Finding room in a diabetes-friendly diet to fit in indulgences can be tricky—especially if you are a notorious chocoholic. If we are being honest, it is nearly impossible to find an equally satisfying replacement for good, old-fashioned chocolate. The good news is, even if you are working on managing your blood sugar levels, chocolate can be a part of an overall healthy, diabetes-friendly diet. Here are a few tips to get your chocolate fix without derailing your diabetes management plan.
1. Choose quality over quantity
While this mantra is applicable to almost any food, it is especially important for more processed foods like chocolate. If you are looking for a simple chocolate bar, look for one that has few ingredients (cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar) and minimal additives (lecithin, hydrogenated oils, etc.) This might mean skipping the typical Easter or Halloween candy—or at the very least eating them only very occasionally—and opting for a higher-quality chocolate bar to indulge in more often.
Darker chocolate contains higher amounts of antioxidants, which protect cells from damage. Dark chocolate also tends to be lower in sugar and can curb a chocolate craving in small amounts.
Not a fan of dark chocolate? Look for milk chocolate options that contain the least amount of ingredients. And be mindful of portion sizes – milk chocolate tends to be higher in sugar and saturated fat.
Bottom line: If you’re going to eat chocolate, invest in a quality chocolate. You’re less likely to eat a whole bag of it if you know it cost a bit more!
2. Savor the moment
Chocolate is a food that should be enjoyed similarly to enjoying a glass of fine wine—savoring the taste and indulging in the moment. This approach allows you not only to truly savor the deep, rich flavors of the chocolate, but also helps you to note your feelings of fullness and avoid mindless eating, which is often responsible for an unsuspected sugar-rush.
The next time you eat a piece of chocolate, pay attention to the cues saying you’ve had enough. Ask yourself after a few small pieces, “Does this chocolate really taste as good as the first two pieces you had?” The answer is likely not.
Avoid eating chocolate while being distracted, such as when on the phone, in front of the television or while driving. You won’t truly enjoy your sweet treat if you are too focused on another task, which is certainly not worth the blood sugar spike.
3. Pair it with other flavorful foods
Another similarity between chocolate and wine is their ability to pair nicely with other foods. Eating chocolate with other nutrient-dense foods allows you to indulge your sweet tooth while filling up on more than just sugar.
Try eating dark chocolate pieces with fresh fruit and raw nuts or cheese. The fat and protein content in nuts and cheese can help to mitigate some of the effects on blood sugar from the chocolate and fruit.
4. Avoid total chocolate deprivation
The key to any healthy eating plan is to avoid total deprivation of any one food or food group. This is true for chocolate, too. Don’t deprive yourself! The biggest mistake my clients make when attempting to eat healthier is swearing off all of their favorite indulgent foods. Avoiding chocolate altogether if you love chocolate is a surefire way to find yourself over-eating it at your next opportunity when willpower dwindles.
Make room for your chocolate indulgences and choose them wisely. Planning to have a piece of chocolate after dinner? It’s probably good to skip the glass of wine and save it for another night. Try also to focus on eating a healthy dinner rich in lean proteins and veggies to get in some valuable nutrients to keep blood sugars stabilized before snacking on a sugary treat.
5. Time your treats appropriately
When attempting to keep blood glucose stable, timing is everything. Eating chocolate on an empty stomach may shoot blood sugars higher and faster than if eaten after a meal or with another snack.
It’s also a good idea to avoid eating chocolate right before bedtime. Chocolate contains a moderate level of caffeine that can keep you up at night.
Need a pick-me-up in the morning? Try adding unsweetened, raw cocoa powder to a smoothie with fiber-rich fruits like cherries or berries and plain Greek yogurt. The cocoa powder will boost your energy and gives you the feeling of indulging during the most important meal of the day!