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Chocolate and diabetes

There’s a myth about chocolate and diabetes. But you can eat chocolate, just in moderation and not too often.  

Try not to eat a lot in one go as it affects your blood sugar levels. If you snack on chocolate regularly it may start to increase your cholesterol levels and make it more difficult to manage your weight. 

When you have diabetes it’s important to make  healthier food choices  and be smart with the snacks you choose. This means swapping things like crisps, biscuits, ice cream and chocolate for yoghurts, unsalted nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.  

This will help to manage your diabetes and reduce your risk of long-term complications

Chocolate and your health 

Chocolate is a treat food so will be high in energy, sugar and saturated fat, even in small portion sizes. If we eat these foods frequently and in large amounts this could lead to unintentional weight gain making it more difficult to manage our blood sugar, blood cholesterol and blood pressure.    

If your personal health goal is towards achieving or maintaining a healthier weight, it’s important to check in on how much and how often we’re eating high fat, high sugar foods like chocolate. 

The added sugar is chocolate counts as ‘free sugars’ which we all need to keep an eye on whether we are at risk of diabetes or live with diabetes. On average chocolate confectionary contains 50g sugar per 100g.  

We should all limit our free sugar intake to 30g, equal to 7 cubes or 7 tsp of sugar, for children over 11 and adults. This is especially important for people living with diabetes, who are at higher risk of dental problems

The adult reference intake for saturated fat is less than 20g per day. You can check how much chocolate treat add up to this daily limit by checking your food labels.  

Chocolate tends to be put in a prime position in shops and put on special offer, which increases our temptation even more.  

The government has introduced restrictions to help tackle the obesity crisis, for example by banning unhealthy snacks such as crisps and chocolate from near checkouts, where people are likely to impulse buy. And NHS England has been asking retailers in hospitals to cap the portion size of chocolate bars sold on site to less than 250 calories.

Typical nutritional content of popular chocolate treats 

We've made the table below so you can see how some popular brands compare for carbs, sugar, saturated fat and calories.

 Carbs per portionSugars per portionSaturated fat per portionCalories per portion
Kitkat chunky 40g25g20g (high)5.5g (high)202
Maltesers 37g23g19g (high)6g (high)186
Twirl (two fingers) 34g20g20g (high)6g (high)180
Mars bar (39.4g)27g24g (high)3g (high)177
Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa 25g (1/4 bar)9g8g (high)6g (high) 142
Nutella chocolate spread heaped tsp (15g)9g8g (high)2g (high)80

 Enjoying chocolate as a special treat 

As a nation we really enjoy our chocolate, perhaps more occasionally than as a special rare treat.  The most recent data from 2019 showed we are spending seven times more on chocolate since surveys began. 

To enjoy chocolate in moderation, try to rethink your portion sizes. it’s not an everyday food but can be a nice way to celebrate.  

Celebrating with others and sharing the treat will help you from eating more than you planned.  

Sometimes we reach for treat foods like chocolate when we feel low or need comforting, it’s important to think about what may be driving this feeling. 

Take a look at our articles on emotional eating, and other ways to bond with family members.

That said, celebrations such as Easter and Christmas only come once a year, so don’t worry about the odd one or two indulgences as these will not affect your long-term diabetes management.

Can I eat ‘diabetic’ chocolate? 

We do not recommend 'diabetic' chocolate. Diabetic chocolate is just as high in fat and calories as ordinary chocolate, it can still raise blood sugar levels and is often more expensive than regular chocolate. 
To say food is a diabetic food is now against the law. This is because there isn’t any evidence that these foods offer you a special benefit over eating healthy. These foods can also sometimes have a laxative effect. 

Children and chocolate 

Birthday parties and festive celebrations such as Easter and Christmas are a fun time for children. Having diabetes doesn’t stop them from being part of the fun. 

The same government healthy eating guidelines apply, that all children limit their daily free sugar intake to:

  • 19g, equal to 5 cubes or 5tsp of sugar, for children aged 4 to 7 
  • 24g, equal to 6 cubes or 6tsp of sugar, for children aged 7 to 10 

Remember if you or your child carb counts, check the chocolate label so that you can calculate how many carbs have been eaten and adjust insulin doses accordingly.

How to enjoy chocolate as part of a healthy, balanced diet 

  • Instead of 'diabetic' chocolate, try choosing good-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa is best). It has a stronger taste than milk chocolate, so you are likely to eat a bit less. 
  • Decide how much you are going to eat and put the rest of the chocolate away, out of reach. This should help prevent you from having 'just one more piece' and eating more than you planned to. 
  • Read the labels for carb content to help adjust your insulin levels. 
  • A low calorie hot chocolate drink, made with water will be lower in sugar, saturated fat and calories. 
  • Think about other non-food gifts that can be enjoyed just as much as chocolate. 

Take-away hot chocolate  

Hot chocolate drinks can be delicious enjoyed on a chilly evening or during a long walk with friends, but they’re also high in sugar. 

Here’s how some of our favourite takeaway options add up:

 Carbs per portionSugars per portionSaturated fat per portionCalories per portion
Costa black forest hot chocolate and cream (medium, 455ml)27g23g (high)11.3g (high)301
Starbucks classic hot chocolate with whipped cream (grande, 473ml)29g28g (high)9.4g (high)284
Café Nero milk choc chip hot chocolate (grande, 454ml)70g64g (high)4.8g (medium)414
Pret popcorn bar hot chocolate (415ml)51g50g (high)13.3g (high)444

 Healthier drink swap ideas 

Check out our high street menu guide for alternatives on the menu which have less free sugars, or are lower in calories. 

All drinks are made with semi skimmed milk.  

  • Skipping on the whipped cream or switching from whole milk to a skimmed milk could reduce the total fat and energy content. 
  • Ask if they have sugar free version of their usual syrups, or a dust of cinnamon or cocoa powder would have less free sugars too. 
  • If swapping for plant-based milk, check it’s a fortified and unsweetened version to reduce free sugar intake. 
  • Note that rice milk and oat milk are slightly higher in carbohydrate compared to cow’s milk. You may need to account for this if you adjust your insulin if you’re having a large serving size.  

Hot chocolate at home 

Try choosing cocoa powder and granulated sweetener to reduce the sugar of your hot chocolate at home, or choose lower sugar versions from supermarkets. 

Your top chocolate tips 

Noel: “If you crave chocolate, buy a quality bar with a high cocoa content, break it into squares and store it in your fridge or freezer. Then when you really want an occasional treat, help yourself to a square. Because it’s cold, it takes longer to melt in your mouth.” 

Ella: "Do remember to count the carbs – most packages have info on the back."

Rachel: "Don't wrap your child up in cotton wool – let them carry on as normal and just have eyes in the back of your head for signs of a high or low as the little monsters don't always tell you if they're too busy having fun." 

Our favourite Chocolate recipes  

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