquor. The nonalcoholic "liquor" refers to the purified cocoa solids and cocoa butter in liquid form. From there, sugar and emulsifiers are added to transform it into the creamy dreaminess that we crave.

Jake's spinosaurus, for size comparison of the cocoa pod

Jake didn't care for the bitter scent of the cocoa beansWe were treated to a tasting of milk, dark and white chocolate samples. We learned that, at least in their opinion, white chocolate is considered real chocolate because it contains cocoa butter (derived from the chocolate liquor). After our taste buds were piqued, we were smartly dismissed to the retail section where I hoarded my favorite Granola Five Star Bars (their best seller) and a few other flavors on sale. A benefit to visiting the factory is that you can get nice discounts not found in their other two retail stores (also in Vermont), on their website, and at the Whole Foods Markets that carry the chocolates. 

I understand being a chocoholic. There was a time when I would eat any and every type of chocolate and chocolate derivative. I'd eagerly wait for post-holiday discounts on Valentine's and Christmas chocolates, gather girlfriends to attend all-you-can-eat chocolate buffets at local hotels, and visit chocolatiers in different cities. Thankfully I don't long for chocolate as I used to (too expensive and time-consuming!), but I like to keep a bar or two stashed away...just in case: Lake Champlain's Five Star Bar or Dark Chocolate Peppermint Crunch, and Ghirardelli's Dark Chocolate with White Mint Squares. If you're ever passing through Vermont, I'd highly recommend a quick stop at this factory store for a great education on chocolate-making and to stock up on some very high quality chocolate!


The Meta Effect

Fiber has come a long way, baby! It’s not usually a hot topic of choice (unless you’re a nutritionist like me) but whether you realize it or not it's a crucial part of our diets. Fiber is the stuff naturally found in the tissues of all plants that provides support in the stems and roots. “Dietary fiber” is found in plants that we can eat and comes in various forms (plant tissue, seeds, gummy material). None of these are absorbed because after we swallow it, it literally goes in one end and out the other. It’s interesting how fiber has no calories or nutrients, yet offers so many well-researched health benefits.

I am constantly teaching my patients how to add more fiber into their diets, and it’s not just for the folks who are blocked up! This is why I wholeheartedly agreed to sign on as brand ambassador for P&G's new line of wellness products called Meta. This includes their tried and true standby, Metamucil® (can you believe this has been around since 1934?), as well as their new Meta Health Bars™ (fortified with the same natural psyllium fiber found in Metamucil) and MetaBiotic™. The goal of this product line is to promote health from the inside out by offering multihealth benefits.

Many people don’t reach the 25-38 grams of fiber in their daily diets as recommended by the Institute of Medicine. Keeping a snack in your purse or desk drawer at work, such as a Meta Health Bar, can help satisfy an afternoon craving for sweets while helping to meet your fiber needs. Fiber-rich foods may not only help to satisfy hunger as a healthful snack*, but may promote digestive health* and lower cholesterol to promote heart health†.

Like I said, fiber isn’t exactly a sexy topic so I’m excited to now have a reason to talk more about its benefits because I’ve seen the positive results in my patients who eat more of it. Most of the recipes on this blog are plant-based and naturally high in fiber, but I will plan to post even more recipes that are based on fiber-rich whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and beans. I will also talk about various types of supplementary fibers such as that found in Metamucil and Meta Health Bars.

On the flip side probiotics are a very hot, sometimes controversial, topic. I will be delving into the reported benefits of these healthy bacteria, and what to look for when choosing an over-the-counter probiotic such as MetaBiotic.

Keep an eye out this month for the debut of the new Meta line, and check out the video below featuring spokesperson Michael Strahan. Also stay tuned for my fiber-ful posts!

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.   

† Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 7 grams of soluble fiber per day from psyllium husk, as in Metamucil, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol.  One serving of Metamucil has 2.4 grams of this soluble fiber.

Disclosure: I've partnered with P&G on this sponsored post but the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more information at MetaWellness.com. 


Final Flavors of Summer

I know that school starts next week and I should be writing back-to-school posts on kids healthy breakfasts and lunches, but I don't want to let go of summer. The weather has been divine, making it really sad to say goodbye. It didn't help when Weight Watchers sent more of their delicious ice cream treats in new flavors. I had written a positive review on their ice cream lineup in April because I was surprised by how rich the low calorie flavors tasted. 

Their new Divine Triple Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Dulce de Leche bars are just as yummy at 110 and 120 calories each, respectively, and 5 grams of fat. The top part of the bars is coated with that familiar crisp chocolate shell, and the ice cream tastes rich and smooth. There are swirls of either chocolate or caramel blended throughout that make them an indulgence until the end. As with other Weight Watchers frozen treats, I appreciate the portion control. Dessert is best enjoyed as a light refreshment to end a meal, not a second meal! Even though the size doesn't seem like much according to our usual huge dessert standards, they don't taste low fat or low calorie so you can feel pretty satisfied with one serving. This brand and Skinny Cow are the most popular choices among my clients, and I'm definitely a fan as well!

Disclosure: I received Weight Watchers food samples for my honest review of the product.