It’s easy to get carried away at Easter and turn a day of indulgence into a four-day chocolate binge. But it is possible to have a healthy Easter without having to sacrifice the sweetness.
Not all chocolate was created equal
When it comes to choosing chocolate for your health it’s a case of the darker the better. The antioxidants found in cocoa (the main ingredient in chocolate) have been found to have a positive affect on heart health and they’re in much higher concentrations in dark chocolate.
“Studies have shown that the antioxidants in dark chocolate have the ability to improve the function of some of the cells within the heart and that in turn can have an affect on cardiovascular health including blood pressure,” says Jessica Bain, Dietitian at Epworth Brighton and Epworth Hawthorn.
The concentrations of these antioxidants in milk and white chocolate are much lower and when you combine this with other ingredients including large quantities of sugar, these benefits are lost. In fact, the high kilojoule content and saturated fats in milk and white chocolate have been shown to have a potentially negative affect on the heart.
So, while milk and white chocolate are a nice treat, they’re not going to find their way onto a healthy food list any time soon. For your health, choose the quality stuff, 70% cocoa and above.
Remember, Easter is about more than chocolate
Promise, it’s true. Easter is a great time to enjoy a few days with family and friends and make the most of the milder autumn weather. So why not head to the park, take a bike ride with the family, go camping, do whatever makes you happy and gets you moving really.
When it comes to eggs for the kids opt for quality over quantity. According to the Heart Foundation, six mini eggs can be walked off in an enjoyable 40 minutes, compared with almost two hours walking to burn off a 100 gram chocolate bunny.
Try balancing the number of eggs kids receive with other treats and activities like a soft toy, colouring books, music or a gift voucher. Make them work for it with an Easter egg hunt (preferably somewhere with plenty of space so you can really spread them out) or an old-fashioned egg and spoon race. If you’re crafty try dying some eggs or have go at some eggshell painting.
Get back on track after a blowout
Most dietitians would describe chocolate as a treat or sometimes food, something to enjoy as part of a balanced diet, not necessarily on a daily basis. But when Easter rolls around for some all bets are off and their Easter basket (or shopping trolley) is positively groaning under the weight of chocolaty treats.
Remember Easter is just one day, not a month! Save your chocolate for Easter Sunday, savour it without guilt and once the day is over move on. Even if you do overindulge, get back to your normal eating patterns as quickly as possible.
“Enjoy it!,” says Jessica. “There’s a lot of negative focus on particular foods but that’s not the message most dietitians would generally prescribe to. Every food is acceptable within the context of a healthy diet.”