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How to eat less chocolate

Luke James
Medical Director Bupa Global and UK Insurance
26 August 2021

Do you eat a lot of chocolate? Do you feel like you just can’t help yourself? Or maybe you think you have a chocolate addiction. I’m not here to tell you to give up chocolate altogether. But I will share some straightforward ways to cut back without feeling deprived.


Time to cut back

I knew I was in trouble when I looked in my bin after a long day of seeing patients. There were two empty bags of chocolate. I’m not talking about small ones either. They were family-sized bags. Other days, I got through several large bars. And I had been munching my way through this amount of chocolate day in, day out, for a long time.

Moderation is key

I enjoy chocolate too much to stop eating it completely, but I could see it was time to cut back. And, except for smoking, I think moderation is the key to managing most unhealthy habits. There is a small amount of research that suggests cocoa might have some health benefits, but the evidence for this is limited. And it’s likely that the amount I was eating outweighed any possible good effects.

Breaking the habit

My medical knowledge told me that change might not be easy. Habits can be hard to break. We often do things without thinking too much about them. For example, you might always reach for a bar of chocolate mid-way through the afternoon. Many of us are also used to thinking of chocolate as a ‘reward’ or ‘treat’ and so it can become something that comforts us if we’re tired or stressed.

If at first you don’t succeed

I thought I could cut down by putting quality over quantity by having smaller amounts of really nice chocolate. So, I signed up for a delivery service. But the week’s supply turned up on Saturday, only to be gone by Monday morning. Rather than reducing the amount I ate, I was actually having more than before.

What worked for me

I found it worked better for me to cut down gradually. I avoided getting too hungry during the day by making sure my meals contained plenty of protein, fibre and complex carbohydrates. When I did have a dip in energy I tried to reach for healthy snacks instead of chocolate, such as nuts, fruit or unsweetened yoghurt.

On the way home I took a different route that avoided passing the newsagent, which was one of my main sources of chocolate. I also kept myself distracted during the evenings by playing more sport. We kept all chocolate out of the house. This was not a popular move, but it helped.

I also made a rule to help me stick to my new resolution. During the week I don’t eat any chocolate, but at the weekends I have as much as I like.

Adding rewards can also help, so I promised myself a very expensive new tennis racquet if I stayed on track. Though I can’t say it’s made me a better player!


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Luke James
Dr Luke James
Medical Director Bupa Global and UK Insurance

    • Food and mood: Food Fact Sheet. British Dietetic Association. www.bda.uk.com, reviewed August 2020
    • Is dark chocolate really good for you? Q&A. British Nutrition Foundation. www.nutrition.org.uk, reviewed April 2017
    • Carden, Lucas and Wood, Wendy. Habit formation and change. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. 2018, 20: 117-122. doi.org/10.1016/j.cobeha.2017.12.009
    • Healthy snacks: Food Fact Sheet. British Dietetic Association. www.bda.uk.com, reviewed September 2018

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