Can I eat chocolate? That is the question on every woman’s mind. Since I do not shop for groceries (my husband does) and I do not have any type of nutrition training, I interviewed Practitioner and Holistic Health Coach Sonya Cousino and Nutritional Coach Zakia Maylor to help shed some light on this topic (and a few others).

Sonya received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she was trained in more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. Zakia has a B.S. in Human Services and has certifications in Holistic and Sports nutrition. You can find Sonya and Zakia, along with me and other wonderful people, at The Wellness Studio.

Q #1: Can I eat chocolate?

Sonya: Chocolate is a wonderful thing. It is my “go to drug of choice” to change my mood. Eating a bit can be just what a person needs, especially the quality dark chocolate. We are meant to eat sugar. Yes, I said we are supposed to eat sugar. I have a workshop titled, “Eat Sugar! Making Healthy Choices.” In this workshop we learn why we cannot, and should not, try to fight our cravings for sugar and how to satisfy the cravings with healthy sugars throughout the day. We also learn that what you eat for breakfast can send those cravings on a roller coaster for the day and how our lifestyles and hormone fluctuations can promote cravings for unhealthy sugars. ALL of these situations that cause unhealthy sugar cravings can be avoided with planning and knowledge.

Zakia: Yes, I believe in moderation. In particular dark chocolate is a healthier choice than milk chocolate. A quality dark chocolate with a higher cocoa content between 70-85% contains iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. It has a bitter taste, but you can train your taste buds to appreciate the richness and flavorful dark treat. Although it has less sugar content, it can be higher in calories and should be consumed in moderation. Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants, polyphenols and flavanols, which are the healthy substances that make blueberries and acai berries a “super fruit.” It has been said to increase energy from its healthy fat content, increase blood flow and lower blood pressure. It also may lower the risk of heart disease and improve brain function. If you want to add this delicious treat into your diet, a good balance would be 100 calories of quality grade 70% or better of cocoa content.

Q #2: What is the ONE thing people do wrong in their diet?

Sonya: Many people do not understand what foods are “healthy” for their body. I am asked quite frequently, “Is this food (strawberries for example) good for me?” For many people the answer would be a simple “yes.” However, I happen to break out in hives when I eat too many strawberries. My answer to that question is, “When you eat a particular food, wait 30 minutes to three hours and see how you feel. If you feel good, physically and emotionally, then that is probably a good food for you.” Be mindful of what you eat and how it makes you feel.

Zakia: Choosing the wrong diet. The diet you chose should be realistic and tailored to your current lifestyle. If you are on a diet that requires a lot of homemade cooking but you don’t have the time to cook multiple meals a day, that particular diet may not work for you.

Q #3: If you could only change one thing in a person’s diets, what would it be?

Sonya: Processed foods. If food has a shelf life, it is full of preservatives so it does not spoil. This includes your boxed breakfast cereals, boxed foods in general, frozen dinners, and even any “whole grain” bread found on the shelves. This food clogs up our kidneys and livers because our bodies cannot process the processed food. This causes inflammation and all sorts of diseases like high blood pressure, asthma and arthritis to name a few. Bottom line: If mother nature cannot break it down, why should we expect our bodies to be able to break it down?

Zakia: To try to incorporate the 80/20 rule. 80% of your diet consists of eating natural wholefoods with limited amounts of natural sweeteners and the other 20% of your diet includes indulging in healthy snacks to satisfy craving so that you do not feel deprived.

Q#4: In view of Balance, what is the one thing that we should spend the extra cash on?

Sonya: Buy organic when possible, but I do understand that is not always in our budget. However, do not eat peanuts, soy or corn unless they are organic. These crops are so genetically modified that our bodies cannot process them, having the same effects mentioned above about processed foods.

Zakia: The one thing I would spend extra money on is quality natural poultry and other meats, preferably organic or cage free, grass fed animals.

Q#5: What do you, as a holistic health coach, want people to know?

Sonya: I wish people understood that EVERYTHING they put in their mouth fuels their body as it forms cells, tissues, organs, systems and even bones within the next six months. That is why illnesses can be reversed and avoided at times just by changing our diet. Choose your food accordingly.

Zakia: There is not a one size fits all diet, and many diets can be combined and/or adjusted to suit your goals and lifestyle. It’s also important to take other factors into a diet program when trying to either regain health or lose weight. Some of those include food intolerances, hormones, age, weight loss resistance and more. This is why working with a skilled nutritionist may help alleviate some of the guess work when embarking on a new diet and lifestyle change.

More Info

Sonya has a Healthy Habits class to support you with your health goal. Schedule your complimentary 30 minute chat to see if the program is right for you.

Zakia offers nutritional coaching for special diets, weight loss resistance and detox/cleansing programs. She customizes fresh pressed juices by 2PURE. She offers 1, 3 and 5 day juice cleansing programs.


Well, there you have it! Now I’m off to eat some chocolate… in moderation of course. Balancing your diet has all kinds of benefits. It can help you lose weight, feel more energetic and spend less money.

Comment below! I would love to hear any questions or tips you may have on balancing your menu. I will also have Sonya and Zakia respond to your comments below if you have specific questions for them.

A big thanks to Sonya and Zakia for sharing their expertise with me (and you)!

*Note – All the opinions expressed in the Q&A are those of Sonya Cousino and Zakia Maylor. I encourage you to set up a time to speak with them if you have more questions about what you read. More information can also be found at their websites.

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