How to beat chocolate cravings (and still enjoy chocolate!)
Do you find yourself thinking about eating chocolate all the time? Dietitian Brooke Longfield shares her tips for taming your sweet tooth.
Rest assured, we’re not about to tell you to stop eating chocolate. Everyone knows that depriving yourself of any food you love only leads to unhappiness and further obsessing. Chocolate has its place in a healthy, balanced diet, like any food.
But, for some of us, chocolate is a real weakness — it’s our Achilles heel. If this sounds like you, read on to learn ways to master those sweet cravings and rediscover chocolate as the special treat it should be.
“It’s not the end of the meal until I’ve had chocolate”
Reaching for something sweet after dinner is a habit that many of us have had since we were kids. Remember being dished up ice cream or pudding straight after dinner? So it’s natural that our brain is programmed to think that a meal is over only after having something sweet to eat.
At other times, our after-meal sweet cravings can be due to something called ‘reactive hypoglycaemia’. For some people, blood sugar levels drop after eating an especially heavy meal, leading to cravings for sugary food, and they may also feel shaky, sweaty and sleepy.
So try to…
Remove that supply of chocolate from your pantry or desk drawer, because when you know it’s freely available, you’re relying on your willpower alone to resist giving in.
Replace chocolate after you finish a meal with something sweet that’s also good for you. Enjoy a handful of juicy berries or sip a mug of flavoured herbal tea.
Distract yourself with a new habit. Try getting up and going for a short walk after dinner. Just 10–15 minutes can be enough to distract you from your chocolate craving (and you’ll also reap some great health benefits!).
“I have no energy and only chocolate will get me through”
Most of us have been in this situation: you’ve had a terrible night’s sleep, or a busy morning at work and then suddenly it’s 3pm and you’ve hit the wall. So, what’s going to make everything better? Chocolate, of course!
And you can buy the sugary stuff almost anywhere these days — vending machines, fundraising boxes or convenience stores. And it’s cheap, too.
While there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to a few squares of chocolate every so often, relying on it to boost your energy and concentration levels isn’t a smart fix. This is because chocolate’s pick-me-up effects are short lived, and you won’t get the energy you need to sustain you until the next meal.
Seek out long-lasting energy options such as peanut butter on wholegrain toast, a handful of crunchy nuts or a tub of creamy reduced-fat yoghurt.
“I’ve eaten so badly today that I may as well finish off the rest of the chocolate”
This is perhaps the worst time to give in to chocolate cravings, because you are essentially punishing yourself with food, and with a food that deserves to be enjoyed. This can sometimes lead to guilty feelings, too.
It’s important to understand that an occasional chocolate blow-out isn’t uncommon and it won’t ruin your usual healthy diet.
Buy smaller portions of quality chocolate rather than cheap jumbo blocks or bags. And don’t make it a regular part of your grocery shop. This way, it’s not calling you from the pantry or desk drawer.
Offer any leftover chocolate to friends to take home with them, so you aren’t tempted to finish it all off by yourself.
“I feel sad and lonely, and chocolate makes me feel good”
If chocolate is your regular way of coping with your emotions, try looking at how you think about chocolate. Perhaps you’ve labelled chocolate as a ’bad’ or ‘naughty’ food. Of course, this just makes you crave it more, and you never really enjoy it. So, instead of using negative thoughts like ‘I shouldn’t be eating this’, start to recognise that chocolate is something you can have and enjoy. The next step is to be mindful of the situations in which you eat it.
Keeping this in mind…
Instead of scoffing down chocolate in your car or some other private place, try a more mindful way of eating it. Start with a healthy portion — this is about four squares, or one row.
Eat it slowly, giving it your full attention. Don’t do it while you’re watching TV; make it the total focus of your attention. Enjoy small bites and really savour the experience. You may be surprised by how satisfied you feel after eating this smaller amount slowly and mindfully.
When only the real deal will do…
Go for quality: Good-quality dark chocolate will satisfy that sweet spot with a smaller amount than milk chocolate.
Keep it small: Individually wrapped chocolates are perfect to keep portions in check. It’s easy to overeat when breaking off squares from a family-sized block.
Work for it: Instead of keeping it within arm’s reach, store chocolate at the back of the pantry or a good distance from your desk. Remember, out of sight, out of mind!
Make it special: Don’t keep it in the house as a staple food item. Only buy it for special occasions.