Can Chocolate Be Part of a Healthy, Balanced Diet?

By WLR's Food Information Assistant, Tim Sharp

Chocolate, seen as the enemy for those of us with weight loss goals, can be included in a healthy, balanced diet - here's how...

Research into Chocolate

Research, still ongoing, has pointed out that chocolate contains "catechins" which can help prevent cancers and heart disease. Different types of chocolate have different amounts of catechins - dark chocolate has 53.5mg of catechins per 100g, milk 15.9mg.

Some scepticism regarding the research into the health benefits of chocolate could be forgiven - Mars, US confectionary giant, has been pouring money for research to some of the world's leading Universities to try to prove that cocoa beans, the source of pure chocolate, contain enough of the good chemicals to help the heart stay healthy. The debate is complicated by how much pure cocoa bean is used to make the chocolate confectionary on offer; which also contains high levels of fat and sugar. 

Don't Deny Yourself Chocolate

Chocolate, in moderation, can be part of a healthy, balanced diet. If chocolate is one of your "favourite" foods, make allowances for it in your daily calorie quota. Totally denying yourself chocolate, can lead to bingeing and eating far too much of it. The feel good factor of a little chocolate has a positive psychological effect. 

"Try setting a few days during the week that you can have chocolate and go without it for a few days in between? Then you get to have maybe 1 bar 2- 3 times a week? At least then you will know that when you are craving it you will be able to have some the next day - so you won't feel totally deprived" -- Lou

Make An Allowance In Your Calorie Quota

Build chocolate treats into your daily / weekly calorie quota, and enjoy a guilt free treat. Make chocolate a reward for doing some extra activity - then you can doubly enjoy it, virtuous in the knowledge of how good you have been! 

Simple activities that will provide you with 100 extra calories*:

  • 15 mins Mowing Lawn
  • 20 mins Weeding Garden
  • 20 mins Walking (moderate)
  • 30 mins Hoovering / Dusting / Mopping Floors
  • 30 mins Cleaning Windows
  • 30 mins Car Washing (do inside the rims too!)
  • 30 mins Dancing around the house to favourite music

*Based on a 40 year old female of 5’5" tall who weighs 12st 7lb and is moderately sedentary.

Try Some Chocolate Alternatives

Chocolate is high in sugar and fat (not to mention calories!). When that chocolate craving hits, have some lower calorie "chocolate" substitutes to hand - such as low fat chocolate mousses, low calorie chocolate treats and hot chocolate drinks.

“I also like the fact that if I want a chocolate I can have one, I just need to either earn it, or give up something else. WLR doesn’t affect your social life!” -- Clare4756
"I'm a self confessed chocoholic ... I buy the Count On Us chocolate mousse from M&S. It's 80 cals and its absolutely lovely. It tastes like real mousse not those awful diet ones." -- Jaybar
"Double Chocolate Drink, Clipper Organic - it's a rich dark chocolate drink, very good taste but because it is sweetened with sugar rather than an artificial sweetener it leaves no icky aftertaste. It is more expensive for one sachet than the other double sachet ones are, but so much nicer. It also has more calories - 98 per mug - but for a good chocolate fix I think it is worth the calories." -- Mindy
"If you like coffee as well, M&S do some lovely dark chocolate covered coffee beans - they're heavenly and not too many calories." -- Hazel 

Look Out for Snack / Treat Size Bars

When only chocolate is good enough, you may find that a smaller snack or treat size bar will be enough to satisfy, without ruining your diet. Compare the calories of some popular one below:

Instead of    Try  
  kcal   kcal
Standard Mars Bar (58g) 260 Funsize Mars Bar  90
4 Finger Kit Kat  233 2 Finger Kit Kat  107
Standard Bar Cadbury's Dairy Milk (49g) 255 Treatsize Bar Cadbury's Dairy Milk (14g) 74
Standard Bar Fudge (25g) 115 Treatsize Bar Fudge (14g) 61
Single Bar Milky Way (26g) 118 Funsize Milky Way (17g) 77
Cadbury's Caramel Bar (47g) 225 Cadbury's Caramel Treat Size (18g) 85
Malteaster Bunny (29g) 157 Maltesers Funsize Bag (22g) 111

