“Tis the season for a warm cup of cocoa all snuggled up watching a holiday movie. I think that sets the mood for a perfect holiday moment. Holiday treats can be a bit more on the sugary or unhealthy side. Many ingredients and packaged items that a holiday themed based have ingredients that are not health benefitting. It doesn’t have to be for most of them. Let me bust that myth and teach you about better for you options. Let’s focus on a classic hot cocoa.
When it comes to many packaged and processed ingredients there are few things you need to be aware of. The ingredients are the first place to look. The ingredient list will tell you everything you need to know of what exactly is in your packaged product. That product ingredient list goes from most used ingredient to least used. So if you see sugar or dextrose as the first ingredient that means sugar is the most used ingredient. Sugar is needed to make many different recipes and products. There are many different names for sugar, 64 to be exact.
Other ingredients to be aware of are: hydrogenated oil, vegetable oil, color agents like yellow 5, red 40, blue 1…. all of these and more color agents are man-made and chemicals. These items should not be in our foods. Natural coloring agents like beets, turmeric, cooked grape skins, annatto are all natural ways to color foods.
When it comes to packaged foods you want to read the ingredient label for many reasons. One main reason is because many of the ingredients mentioned above plus more cause inflammation. Inflammation is one of the leading causes of lifestyle diseases. Packaged foods are convenient but you have to be aware of what is in it.
Inflammation is your bodies way of behaving when it continually receives ingredients that are foreign and harmful in high doses to the body. The body wants real ingredients: vitamins, minerals, macros, and fiber. It wants it from whole foods and real foods.
The question is, how can you enjoy all the delights of foods like hot cocoa and not have it filled with all of those unhealthy ingredients?
The answer is through simple swaps. Swapping the generic hot chocolate mix, for dark chocolate well sourced cocoa or unsweetened cocoa powder. Swap the spray can of whipped cream with freshly whipped heavy cream. Skip adding sugar and use maple syrup rich with B vitamins. Hot cocoa isn’t complete without a few marshmallows but many generic marshmallows have up to 5 different kinds of sugar and many are highly processed sugars. So skip those and go for ones that use real ingredients.
Here is a list of my favorite better for you brands for hot cocoa:
Homemade Better for You Hot Cocoa
- 6 cups Unflavored Oat, Almond, Non-dairy milk or Whole Milk
- 1/4-1/3 cup Cocoa Powder or Hot chocolate mix (equal exchange)
- 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- A pinch of salt
- If using hot cocoa mix you do not need any maple syrup. If using unsweetened cocoa powder add 1/4 cup maple syrup
- Dandies Marshmallow
- Freshly whipped whipped cream
- Dark Chocolate Chips
- Cinnamon or Cinnamon Stick
- Star Anise
- In a sauce pan, add all the ingredients except the toppings. Over medium heat mix together the ingredients for about 10 minutes. Whisk and stir every few minutes. Once the hot cocoa is all blended together and warm, serve and enjoy. Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy!