A Healthier Cup of Cocoa
Tips to make healthy cocoa
When you think of a cup of hot cocoa, what comes to mind? Does the idea of holding a mug of chocolate in your hands bring up feelings of nostalgia, decadence, joy, or guilt? Perhaps all of the above?
This healthier version will give you a reason to drop the judgments and savor the moment. The first necessity in a healthier version of cocoa is to enjoy a more authentic chocolate in your cup. Rather than choosing the standard pre-packaged pouches that are most prominent in grocery stores, select an unsweetened drinking chocolate, usually available in a canister. Why unsweetened? This allows you to add sugar and your own sweetness into unsweetened products can help you control your intake, while still enjoying just the right level for you.
The next important element is which sweetener to use, if any. Stevia is a good choice for those avoiding sugar. However, if you prefer the taste of sugar, as many do, adding a small amount to taste is a reasonable choice for the purpose of great cocoa. You can also explore other natural sweeteners such as honey, pure maple syrup, coconut sugar, or agave nectar. Note that while these options are marketed as healthier, your body will still react to them much like table sugar, so be sure to use these only in moderation.0
What about the liquid for your cocoa? Many drinking chocolate brands recommend milk, though you may also use water. This choice comes down to your taste preferences, whether you use animal products, your tolerance for lactose, and any allergies to other milk products, such as soy or almond milk. If you prefer cow's milk for your cocoa, steer clear of cream since its thickness is not necessary to produce a beautifully rich cup of cocoa. A better bet is whole, reduced or nonfat milk. The percentage of fat you drink in your milk (full, 2%, 1% or none) might depend on what's already in your fridge. If you're wondering which level of fat is best nutritionally, this is dependent on what is already in your diet, and your level of activity.
If you know you are consuming a good deal of fat in your diet already, such as cheeses, fattier meats, fried foods, or foods you eat when in restaurants, it might be a good time to choose reduced or nonfat milk for your sweet treat. On the other hand, if you're eating somewhat leaner these days, with more fruits and vegetables than meats and heavier foods, and you have a high level of physical activity, a cup of whole or 2% milk may not be a problem for your body now and then.
Another debate looms: to marshmallow or not? While commercial marshmallows are not exactly a friend to your nutrition, adding a few mini-marshmallows may not be a bad addition overall for those of you with a desire to include them. You may find that over time, this nostalgic addition of marshmallows is not needed each and every time. Try occasionally skipping these morsels to see if you're still delighted with the outcome anyway. Explore other toppings such as adding in a bit of ground cinnamon or vanilla extract as an alternative.
A similar debate may come up for you when deciding whether to add whipped cream. If you do choose to use this, consider picking a less fatty milk for the liquid of your drink. You could also choose to use whipped cream when you make a water-based cocoa, allowing the cream to mix with the rest of the drink. Completely avoid any whipped cream varieties that include partially hydrogenated fats in the ingredient list. If you end up with the most decadent of all of these options - cream-based cocoa with whipped cream and marshmallows, set an intention to spread out your indulgence of this particular treatment so that it's not an everyday habit.
Like all efforts to moderate what we consume, your aim will be to make sure this one enjoyable activity does not interfere with your other joys and goals in life. When you have all the ingredients, you're ready to make that perfect cup. Drinking chocolate is usually made on the stove.