Everyone’s favorite unofficial holiday is right around the corner: Hot Chocolate Day! January 31st is the one day out of the whole year when you get to indulge in a mug of hot cocoa and not feel guilty about it.
For those with dietary restrictions, one tasty treat might be enough to set you back on your health goals. Luckily for you, it’s very easy to whip up some hot chocolate that’s both low-fat and sugar-free.
Enjoy these tips to make this winter beverage so healthy, that everyday can be Hot Chocolate Day!
How to make healthy hot chocolate
In the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, many people are forced to swear off their favorite sweet treats. Hot chocolate doesn’t have to be one of them, though! With these healthy ingredients, you can enjoy a cup of hot cocoa all winter long.
- Chocolate in its rawest form: Ready-made pouches of hot cocoa powder are often packed with added sugar and artificial preservatives. Eliminate the chemicals by mixing in a spoonful of raw cacao powder. This sugar-free alternative is naturally sweet and shows off the original bitterness of cacao beans. Plus, raw cacao powder has way more antioxidants than the processed stuff.
- Dark chocolate squares: If you can’t find raw cacao powder, dark chocolate squares are the next best thing. They have minimal added sugar, and chocolate bars provide extra richness you won’t get with highly processed pouches. Place the chocolate squares at the bottom of a mug, add a tiny bit of boiling water and fill to the brim with your milk of choice.
- Plant-based milk: Milk is what makes this warm, creamy beverage such a comfort in the winter. The unfortunate reality is that whole cow’s milk is loaded with fat and calories. You can make hot chocolate just as creamy by substituting cow’s milk with unsweetened almond, coconut, oat or soy milk. Or, choose a low-fat variety of cow’s milk.
- Natural sweeteners: Hot chocolate is known for packing heaps of refined sugar into a single mug. But there are plenty of natural, low-sugar alternatives that taste just as sweet! Complement the bitterness of raw cacao powder with agave nectar, honey, vanilla, maple syrup or medjool dates.
- Spices: Another good way to cut back on sugar is by replacing it with spices. Cinnamon and nutmeg are classic flavors during the wintertime and pair nicely with creamy, chocolatey goodness. To make your hot chocolate extra “hot,” mix in a dash of cayenne, ginger or cardamom!
Healthy alternatives to hot chocolate
Hot chocolate is a winter classic, but going the healthy route is your chance to try something new. Cultures around the world have come up with their own healthy yet equally flavorful versions of hot chocolate. Here are some hot chocolate alternatives that will make you ditch processed cocoa powder for good.
- Atole: Atole is a traditional Mexican beverage with masa harina, or corn flour, as the main ingredient. Instead of using chocolate, atole gets its robust flavor profile from cinnamon, vanilla and an unrefined cane sugar called panela. Complete the recipe with your favorite unsweetened, low-fat milk.
- Yuanyang tea: Despite its name, this Chinese beverage is actually a combination of tea and coffee. The recipe is very simple, and there are countless ways to customize it. Steep some black tea, then brew your favorite coffee. Pour both into the same mug, serving with natural sweeteners and the plant-based milk of your choosing.
- Anijsmelk: Anijsmelk is a simple Dutch drink comprised mainly of star anise and milk. Star anise is a brown, star-shaped seed that comes from evergreen trees. The dried seeds emit a naturally sweet flavor that’s akin to licorice. Combined with milk, star anise makes a wonderful alternative to hot chocolate because it requires zero sugar to taste good. Mix in your favorite spices to create a rich beverage that rivals hot cocoa.
- Cocoa herbal blend: Swap a pre-packaged hot chocolate powder with a much healthier one. Cocoa herbal blends feature the hallmark taste of chocolate while providing health benefits you won’t find in traditional hot chocolate. Medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps give you an energy boost while supporting the immune system and cognitive function. Stir one scoop of this supplement into warmed milk just like you would with hot cocoa powder!
Your options for hot chocolate aren’t limited to the artificial cocoa packets found at the store. Let the natural taste of cacao win over your taste buds and completely transform your go-to winter drink. Raw cacao, plant-based milk and natural sweeteners are the perfect ingredients for a Hot Chocolate Day that’s indulgent and aligns with your dietary goals.