Diet & Nutrition

Can chocolate be a part of a healthy diet?

Accredited dietitian, Melissa Meier lets us in on whether or not chocolate can be part of our daily diet. 

Chocoholics: this one’s for you.

Deliciously creamy and almost irresistible, milk chocolate is often thought of as a ‘treat yo’ self’ food, while bitter dark chocolate is the supposedly healthier cousin that gets all the attention from wellness gurus. But is this limelight actually warranted? And is it really okay to eat chocolate on the reg?

Here’s my dietitian-approved answer.

Why is chocolate *so* delicious?

Melt-in-your-mouth chocolate is a lot of people’s favourite food because it’s the perfect blend of sugar and fat – and a lot of it.

Surprisingly, all plain chocolate varieties contain a similar amount of sugar and fat (and therefore calories) gram for gram. Let’s start with most people’s go-to: milk chocolate. Per 100 grams, it provides 528 calories, 8g protein, 31g fat, 19g sat fat, 56g carbs and 55g sugar.

The same quantitiy of dark chocolate (above 60 per cent cocoa) packs 512 calories, 4g protein, 29g fat, 17g sat fat, 63g carbs and 52g sugar. And just in case you’re wondering, 100 grams of white chocolate contains 532 calories, 7g protein, 33g fat, 21g sat fat, 55g carbs and 55g sugar. Note that 100 grams is *a lot* of chocolate, but it’s an easy way to compare different foods.

Can chocolate be a part of a healthy diet?

Choc-lovers like to promote the heart-health benefits of dark chocolate thanks to the disease-fighting antioxidants called flavonoids that cocoa contains. And while that might be true, chocolate of all kinds is incredibly energy dense and can easily contribute to weight gain if over-consumed on the reg.

It might surprise you to hear that as I dietitian, I certainly think chocolate can be a part of a healthy diet. That’s right: all foods fit in my books. Nothing good ever comes from restriction, so there’s no point in telling yourself you can’t eat chocolate if it’s your number one weakness.

Don’t take that as a green light to eat a block a day – it’s important to strike a balance. If the rest of your diet is made up of plenty of vegetables, legumes, fruit, wholegrains and lean protein, I have no qualms with anyone enjoying a couple of squares of chocolate a few times a week.

If it’s your preference, go for a high percentage cocoa dark chocolate – the higher the percentage, the better. That way, you’ll reap the benefits of the disease-fighting antioxidants the cocoa contains. Plus, it’s more bitter, so you’ll be satisfied after only a few mouthfuls.

If you’d prefer milk or white, however, don’t beat yourself up about it. What’s most important is that you enjoy it mindfully – don’t sit in front of the TV inhaling square after square, but instead, eat your choccie distraction free. That way, you’ll get more pleasure from a smaller portion and the block won’t disappear in five minutes flat.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.