Christmas and Chocolate. They are like Forrest Gump and Jenny (remember Jenny and Me was like Peas and Carrots?). Christmas and Chocolate go together.
But there is chocolate, and there is chocolate. This week, I want to share some Better Chocolate Options For Christmas.
Like last week when I shared some Fun Healthy Food For School Christmas Parties, I am not trying to take the fun out of Christmas, I am just offering some other choices so you can still have fun but stay a bit healthier.
What’s Wrong With Chocolate?
In moderation, there is nothing wrong with plain chocolate. But there’s a few problems with chocolate at Christmas.
1. Moderation Goes Out The Window
Our ability to show restraint seems to diminish at this time of year. Chocolate gets served up as nibbles, after a huge meal, sometimes with dessert, and sometimes after dessert. Chocolates get given as gifts. Chocolate gifts usually come in brilliantly marketed big boxes filled with lots of little chocolates, so we eat more chocolate, more often. Christmas is heaven for anyone who loves chocolate.
2. Marketing Goes Mad At Christmas
Have you noticed at the supermarkets how chocolates are currently on sale? Supermarkets aren’t silly – they know at this time of year, people are looking for gifts and stocking up for our big Christmas and New Year feasts. They offer specials like 2 for 1, or 1/2 price. They do this even for just the chocolates they sell year round. This either means they are making a loss on the chocolates at this time of year or they are making a killing on it for the other 9 or so months of the year. Mmmm… which one do you think it is?
Then there’s the marketing trick of packaging up lots of different chocolates and putting them in bigger Christmas packages or even the creating new marvellous flavours or cute shapes to match Christmas.
Plain chocolate and moderation do not go together at Christmas! Manufacturing and marketing goes mad and we respond.
3. Wanting More Of It
Sugar is addictive. The more you have of it, the more you want more of it. This is a problem because at Christmas we tend to eat a lot more chocolate, then we get the taste for that sugar. All of a sudden we’re eating more chocolate even after Christmas is well and truly over. It’s a slippery slope! If you want to know more about just how addictive sugar is, the simplest way is to watch That Sugar Film. This is also a good article – How sugar hijacks your brain and makes you addicted.
4. What’s In Your Chocolate?
Once you’ve had your eyes opened to what’s being put into your food, it’s really hard to go back. I am a chocolate lover and 6 years ago, I could not get enough of white chocolate. Then we started to learn about the food we were eating and I discovered the very first ingredient in white chocolate was sugar, in fact it was over 54.9% sugar (Nestle Milkybar). No wonder I was so addicted to it!
Then of course, once you deviate from plain chocolate, and start adding different gooey centres, popping candy, marshmallow etc, the ingredient list starts to become food science gone EXTREMELY MAD!
Let’s take a look at this.
This little 35 g of cuteness has 20.6g of sugar – that’s about 5 teaspoons of sugar. This is about as much sugar as the World Health Organisation recommends most kids have in an entire day!
71% marshmallow, 29% chocolate
Ingredients list: Sugar, glucose syrup, milk solids, invert sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, gelatin, emulsifiers (soy lecithin, 476), flavours.
Now the first ingredient in the ingredients list should represent what the product is. Given this is a milk chocolate, a reasonable thought would be that cocoa or milk should be the first ingredients, but nope, the first 2 ingredients are sugars.
So aside from a whole lot of different forms of sugar, some powder derived from milk, gelatin to keep the marshmallow firm and emulsifiers to help combine ingredients, there’s flavours – just what is that? You may be interested to know flavours can be up to 50 different ingredients. If you want to know more about flavours, this article on Fedup.com.au is a great place to start.
I could not bring myself to buy one of these to do a proper analysis. This christmas promotional pack is available from Kmart and has 3 milk freddo frogs, a strawberry freddo frog, a small cherry ripe, a small picnic, a small crunchie, a larger marvellous creations with popping candy and 3 milk chocolate bars.
1 plain milk freddo frog (35g size) has 19.7g of sugar, that’s almost 5 teaspoons. So between the 3 plain freddo’s that’s 15 teaspoons of sugar. Yikes!
Without doing a full analysis of this ‘gift’ or ‘treat’ of 182g of chocolates, let’s just say very conservatively each item was 40% sugar, this would mean there is 72.8g of sugar in this pack. That’s a whopping 18 teaspoons of sugar.