Chocolate Tips from Members

I have just found twixels thin fingers of twix ... 30 cals per stick but gorgeous Theresa

I'm a devoted Cadbury girl - and hot choc drinks don't come close to that taste of choc melting in your mouth - so I buy the v small bags of Buttons - but only buy one bag a day if you are like me otherwise you'll scoff them all! riciaK

Green & Blacks do delicious bars of dark chocolate (the Maya Gold is my favourite!) you can get them in 20g bars from Holland & Barratt at around 100 kcal each. They are quite rich so I find they hit the spot!! They come in milk and white too. Becky_20

Kinder chocolate ... comes in a box of 8 12g bars. Each bar 64 calories !!! and one bar is enough to satisfy the sweetest tooth Selah

My favourite choc-helper is a couple of After 8s and a mug of really good coffee. Only 67 cals for the 2 - the dark chocolate really goes a long way - and I think the hot beverage on the side stretches the "flavour-time" so I'm satisfied in the end... CKEnglish

Get a big bar of chocolate and put it in the freezer and then you can savour a square at a time cause it takes a lot longer to eat. Melly

Chocolate sin - yummy We all like chocolate and I would expect 75% of us just occasionally have to give in to temptation and have that bar, either to reward ourselves or part of our "calorie controlled diet" - lol What do you like and how many calories does it have as it may make us try something less calorie hungry! To kick off I like the odd Twirl - 231 cals the whole bar HAPPYHATTER

Well I've not had chocolate for well over a month or so, but my favourite Fry's peppermint creams and is 216 cals, if I decide to have a treat one day at the weekend. HELEN9265

Hadn't even thought I could have my favourite... Fry's turkish delight. Lovely. Just looked it up and its only 96.5 cals. Any excuse x SASSYSHARON

Chocolates from The Chocolate Tasting Club! Think I may have a couple or 3 now! V X LADYV18

Praline Flake for me - 203 calories of pure delight! TUCANKAZ

Cadbury's Bournville. The 45 g bar is 225 calories but 2 squares at 75 cals is pretty satisfying. ANTAN

.... it has to be either Cadburys Dairy Milk chunky, straight from the fridge so it's crisp and cold and melts on my tongue (Oh lordy! I'm drooling now!!) or Green & Blacks... either 70% cocoa or the Mayo Gold one or the White Chocolate one. But I'm also very partial to Thorntons Continentals.... I could go on forever!!! JEWELS

Green Blacks with ginger. Yummy! Whole bar is pretty scary but one line is around 50 cals I think. SEXYSUZIE

I've been eating kit kat dark - 2 finger ones are 105 cals. I also like green and black cocoa coated almonds - 20g is 110 cals - and you get the good fats from the nuts Now I want chocolate! AVDH

Ainsley Harriott Heaven Bar (147 cals) yummy!! KERRILOU

curly wurly chocolatey and chewy DAYBLUE

Unfortunately I'm a kitkat chunky person. Something to do with being able to eat all the chocolate off around the wafer and then chomp the wafer. They are about 280 cals VILLINGWORTH

Kinder Bueno 245cals!!! CLAIRENEWBY

An Aero Bubble is only 15 RACHAEL REYNOLDS

Curly wurlys!!! 117 calories I think, I love them. RUMPHALINA

Fudge bar.. Curly Wurly (mmmm).. Crunchie Or I buy swiss dark chocolate discs from M&S one disc is about 30 cals and great to to take the edge of that chocolate cravings!! LIGHTERPLEASE

Freddos!!! Can't beat them for gorgeous chocolate, enough to satisfy and 110 cals! WHISKAS

I am currently having a square of Lindt Dark Chocolate, about an inch and a quarter square and only 50 calories. And dark chocolate is supposed to be good for you too, yey :-D If I'm feeling naughty tho I'll have a packet of minstrels which is about 200 calories, or a fudge bar which is 114 calories. RUITYLOOPS

A small bar of Cadburys Dairy Milk which is about 255 cals - yummy! Mind you, I've just had a Quality Street (hazelnut whirl) which was lovely and only about 40 cals - and I don't really want another one either! SARAHWOO

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