I do not trust myself around large quantities of chocolate, which I inevitably end up eating in large quantities.
So Easter is a triggering time of year for me — and for everyone else with a sweet tooth.
I turned to Lisa Donaldson, an accredited practising dietitian who’s lent her wisdom to nutrition and fitness hub Voome, for her guidance on balancing chocolate with a healthy diet.
What’s the health-conscious approach to Easter?
“There’s no reason why you cannot enjoy a little chocolate, even if you are watching your weight,” Donaldson says.
She reasons it’s better to eat a small portion of a high-quality chocolate — so choose Lindt over a bag of chalky eggs you picked up at the supermarket for $2.
“Another lovely idea is to dip some berries into some chocolate,” Donaldson suggests, “it will feel like you are having something truly decadent, but in reality it’s just a small portion of chocolate and some scrumptious berries.”
(Click here for Voome’s chocolate-dipped strawberries recipe, a mere 35 calories apiece.)
We’re always told “everything in moderation” — so what’s a “moderate” amount of chocolate?
Donaldson concedes “moderate” is a pretty arbitrary limit — it’s likely to be pretty different for a sweet tooth compared to someone who’s satisfied by a mere nibble of chocolate. (If you’re one of those people you are a monster, FYI.)
However, she suggests that a moderate amount of chocolate is generally equal to somewhere between two to four squares.
“So if you’ve been given a large Easter bunny or egg, break it up and pace yourself,” she says.
That’s especially worth noting because the nutrition information panels on Easter goodies don’t always reflect real-world portions. A mid-size Cadbury bunny, for example, technically constitutes six serves of 560jk/130 calories each… when in reality you’re way more likely to scoff the whole thing in one day (or even one sitting).
RELATED: Why it’s okay to splurge over Easter
How do I avoid going overboard on chocolate at Easter?
“It’s all about being mindful of portions and keeping track,” says Donaldson, noting it’s all too easy to eat vast amounts of chocolate without paying attention. (True — the only way of monitoring how many eggs I’ve eaten is usually by sweeping up all the unwrapped foil.)
She recommends keeping some sort of food diary to note down how much you’ve actually eaten. “By writing it down it simply draws your attention to it,” she says.
Her other strategy is pairing your Easter treats with a large mug of tea or cup of water.
“With each bite, take a sip. This will slow you down,” she says. “Pay attention to the taste, flavor and experience.”
And you’ll avoid gorging on chocolate if you fill up on nutritious, balanced meals before you lay in.
“There’s no point skipping meals so you can have your chocolate — this may lead to extreme hunger and potentially a very large serve of chocolate,” Donaldson says.
What do I do if (more realistically: when) I go overboard?
Don’t beat yourself up.
“Food should never be associated with guilt and food is more than the nutrients it contains,” Donaldson say. “It’s just as much about joy and pleasure as it is about nutrition.”
Post-chocolate binge, Donaldson suggests dusting yourself off and planning out your next week’s worth of healthy meals to ensure you stay on course.
“Next, schedule in some regular exercise as well as incorporating incidental exercise — take the stairs, park further away, mop the floor with gusto!” she suggests.
Is dark chocolate really better for me than milk chocolate?
“Dark chocolate contains more flavonoids, has less sugar and less fat than other varieties,” says Donaldson. “There are studies to support the moderate consumption of chocolate for heart health, in particular dark chocolate.”
But (and you knew there was a “but” coming) that’s no excuse to eat as much chocolate as you like. “Everything in moderation” applies even to foods with health benefits.
“Bottom line is that all chocolate should be treated as a lovely indulgence,” Donaldson concludes. “Eaten with pleasure, but not to excess.”