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Chocolate and diabetes

Easter is a time for family, friends, new beginnings and, of course, chocolate…

If you – or a child in the family – has diabetes, you might be wondering if it’s OK to eat chocolate and other sweet treats.

How could eating chocolate affect your diabetes? Is ‘diabetic’ chocolate a good choice?

We’re here to answer all your chocolate questions, plus there are eight top tips on how to eat chocolate in moderation and and some chocolate recipes.

Can you eat chocolate if you have diabetes?

When you have diabetes it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet and only include sugary, high-fat foods occasionally as a treat.

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

It’s a myth that you can’t eat chocolate if you have diabetes, just eat it in moderation, rather than using it to satisfy hunger, and don’t eat a lot in one go as it affects your blood sugar levels.

Should I buy ‘diabetic’ chocolate?

In a word, no! Here’s why:

  • Chocolate labelled ‘diabetic’contains a type of sweetener, such as fructose or sorbitol, which can affect blood sugar levels.
  • It also tends to contain just as much fat as ordinary chocolate – and is often high in the really bad type of fats – saturated and trans fat.
  • It usually has as many calories, if not more, than normal chocolate.
  • It can a laxative effect and make you need the loo more often.
  • It is also more expensive. 

Children and chocolate

Easter is a fun time for children. There are Easter eggs to be eaten and Easter egg hunts they’ll want to be part of, so it’s important that they don’t feel that their diabetes excludes them from any of this. They’ll also want to enjoy a chocolate treat like their friends or siblings, which is fine, but parents might want to keep an eye on portion size.

Easter eggsAlthough Easter usually means chocolate, relatives and friends may want to think about other non-food gifts for children that they can enjoy just as much. Try to spread Easter eggs out over several days (or weeks), rather than have them eaten all at once.

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

Eight top tips for eating chocolate in moderation

Here are our top tips for controlling your chocolate consumption…

  1. Wean yourself onto good-quality dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa is best). It has a stronger taste than milk chocolate, so you won't need to eat as much to satisfy your craving.
  2. If you like your chocolate bar to have a filling, choose fruit rather than nuts because fruit is lower in calories and fat than nuts. For example, choose chocolate-coated cherries, raspberries, or cranberries rather than chocolate-coated Brazil nuts or peanuts but check the fruit has not been coated in sugar. Chocolate-coated rice cakes or chocolate chip rice and corn are lower in fat and calories though do check labels as savings are not so significant that you don’t need to worry about your portion sizes.
  3. Try out lower-fat chocolate alternatives such as lower-fat chocolate yogurts and mousse, sundaes and low-calorie instant hot chocolate drinks
  4. Eat slowly and without distraction – let the chocolate melt in your mouth to give yourself time to enjoy the taste and texture.
  5. Store your chocolate in the fridge because it will then take even longer to melt in your mouth.
  6. Try to save chocolate-eating for after a meal, when you will naturally be less hungry.
  7. 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 wolfing down the whole lot before you realise it.
  8. Maybe grate chocolate to make it go further and add to fruit so you’ve got the taste but the bulk of the fruit to help fill you up. Read the labels on chocolate – if you are carb-counting and taking insulin, this will help you adjust your insulin doses.

Your tips

Teresa: "Just enjoy Easter and don't let diabetes rule anything you do in life." 

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

Catherine: "Don't buy 'diabetic' Easter eggs. They have a nasty effect on the guts. Have some normal choc and enjoy."

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."

Ella: "Treat Easter egg as a pudding."

Julie G: "For Easter egg hunts the prize doesn't all have to be chocolate. For children, try pencil cases filled with things like keyrings and toys. For adults, you could find a plastic egg and fill it with perfume or jewellery."

Chocolate recipes for you to try

See below - and you can also find some great chocolate recipes in ourrecipe finder.

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