I cannot remember ever declining chocolate growing up.
From chocolate cake, to chocolate covered candy, to hot cocoa or chocolate milk– I loved me some chocolate.
Of course, my days of devouring an entire chocolate cake more stably morphed into the desire for a more moderate amount of dark chocolate, but a love for cocoa is certainly something that has followed me into my far more nutritious days and, for that matter, actually helped me transition into a healthier lifestyle.
When Lily’s Stevia Sweetened Dark Chocolate generously reached out to me about trying some of their chocolate products, I could not help myself to say yes! Hesitant about the ingredients in a “stevia-sweetened” product, I figured that if there was something in there I would not particularly enjoy, I knew my family would be more than happy to step up to the plate.
And step up they did!
I asked my kids, a few of their buddies, and my husband to be my taste testers.
I set up 4 Stations of unlabeled chocolate squares and gave each “tester” a handout to fill out after each taste.
Each handout asked them to describe the chocolate in 3 words, then go on to say whether they enjoyed it, and if they would enjoy it again!
It was fun for me, and tasty for them.
Here was the consensus!
Station A: Lily’s Original
In their words:
- Bittersweet, Hard, Regular
- Dark, Bittersweet, Hard
- Sweet, Bitter, Hard
- bitter, sweet, ”A little dark”
- Sweet, Soft, Milky
- Creamy, Rich, Velvety
When asked if they would eat this again, all 6 said YES!
Station B: Lily’s Almond
- Creamy, Nutty, Flavorful
- Crunchy, “has nuts,” dark
- Crunchy, sweet, “remind me of mountains”
- Crunchy, Bitter, Creamy
- Crunchy, Nutty, Smooth
- Crunchy, Dark, Nutty
When asked if they would eat this again, 4 of 6 said YES!
Station C: Lily’s Coconut
- Creamy, Coconut, Smooth
- Sweet, Crunchy, Dark
- Sweet, “Stringy”
- Sugary, Milky, Crunchy
- Soft, Bitter, ”Munchy”
- Light, Sweet, Yummy
When asked if they would eat this again, all 6 said YES!
Station D: Lily’s Rice
- Crunchy, Tangy, Sweet
- Soft, Sweet, ”Munchy”
- Crunch, Milky, “Tastes Good”
- Crunch, Very Sweet, “Tastes like Cookies!”
- Crunchy, Bitter, Light
- Crunchy, Mild, Smooth
When asked if they would eat this again, 5 of 6 said YES!
Overall, each tester had a different favorite with the “Original, Rice, and Coconut flavors“ coming in at the top. Each of my very willing “subjects” stated that they found each type of chocolate to be very smooth, and creamy. They would happily have eaten more. (It vanished quickly).
Why didn’t I join in the fun?
First of all, when I eat chocolate, I expect that I am going to be getting some sugar also– Cocoa beans are naturally bitter. It needs a sweetener to balance it out. I was instantly drawn to a stevia sweetened chocolate because I am not afraid to admit that I do enjoy raw cacoa with NuNaturals Alcohol-Free Vanilla NuStevia–my version of a simple hot cocoa.
With all that being said, I am not interested in consuming other “fillers” that feign sweet if I can help it. I love stevia, but Lily’s also includes the following main ingredients:
Unsweetened Chocolate, Inulin, Dextrin (from Non-GMO Corn), Erythritol, Cocoa Butter, Milkfat, Soy Lechithin, Natural Flavors, Stevia Extract, Natural Vanilla.
- “Inulin is a naturally occurring, soluble plant fiber. Whole foods containing inulin include asparagus,artichokes, onions, garlic and bananas. Sometimes referred to as a prebiotic, inulin has the added health benefit of supporting growth of beneficial intestinal flora– especially bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. Inulin has a very low glycemic index and does not raise insulin levels or triglyceride levels,so it’s a good choice for diabetics.” –Lily’s.
- My thoughts: Inulin is a slightly sweet and soluble fiber that is not absorbed in the GI tract. For this reason it is attractive to those particularly concerned with blood sugar levels. It can be derived from a variety of vegetable sources, most commonly chicory root. There are many debates on whether this derived substance is friend or foe, but if you ask me… if I am not directly consuming the veggies, and this substance is being chemically extracted, I am not apt to call it a “health food.” If I want fiber, I will eat some Non-GMO steamed broccoli. (For the record, I do not consider Stevia a health food either). Additionally, it is misleading to suggest that consuming this substance can support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. This is a chocolate we are consuming here. Not an artichoke.
