As Easter rolls around, so does the chocolate. Dietitian Brooke Longfield shares her top five tips for surviving this indulgent season.
1. Be portion smart
You need a will of iron to completely avoid chocolate over Easter, especially if you’re watching your weight. But a healthy, balanced diet still has room for a little chocolate — it’s all about portion sizes.
To stay on track, enjoy your favourite Easter treats in small amounts. After all, no one wants to feel deprived at festive social occasions. A 25g portion of chocolate (about four small squares) provides around 560kJ (134cal), a healthy number of kilojoules for a sweet treat.
But remember that chocolate carries a lot more kilojoules than, say, a medium-size apple, which has just 330kJ (79cal), so overindulging can easily lead to weight gain.
2. Choose quality over quantity
We often hear about dark chocolate’s health benefits — it’s high in protective antioxidants and low in added fat and sugar (compared with milk and white chocolate). But the best reason to choose top-quality chocolate, apart from that luscious taste, is that it’s much easier to eat in moderation. Think about how much harder it is to finish a bar of dark chocolate that’s 90 per cent cocoa than to polish off a block of Cadbury Dairy Milk.
Just a few small squares of rich, slightly bitter dark chocolate will leave you feeling satisfied, and as a sweet bonus, you’ll start to retrain your taste buds to enjoy fewer sugar-rich foods.
3. Savour, don’t scoff
Sadly, many of us think of chocolate as naughty or even sinful. We tend to wolf down ‘bad’ foods without paying attention to their flavour or noticing how much we’re actually devouring. Ironically, this only deprives us of the pleasure and enjoyment we were seeking in the first place! Try to eat chocolate mindfully — let yourself revel in its aroma, texture and flavour. You’ll be surprised at just how good it tastes, and by just how little you need!
4. Time your treats
Chocolate for breakfast? Oh, but it’s Easter! When sweet treats are everywhere you look, you may be tempted to tuck in at all times of day. A simple way to curb this tendency is to eat such goodies only for dessert. We save other sweet foods for after-dinner treats, so why not chocolate? This way, your Easter favourites won’t become snacks. Stash those tantalising eggs, chicks and bunnies in the pantry so you aren’t constantly reminded of their presence, and freeze hot cross buns individually to defrost and enjoy later.
5. Get crafty
People’s food allergies or intolerances (or their steely willpower!) can stop them from eating chocolate at Easter, so think of ways to celebrate without the sweet stuff.
Find inspiration for creative gifts and decorations in craft magazines or at pinterest.com, where a search for ‘Easter crafts’ will leave your head buzzing with ideas. A fun project will keep you busy during the long weekend or school holidays, distracting you from absent-minded snacking. You’ll end up with beautiful gifts for friends and family, and in skipping the choccies, you’ll have built up your appetite to really enjoy Easter lunch.
Easter treat traps
Leave these indulgences in the bunny’s basket!
Would you enjoy that Cadbury Creme Egg as much as usual if you knew how much exercise it’s worth? (You’re looking at 45 minutes on the treadmill.) Gooey eggs are high in kilojoules, and it can be hard to stop at just one!
HFG tip: Choose hollow eggs. These have fewer kilojoules, and without the creamy, super-sweet filling, they won’t send blood-sugar levels soaring.
Jumbo share bags
Yes, bulk buying is more economical, but do we really need to buy Easter eggs by the kilo?! Chocolate can make some of us loosen the reins of restraint, so leave those jumbo bags on the shelf for the sake of the family’s health.
HFG tip: Look for individually wrapped chocs, such as Lindt balls and mini bunnies. Counting wrappers helps keep kilojoules in check, too!
‘Gourmet’ hot cross buns
Hot cross buns get more indulgent every year. Bakeries are now bulging with choc chip, caramel and Nutella buns. Slather on butter, and your Easter bun packs 1500kJ (about 360cal), twice the amount of a healthy treat.
HFG tip: Share a classic fibre-filled fruit bun with a friend, and swap that thick butter layer for a thin spread of reduced-fat ricotta or jam.
Giant Easter bunnies
Every kid, and kid at heart, loves an Easter egg hunt. But we usually hide the cheap stuff, so the kids find a pile of poor-quality chocolate that we’re all still chomping come June. Giant chocolate bunnies carry nearly 5000kJ (around 1200cal), and who nibbles only one ear?!
HFG tip: Make the hunt healthier with non-food gifts such as chalk, stickers and balloons.
Easter gift packs
Those generous Easter egg gift boxes packed with extra treats have been glittering on store shelves for months, but with so many sweet eggs on offer, do we really need a reason to indulge in even more chocolate?
HFG tip: Make your own chocolate creations. Everyone will love home-made gifts of choc-dipped fruit and bite-size hand-rolled truffles. Or try these delicious lighter Easter treats: