I was born into a family that loves sweets. In the summer, I crave ice cream or sorbet, and in the winter I often reach for a cup of cocoa in the evening. But those packets of store-bought hot chocolate are filled with sugar and hydrogenated oils and making your own is so very simple. Making your own healthier version? Just as easy. Let's begin first by noting that I realize this isn't health food, per se. Sure, not having a cup of hot chocolate is better for you than indulging. But we could say that about so many things in life. And when made consciously as a treat and enjoyed fully, a cup of hot cocoa in the dead of winter is a pretty wonderful thing. So I realize these aren't necessarily healthy recipes, but they're better than the store-bought packets for sure, and that's what I was shooting for — getting our household away from those and experimenting with our own versions using natural, whole ingredients. So, without further ado:
5 Healthy Hot Chocolate Ideas
1. Consider Nut Milks: Nut milks are not only dairy-free, they boast a good hit of protein and bring about different flavor profiles which can be exciting to experiment with. My current favorites are almond or hazelnut milk.
2. Use Unsweetened Cacao: Pick up a canister of unsweetened cacao powder instead of store-bought packets. This will prove to be a dark, satisfying base for your next winter mug of cocoa.
3. Consider Natural Sweeteners: Natural cane sugar (like turbinado) is minimally-processed and, therefore, is always a healthier choice than white sugar. You can also experiment with honey, agave, maple sugar or coconut sugar for different layers of flavor. 4. Use Coconut Milk Whipped Cream: To cut back on dairy, think about making a whipped topping from a can of coconut milk instead.
5. Add Warm Spices: Cinnamon helps metabolize blood sugar, cardamom's been said to boost energy, and ginger is great for digestion. In just adding a few complimentary spices, you're doing a bit too boost your body's systems, too.
Megan is a freelance writer and recipe developer. Her cookbook, Whole-Grain Mornings, will be available in bookstores nationwide Dec/2013. Megan also owns the Seattle-based artisan cereal company, Marge Granola.
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