One ear is all it takes. A nibble at the top corner of the chocolate bunny; the hollow pop as the form collapses and those delectable shards fall into the centre. Before you know it, you’re munching away at a torso. All that stands between you and regret is a pair of cocoa-coloured rabbit feet.
Easter seems to come earlier every year, and the lure of chocolate in every aisle of the supermarket can be hard to resist. If chocolate is your weakness, surrounding yourself with it, but depriving yourself of having any, is a sure-fire way to feed the cravings.
Dietitian Kristen Mackenzie says the science of cravings is still new. Exactly what they are and what causes them is not clear. “While it has been suggested that cravings may occur when a nutrient is at risk (your body needs it), there is preliminary evidence to disprove this theory,” she says.
“For example, chocolate is one of the most common cravings reported by women. However, the key components of chocolate, which are sugar and fat, are certainly not lacking in the majority of women’s diets.”
Some people crave salty foods in general, while others crave a specific food such as an Oreo biscuit. Cravings can be weak or strong, sporadic or return regularly at a particular time of day.
Research suggests they may be more linked to moods and emotional state than to hunger itself. This may help to explain why people who are dieting report increased cravings when they feel deprived of certain foods.
“We know about the chemical processes that make us feel good when we eat sweet foods, but we still have a lot to discover about the origin of cravings,” Kristen says.
When cravings strike
What causes cravings may be a mystery, but you can still enjoy Easter without overindulging.
Kristen offers these tips for avoiding a chocolate binge:
- Don’t go overboard just because you can. Focus on quality over quantity when buying gifts for the family and treat yourself with small amounts of good chocolate.
- Don’t buy extra chocolate over Easter, as this will just give you an excuse to eat
- it over the next few months.
- When entertaining over Easter, use high quality dark chocolate as part of a mixed platter alongside fresh fruit and nuts, tea and coffee.
- Fuel yourself properly with nutritious meals through the day. To help curb a sweet tooth, enjoy sweet foods like fresh or dried fruits with yoghurt or pikelets as part of a balanced diet.
- Identify your triggers – boredom, the vending machine at work, the decision to reduce your chocolate intake (hence, feeling deprived) – and address them in a way that doesn’t involve eating junk.
Did you know?
Scientists in Wales have found consuming polyphenol-rich dark chocolate prior to exercise may reduce muscle damage. (Source: European Journal of Nutrition)
Smart swaps for chocoholics
Try these for a lower kilojoule or more nutritious chocolatey taste alternative:
- A light chocolate milk drink (such as Jarrah Chocolatte)
- Caramelised or cooked fruits – yummy!
- A low fat chocolate dairy snack
- A chai tea flavoured with milk
- A small portion like Whittaker’s dark chocolate squares
- Milk through a chocolate straw
- A paddle pop or low kilojoule ice-cream
Words Chelsea Roffey