It’s time for a dechox
Why do we love chocolate so much?
Eating chocolate it sets off many, minor, chemical reactions in our brain and body that make us feel good. The most well-known examples of this are the release dopamine and serotonin, the chemicals that makes us feel happy and less stressed, when we eat chocolate.
There is also a theory that chocolate subconsciously reminds us of breast milk, due to its high sugar and fat content, which could also explain our cake and biscuit addition too. The link means that when we consume chocolate we feel comforted and relaxed.
What makes us crave it?
When we’re hungry, we often crave fast carbohydrates like refined sugars, of which chocolate contains a lot.
Alternatives to reach for if you’re dechoxing
If you’re hungry and looking for a quick snack, or something sweet after dinner, there are several healthier alternatives. So we’re listing our favourite chocolate alternatives, which will still leave you feeling satisfied.
There are a range of different snack bars available, but the different types have different purposes, so make sure you check the packaging to make sure you’re buying the one that suits you. For example, there are snack bars to be eaten as a breakfast substitute, for different phases of exercise, or for a snack. For everyday snacks it’s good to look for a high GI (glycaemic index) which will keep you feeling fuller for longer, whereas for exercise you want one with high protein content.
Nut butter is great with fruit or on toast as a yummy, filling snack. However, nut butter should still be eaten in moderation, because it typically has a high fat content. When choosing between butters, almond butter is usually healthier than peanut butter due to its higher vitamin, mineral and fibre content, but they’re pretty similar.
Frozen yogurt tastes similar to ice cream and fulfils that sugar craving with less fat and sugar. It also has the added bonus of probiotics as well.
Popcorn is a wholegrain, fibre-rich food that is very low in calories. So, when eaten plain or lightly salted, is a far better choice to fill up on than chocolate. However, don’t confuse this healthy popcorn with the popcorn that you buy at the cinema. Because cinema popcorn contains lots of butter, sugar and whatever else you choose to add.
And finally, perhaps the least appealing option if you’re looking for a guilty pleasure to ease your sugar craving: fresh or dried fruit. Fruit is sweet and tastes sugary so could be just what you need if you have a sweet tooth. If that doesn’t cut it, you could melt a couple of squares of chocolate over the top of your fruit to leave you full and satisfied (after all, life is about balance).
However, if you’re a real chocoholic and can’t give it up altogether, there are options. We’ve gathered some healthier ways to ensure you still enjoy that chocolatey taste.
Putting cocoa powder in your water or enjoying a glass of chocolate milk will enable you to get that chocolate fix without the feeling of guilt. If you do go for chocolate milk, make sure you check out the label and go for one with a low sugar and fat content. This will ensure you’re getting all of the benefits of the calcium and vitamin D, without negative impact on your body.
Carob is similar to the cocoa bean but contains fewer calories and sugar and none of the caffeine. This makes it a healthier alternative to chocolate. It can be purchased as powder to use in cooking, or as ‘chocolate’ and other snacks.
Likewise, cacao is also a close substitute of the cocoa bean, but has a more bitter taste because it comes from unroasted, cold-pressed beans, without added sugar. This slight compromise in taste is more than made up for by the nutrients and disease fighting antioxidants it brings though.
Dark chocolate is much healthier than milk and white chocolate. It even has some health benefits when it contains 70%+ cacoa.
For more advice on how to make healthy swaps you can sign up to our free Eat Well programme, where you can get personalised advice from our health coaches on how you can eat more healthily and maintain a healthy weight. We’ll even give you practical tips around food shopping and reading food labels.