Have a Cup of Cocoa

There’s nothing more comforting in the cold winter months than a cup of hot chocolate. The warm combination of steamed milk and sweet cocoa can fight off even the harshest winter chills. It’s my go-to afternoon pick-me-up or dessert throughout the season.

Luckily, this sweet treat offers some great nutritional benefits too. In fact, two tablespoons of cocoa powder contain only 25 calories and 1.5 grams of fat, but provide 14 percent of the daily recommended value of fiber and magnesium and 8 percent of the daily value of iron. Adding cocoa powder to your diet has also been linked to higher serotonin levels, which can boost your mood while lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.

Making hot chocolate with milk instead of water gives it a richer flavor and helps to provide the recommended 3 servings of dairy a day. Getting three servings of dairy is important because this food group provides potassium, calcium and vitamin D; three nutrients most Americans aren’t getting enough of.

This winter, instead of purchasing the instant variety, try making your own hot chocolate at home with your family. This classic hot chocolate recipe is rich, creamy and simple to make. The cocoa powder and milk make it a nutritious option, while the addition of vanilla enhances its flavor.

For an exotic twist on a classic, try this recipe with Moroccan spices. The combination of cinnamon, cardamom and orange zest enhances the flavor without upping the sugar content.

Even lactose intolerant guests can enjoy this delicious beverage. Just swap regular dairy for lactose free milk like you find here in this bittersweet cocoa recipe. You’ll still get all of the nutritional benefits of real dairy milk, just without the lactose.

Do your family a favor and serve up some cups of hot chocolate today!

 Laura Marbury, MS, RD, LD