6 Ways To Make Your Snow-Day Hot Chocolate Healthier

mbg SEO Editor By Eliza Sullivan
mbg SEO Editor
Eliza Sullivan is an SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
hot chocolate

Image by Mariela Naplatanova / Stocksy

If you're in the northeastern United States today (like much of the mbg team), you're probably experiencing today's major snow—and if you're anything like us, it's bringing back some childhood memories and a healthy dose of nostalgia. Many of our best snow-day memories revolve around a particular ritual: hot chocolate!

While as children we may have loved a sugary packet topped with marshmallows, these days we're opting for healthier takes on this ultimate snow day beverage. Instead of skipping it, we're packing in some of our favorite healthy add-ins and making smart swaps to translate this tradition into our present wellness routine:

1. Be selective about your chocolate.

Chocolate can certainly be part of a healthy diet—and some types are even better than others. Simply picking your favorite dark chocolate to stir into a hot milk of choice will make it light-years more wholesome than the packets of our youth. But there's one chocolate option that makes it even better.

"Despite its sugary reputation, there are some forms of chocolate that are good for you," explains Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D. "You probably know that dark chocolate is better than milk chocolate, but did you know raw chocolate takes the cake when it comes to healthy chocolates?"

Raw chocolate comes in many forms, including cacao nibs, but in the interest of a cozy hot chocolate drink, you'd be best off opting for cacao powder. According to Largeman-Roth, "Packed with heart-healthy flavonols, cocoa powder is a great way to add an antioxidant boost without any sugar."

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2. Make your own alternative milk to mix it into.

Alternative milks (or m*lks, or mylks...) are the beverage trend that just keeps on giving—there are so many varieties readily available in stores that it might seem like it's not worth your time to make your own. Still, it is important to be mindful of the product you're getting. "You want to make sure you're going for a minimally processed, unsweetened product," says Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN. "Keep an eye out for preservatives and stabilizing agents on labels, as well."

Of course, there's nothing wrong with opting for store-bought alt-milks, but if you're willing to give it a go, making your own can be a fun and healthy option. Our favorite to DIY is oat milk because it's really that easy. All you need is water, oats, and a fine sieve or cheesecloth—though some people like to add a dash of vanilla and a pinch of salt to enhance the flavor. Homemade oat milk won't be as fortified as store-bought options and won't last as long in the fridge, but it can help you cut back on waste and can save you some money to boot.

3. Add some inflammation-fighting spices.

Chocolate has tons of complementary flavors, and lots of them happen to be spices that can help fight inflammation. Cinnamon is probably the most familiar—research has shown that the antioxidants in this spice are can be inflammation-fighting, and it'll add another layer of wintry vibes to your mug.

Double down on the warming component of a hot chocolate with a touch of cayenne, which according to the American Nutrition Association can promote blood circulation. Another great option to up the warming ante in your cup is ginger, which will naturally warm you up and has been linked to anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties via gingerol, a bioactive compound. Some other great spice options to put a twist on your hot cocoa are adding turmeric or cardamom.

4. Use a natural sweetener (if you need it).

Especially when using raw chocolate, you might want to add a bit more sweetness to your cup. Skip the sugar in favor of a natural option—one of our favorites is lucuma powder, which has a long history of use in South American cultures as a notable superfood. In addition to adding a bit of sweetness, it's a good source of fiber and is rich in antioxidants, which will complement the ones in the cocoa well.

Other great options include monk fruit sweeteners, date syrup, or coconut sugar. "Using coconut sugar can help keep your blood sugar balanced even while you enjoy this sweet treat: "Coconut sugar is lower on the glycemic index (GI) than cane sugar or even maple sugar," explains holistic nurse practitioner Victoria Albina, N.P., MPH. "Foods with a lower GI are more slowly absorbed, thereby reducing the health-damaging insulin spike."

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5. Consider collagen in this winter treat.

Take your cocoa from nostalgic treat to skin-supporting hero with this recipe (which has quickly become a go-to for us). "This dairy-free pumpkin-spiced hot chocolate is silky smooth and creamy, plus it contains added benefits from mbg's grass-fed collagen+," writes registered dietitian Maggie Michalczyk, R.D., "like hair and nail support, elasticity, skin hydration, and more.*"

The addition of collagen to our routines seems almost extra beneficial in colder temperatures, as it can help manage that winter dryness. Research has linked collagen supplementation with skin hydration, showing that with regular use, it can help support skin's hydration levels.*

6. Add in some calming or mood-boosting components.

Just enjoying a warm beverage can be super calming on its own, but you can enhance that feeling with some special ingredients. This CBD-infused lavender hot chocolate is all about the calming vibes; even the scent will help you mellow out—just be sure to get your hands on culinary-grade lavender to cook with.

If lavender is a little too extreme of an addition, you could always also turn to more adaptogens. Maca's natural malty flavor lends itself to pairings with chocolate, or turn to a few drops of hemp oil for a different take on calming cannabinoids.

Whether you dress it up or keep it classic, it's actually pretty simple to make a cup of hot chocolate something that can support your health. But if you're not into chocolate, a golden latte could be your perfect cozy snow-day beverage.

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