Whether you celebrate the Easter season or not, the period is rife with temptation for anyone watching their weight or sugar intake. Chocolate eggs and hot cross buns seem to appear on supermarket shelves earlier each year, while leftover treats invite mindless snacking. School breaks cause disruption to otherwise healthy routines and bank holidays present an opportunity for friends and family to get together and indulge in celebratory food.
London Medical Consultant Dietitian Symone Genovezos is all too aware of the challenges around this time of year, though she believes that so-called ‘diet’ alternatives should be approached with caution. ‘I never really recommend sugar-free foods as I find many of them contain artificial sweeteners that I’m not a fan of,” she says. “Some are made with malitol, xylitol or other sugar-free alcohols that are naturally lower in calories, but they can cause diarrhoea if you eat too much.’
Genovezos adds that a ‘sugar-free’ label doesn’t necessarily make an Easter egg healthier. ‘They can still be high in calories despite being lower in sugar,’ she warns. Instead, we should choose dark chocolate with a high cocoa content, which typically contains less sugar and fat. ‘I would generally encourage my patients trying to reduce their sugar intake to go for chocolate that is over 70 percent cocoa,’ she says.
We can also make small behavioural changes to limit the amount of chocolate we consume. Avoid buying Easter eggs too early, for instance – get them for the Easter weekend rather than the entire Easter school holidays.
Genovezos also suggests choosing mini eggs that can be enjoyed in their entirety with a cup of tea. ‘Go for the extra-dark ones,’ she says. If you do have leftovers, share them among your friends so you’re not tempted to graze between meals.
Easter egg hunts are a great way to stay active during the long weekend. If that’s not an option, be sure to hit the gym, or at least enjoy a long, brisk walk in the park.
But most of all, Genovezos says, practice moderation. ‘You can enjoy the good things in life – just in the right amounts.’