By Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, SELF magazine
Q. Now that the weather is getting colder, I'd love to treat my family to a healthy version of hot chocolate. Any recipes or recommendations?
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A. Hot chocolate is a lovely cool weather treat for kids and adults alike. But grocery store mixes often contain ingredients like hydrogenated oils or artificial sweeteners. I suggest making up your own "instant" hot chocolate mix using cocoa powder, sweetener, and powdered milk.
Here's a basic recipe:
- 2 cups powdered milk
- 2/3 cup sugar (or less, see below)
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (more if you like it extra chocolaty)
- Pinch salt
Combine all ingredients and store in an air-tight container. To make a cup of hot chocolate, measure 1/4 cup of mix into a mug, add boiling water and stir until blended. The recipe makes about 14 servings. (Click here for a complete nutritional analysis.)
Make it healthier:
- For a creamier cup (plus some extra protein and calcium), use heated milk instead of boiling water to make your hot chocolate
- For a dairy-free mix, leave out the powdered milk. Use a rounded tablespoon of the mix per cup of your preferred non-dairy alternative milk (almond, soy, etc.). Whisk together until blended and heat in a saucepan over low heat or in microwave. See also this comparison of various non-dairy milks.
- Use regular cocoa powder instead of "dutch" cocoa. The dutching process mellows the flavor but strips out a lot of the flavanols that are responsible for chocolate's many health benefits.
- To reduce sugar, replace up to half a cup of the sugar with a stevia-based sweetener like Pure-via or True-via. (You could replace all the sugar for a sugar-free mix but I think the flavor really suffers.)
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Pump up the flavor--and the benefits:
- Vanilla enhances the flavor of chocolate. Bury a whole vanilla bean in the container to infuse the mix with a warm vanilla essence.
- Add 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon to the mix. Not only is it a great flavor addition but cinnamon also helps to mitigate the impact of the sugar on your blood sugar levels.
- Add 1 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper to the mix for a hot-and-spicy cocoa that offers an anti-inflammatory boost.
- Skip the marshmallows and whipped cream, which add a lot of extra sugar. Instead, use a whisk to make it nice and frothy and add a sprinkle of cinnamon or cocoa powder.
- For adults: Add 1/2 to one teaspoon of instant espresso granules to your cup for a mocha with a little caffeine kick. (More on Benefits of Caffeine)
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Photo Credit: Condé Nast Digital Studio