Celebrating Easter with Diabetes

Whatever you choose, take time to savour this chocolate treat!

It wouldn’t be Easter without chocolate and sweets! Here are some tips to help you choose the right chocolate and enjoy this special holiday.

Focus on quality

From the impressive displays of festive chocolate, choose quality over quantity. Cheaper Easter chocolate is often very high in sugar and low in cacao. Buy chocolate with the highest percentage of cacao.

You can compare the amount of sugar in different chocolate by consulting the Nutrition Facts table on the packaging. The table below provides the approximate amount of carbohydrates in the main types of chocolate, for a 50 g* serving:

Total carbohydrates (g) Dietary fibre (g)
Milk chocolate 30 2
White chocolate 30 0
Dark chocolate with 45%-59% cacao solids 30 3.5
Dark chocolate with 60%-69% cacao solids 26 4
Dark chocolate  with 70%-85% cacao solids 23 5

*Rounded values from the Canadian Nutrient File (CNF), 2015

Regular chocolate or sugar-free?

Sugar-free chocolate owes its sweet taste to sugar substitutes. Very often, they contain polyols, also called “sugar alcohols” (e.g.: maltitol, sorbitol). These sugar substitutes are only partially absorbed by the body, and thus have less of an effect on glycemia than sugar. However, some sugar substitutes can cause gastrointestinal upset (cramps, bloating, gas) or diarrhea, especially if consumed in large amounts. Some people are more sensitive than others are to the effects of polyols.

Based on recommendations of Diabetes Canada, consuming up to 10 g per day of polyols is safe. As a reference guide, one 45 g chocolate bar can have up to twice this amount, or around 20 g. Moreover, although it may be sugar free, chocolate with polyols contains virtually the same amount of fat and calories as regular chocolate. In short, whether you choose regular or sugar-free chocolate, enjoy it in moderation!

For the diabetic child

Consider making prior arrangements with family (uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc.) to avoid having everyone give your child Easter chocolate. Suggest that they give your child a small surprise gift instead to complement the chocolate he or she receives from you.

The famous Easter egg hunt is a wonderful opportunity to get everyone – young and old – moving. Be creative and make them hunt for different kinds of treasure, including the non-edible kind (e.g.: figurines, stuffed animals, stickers, pencils or other Easter-coloured accessories). In short, Easter is about more than chocolate. It’s an occasion for spending time with family and friends.

Research and text: Diabetes Québec Team of Dietitians

April 2017 (updated on August 2018)

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Sievenpiper J, Chan C, Dworatzek P et al. Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada: Nutrition Therapy. Can J Diabetes 2018; 42 (Suppl 1): S64-S79.

Canadian Nutrient File (CNF). (Web page consulted on August 22nd 2018).

Health Canada (2008) Nutrient Value of Some Common Foods. [ Online ] Found at https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/migration/hc-sc/fn-an/alt_formats/pdf/nutrition/fiche-nutri-data/nvscf-vnqau-eng.pdf (Web page consulted on August 22nd 2018).

Galibois, Isabelle (2005), « Les situations particulières », Le diabète de type 1 et ses défis alimentaires quotidiens, Québec: Les Presses de l’Université Laval, pp. 211-230.

O’Gleman, Geneviève (2012), “La Cabane à sucre et Pâques avec le diabète.” Video in French only (Web page consulted in March 2015).