And as for the ingredients, I would hate to try and list all the ingredients in this bag but here’s the list from just one packet – the Marvellous Popping Candy creation – Ingredients: Full Cream Milk, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Milk Solids, Popping Candy (Sugar, Corn Glucose Syrup, Cocoa Butter, Lactose (from Milk), Flavours, Colours (133, 120,141), Carbon Dioxide), Wheat Glucose Syrup, Invert Sugar, Thickener (Acid Modified Wheat Starch, 422), Emulsifiers (Soy Lecithin, 476), Cornflour, Colours (171, 124, 110, 102, 133, 155, 123), Vegetable Gum (414), Flavours, Food Acid (330), Glazing Agent (Vegetable Oil, 903).
I think Cyndi O’Meara, one of Australia’s best known nutritionists and health experts, nailed it on the head when she spoke about many processed foods today being a chemical shit storm. I would say that little Marvellous creation is nothing short of a chemical shit storm – wouldn’t you agree?
5. Watch Out For Serving Sizes
Be extra cautious with chocolates to really check what a serving size is. In some blocks of chocolate, it might be a row, in others it might be a couple of squares. In a box of favourites, the serving size is 2-3 units.
Please note, it’s not just Cadbury that are brilliant at marketing chocolate at this time of year. It’s all chocolate manufacturers. I just used Cadbury pictures in the post because they were the ones grouped together that I could take photos of quickly before anyone started asking me questions.
Better Chocolate Options
Like I said, this post is not about saying don’t have chocolate. It’s the same message I always give about about processed food. If you’re going to have it, know what’s in it, and make a conscious choice about whether you want to put it in your body. And of course, think about how much of it you really want to have and how often.
An important thing to remember is, like anything, you pay for quality. So yes, these better chocolate options will be more expensive but they are better for our family and friends’ health – isn’t that worth paying for?
In addition, because these chocolates tend to be closer to a real food than the over processed chocolates, you really do not need as much and they are less addictive. The other thing you’ll notice with better quality chocolates like the ones below, is each company is taking the approach that not only does the chocolate need to be good for us, but it has to be good for the environment as well. I like that – our kids have a lot of years of growing up in this world left.
There’s a general rule of thumb about chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the less sugar it has and the better it is for you.
Below are some better chocolate options for you to consider. These are not in any particular order.
Loving Earth Chocolates
I love the ethos behind this Loving Earth. Not only are their chocolates delicious but it’s also fair trade too. The chocolate is cane sugar free, dairy free and low GI. They also have cute Luvju Hearts too which are perfect for children.
Loving Earth is sold at a lot of health food or organic stores. Use their locality search here to find a stockist near you. Or you could also order directly from them online.
I really love Pana Chocolate’s approach. It’s about loving our insides, and loving the earth. Chocolate without preservatives, that’s vegan, gluten free, dairy free and soy free.
Pana Chocolate is stocked at a lot of shops in most states – you can check out their page here with their stockists simply by putting in your postcode.
Organic Times is Australian owned and their products are manufactured in Australia. They use environmentally sustainable practices and support fair trade organic fair trade producers. They offer lots of variety from plain chocolate drops, to rocky road and Little Gems Fun Packs. Just remember, the darker and plainer the chocolate, the better it is for your health.
You can find Organic Times products in selected David Jones, IGA, Specialty and Health Food Stores or you can order online.
I love Alter Eco’s values – Reliably Delicious (big tick), Environmentally Responsible (another big tick) and Socially Just (and another big tick). Alter Eco work with small scale farmers and they offset more carbon than they emit. They have quite a wide range to choose from. You can find Alter Eco in some supermarkets and other stores. Use their stockist locator to find one near you, or order online.
Now this is getting a bit more mainstream so they are more readily available at supermarkets. However, you really do need to buy the dark chocolate (70% and above) of this brand to reduce the sugar hit. Note – since I published this post back in Dec 2016, I have since discovered Lindt have been rated poorly for their use of palm oil in their easter eggs – I am not sure if this translates across to their product range but I can only assume it does. Palm oil does not show up on their ingredients lists but vegetable oil. Evidently vegetable oil is one of the sneaky names under with palm oil gets covered up.
Super Food For Kidz Berry Choc Chunk
I’ve included these because our kids enjoy these bars. They have no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives and use predominantly whole foods as the basis for sweetening the bar. You can buy them from Nutra Organics here.
I just thought I would make you aware of Happy Tummies – it’s an online store to help raise kids with allergies. They have a range of different chocolate and lolly options on this site you may wish to consider.
There you go, that’s a few ideas to help you choose better chocolate this Christmas. Let me know what you choose.
And my parting words for this post are:
If you want to give chocolate as a gift or a treat, make sure it’s not sugar laden or a chemical shit storm – then it truly is a gift or treat!