- Dextrin- “Dextrin is a resistant starch, in Lily’s formula it comes from a naturally occurring dietary fiber derived from high-amylase non-GMO corn.” -Lily’s
- My Thoughts: I love the honesty here– “Non-GMO Corn” (Ingredient labels usually do NOT care to explain that dextrin is a corn-derived ingredient). Well, phew! I am glad that these derived substances did not come from a GMO plant, but I cannot consider a sweetener from corn to be “healthy.” If I want anything corn related, it will be straight from an organic cob of corn, or some sort of whole corn crunchy snack, like a baked corn tortilla chip. Corn is one of the biggest commodity crops on the market (aside from soybeans). Commodity crops are cheap sources of “fuel” and terrible for the environment. Dextrin, is a sweetener and I do not wish to consume resistant starches.
- Erythritol–”Erythritol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol, which can be found in some fruits and fermented foods. It is 60 – 70 percent as sweet as table sugar, and contains 95 percent fewer calories.” –Lily’s.
- My Thoughts: Erythritol is not an ingredient I am overwhelmingly concerned about here, but it is a SUGAR-ALCOHOL. Therefore, it is derived from sugar. Whether something can be metabolized by the body, or not, does not indicate it’s “healthiness.” Also, I find it interesting that Erythritol is even listed BEFORE the stevia (which means it is more prevalent) in this “stevia-sweetened” cocoa. Perhaps because Stevia is a better marketed “healthy” sweetener than erythritol…
- Soy-Lecithen- found in most chocolates (and almost every packaged food these days), this emulsifier is so common that it hardly red flags my attention.
- Milkfat– As close to a high raw dietary vegan as I can claim without having to only enjoy foods clearly labeled as such (like wine, dark chocolate, and the rare baked corn chip), I have no interest in consuming milk, or milk fat. I am happy to report however, that in reading the ingredient list, cocoa butter comes before this ingredient, indicating to me that the majority of the fat comes from a non-animal source.
- Natural Flavors– what is this, natural? Lily’s indicates to me that it has no artificial ingredients so that is most certainly a plus, but “Natural” is not FDA regulated, and therefore can really mean just about anything these days. So while it is not my biggest concern, when you see this, raise an eyebrow. If you are interested in learning more about what “Natural” really means, you can check out this article: “What is a “Natural” Food. The tricky Marketing Tactic Big Food Loves…”
My final thoughts?
I like to enjoy the “real thing” as much as possible. I always look for the least amount of ingredients in every packaged food I purchase. I would rather have “organic sugar” than a list of ingredients I don’t know of their history or effect on my body. If this product was made with only stevia (not inulin, dextrin, erythritol, etc.– instead of the real sugar found in all chocolate), I would be more psyched. Additionally, despite Lily’s dark taste, it is only 55% cocoa, which means the other ingredients account for 45% of the rest. I love chocolate. It has been a helpful transitional food for me and my clients (avoid the cake, but enjoy a few squares of your dark chocolate bar instead). That being said, I always recommend that a client aims for a chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa, and higher. I am not concerned about the calories here, just that the body can properly digest the food. I avoid foods that are resistant to absorption and digestion.
What I LOVE about Lily’s?
- My family enjoyed it! They had a great time.
- The cocoa is “Fair Trade.”
- A portion of the profits are dedicated to childhood cancer recovery
- Lily’s story is inspiring and sweet
- I am so happy to see a company branching out and incorporating stevia into their products
Would I recommend it?
- For taste? … well, you saw the results!
- For someone (that is not my client)looking for a sugar-free dessert?
- YES!!!! ABSOLUTELY! I have yet to see a packaged “sugar-free” dessert that does “sugar-free” more healthy than this one.
- For someone that is used to eating mainstream chocolate, and candy? Yup.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever tried Lily’s chocolate? What do you look for in a chocolate bar? What flavors and ingredients? What textures? Have you seen/tried other “stevia-sweetened” desserts?