Hot chocolate is my favorite drink during the fall and winter months. The snow was falling outside and I was anxious for my 1st cup of the New Year. However, I made a New Year’s Resolution to be healthier and watch my sugar intake. Have you ever taken time to stop and read the nutrition label on a box of hot chocolate? The first two ingredients are sugar and corn syrup. Cocoa is not listed until the fifth ingredient. My once loved drink was slowly adding weight to my body. One cup of hot chocolate can contain anywhere from four to seven teaspoons of sugar. Since my favorite way of making mine is with reduced fat milk and using original hot chocolate packaged mix I was drinking SEVEN teaspoons of sugar in one cup!
I was not going to let one little drink ruin my goal of becoming healthier. I set out to find a better option. Standing at the grocery store my mind was overloaded with all the different options. All too many times we believe what we read on the outside of the box instead of taking the time to read the nutrition label. No sugar added had to be better for me right? It should have fewer calories. Or what about the all-natural versions where you can pronounce all the ingredients? There aren’t any added sweeteners or artificial flavors in them. What if I pick the dark chocolate flavor? Dark chocolate has antioxidants so that hast to be the best option. What about my whipped cream or marshmallows on top?
So what is a person to do when they still want that cup of hot chocolate but are trying to be healthier? The American Heart Association offers some suggestions on how to trim the calories by using fat free milk, low sugar hot chocolate packets and a minimal amount of toppings. If you would prefer, make it yourself so you can control the amount of sugar. Chances are you probably already have the ingredients in your kitchen. By personally controling the amount of sugar you are using it’s no longer the number one ingredient. Start with taking your favorite hot chocolate recipe and only use half the amount of sugar. It will not seem as sweet but you can add cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla extract to help give it that extra something special. For a greater depth of flavor try simmering a cinnamon stick with your milk. Maybe you are looking for a recipe that is a sophisticated, European-style of hot chocolate which is thick and rich.
A healthier version of hot chocolate is very doable and in moderation has great health benefits. After all cocoa beans do come from seeds of a fruit that is grown on trees in tropical forests. That makes chocolate a fruit right?
Source: Gampel, S., & Bobroff, L. B. (2010, October). Dark Chocolate Benefits. Retrieved from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FM/FM38300.pdf
Source: Core, J. (2005, April 4). In Chocolate, More Cocoa Means Higher Antioxidant Capacity . Retrieved from http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2005/050404.2.htm
Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, firstname.lastname@example.org