Yes chocolate is delectable. But it also packed with sugar and fat, which means it ranks up there with some of the highest kilojoule foods around. It’s a waistline saboteur because like most high-fat foods, except nuts, it has no dietary fibre.

So it slips down effortlessly, albeit highly pleasantly, and you don’t feel very full after eating it. Before you’ve discovered all those pesky coloured foil scraps that slipped down the back of the lounge over the break and beyond, you’ve potentially consumed enough to have you eyeing off elastic-waisted fashions the rest of the year.

To come to grips with this unhappy reality, it helps to consider the “sweat index” of your Easter treat – what you’d have to do, and for how long, to work those extra kilojoules off. It ain’t pretty.

The “sweat index” of some typical Easter treats & workout needed

  • 67kg Female 80kg Male Solid mini eggs (4)/25g553kj40 minute walk30 minute walk
  • Hollow egg 9cm long (1)/50g1106kj 30 minute run 25 minute run
  • AFL football egg (1)/300g6636kj 3 hours 5 mins cycle 2.5 hours cycle
  • Small bunny (1)/100g2212kj 1 hour 10 minute swim 57 minute swim
  • Medium bunny (1)/200g4424kj 3 hours boxercise 2.4 hours
  • Large bunny (1)/500g11060kj 3.5 hours squash 2.75 hours squash
  • Fruit hot cross buns (2)/144g total1842kj 50 minute run 40 minute run
  • Fruit hot cross buns (2) with total 1.5 tbsp butter/144g + 30g2757kj 1 hour
  • 7 mins run 1 hour run
  • Chocolate chip hot cross buns (1)/67g1030kj 1.5 hours yoga 1.25 hours yoga

*Calculated from information contained in the Compendium of Physical Activities. For more information about the workout you get from different activity forms see our Exercise Guide

But Easter doesn’t have to be part of a depressing weight gain spiral, says Sonya Stanley, a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia. Take stock of some basic facts, think ahead and get back on track if you lapse and you can keep your Easter healthy as well as happy. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Less can be more: “The main message is to keep chocolate as a treat, rather than having it before, after as well as during Easter,” says Stanley. “Buy some really good quality chocolate”, which tends to be more expensive, and “just have a little of it and really savour it” rather than guzzling a large amount of a poorer quality product.
  2. Don’t try to deny yourself treats completely. An all or nothing approach can not only take the pleasure out of the occasion, it can lead to unhealthy binge-eating, where you wolf down large amounts of treats quickly to try to minimise the time you feel guilty. “Often we find if people are too focused on what they’re not having, they end up thinking about that all the time, rather than just having it in moderation as part of a nice celebration to be enjoyed.”
  3. Consider dark chocolate. While there’s a bit more cocoa and a bit less sugar in dark chocolate, the difference in kilojoules between dark and milk chocolate is minimal, Stanley says. “But dark chocolate does tend to taste more bitter, which might make it more difficult to overeat.” Dark chocolate also has more antioxidants (for more info see our Fact Buster: Is chocolate good for your heart?) than other forms of chocolate too. But that’s no excuse for bingeing on chocolate; you can antioxidants from fruit and vegetables, or even a cup of tea.
  4. Think carefully about leftovers. If you’ve been deluged with chocolate gifts way beyond your expectations, some argue it’s better to throw them away than treat your body like the bin. If you decide to keep it, think about storing it in hidden spot. “If it’s in a container you can’t see or that’s tucked away so you’re not looking at it every time you open the fridge or pantry door, you might be able to spread it out over the months ahead,” Stanley says. “Other than that, share it with friends and family.”
  5. Focus on non-food ways to enjoy Easter. Focus on other pleasures like having some time off work or catching up with friends instead of the chocolate you’re not eating. Find your inner artist by handpainting eggshells with kids. Visit somewhere scenic. Listen to beautiful music.
  6. Get active. The milder autumn weather can offer the perfect opportunity to be active. Get cycling, bush walking or even catch up on some gardening or other vigorous household chores. Doing houseworkto music means you not only get a fun heart-pumping workout, but end up with a cleaner house to boot. What’s not to like?
  7. If you overindulge once, don’t let it become a pattern. So you ate the whole packet of solid little eggs, pigged out over lunch and had two helpings of the rich creamy dessert? Don’t let that be an excuse to continue down that path. Savour the memory of the tastes you’ve enjoyed, try and do a bit of extra exercise and concentrate on getting back on track with healthier habits.
  8. Think outside the (chocolate) square. You don’t have to make everyone else’s waistline grow at Easter either. Stanley’s experience is that many people appreciate non-edible Easter gifts like fresh flowers, books, or DVDs. If you go for the latter, just don’t choose a title that will remind the receiver of what they’re missing. I guess that means “Like water for chocolate” is out.