“Hot chocolate” or “hot cocoa” a healthy wintertime snack

DEANA K. REED


Whether you call it “hot chocolate” or “hot cocoa,” it’s a “nutritious snack” when made with milk.

Hot chocolate or cocoa is a good way to encourage children and young adults to drink the age-related recommended servings needed to develop strong bones.

Many mixes, including some “gourmet” fares, are available where you buy groceries if you prefer not to make this nutritious, wintertime favorite from scratch. Unless otherwise stated on the package, you can use all low-fat or skim milk, half milk and half water, or all water to make the mix.

If you use hot water in the hot mix, one cup will contain about 100 calories and less than one gram of fat. Replacing the water with skim milk boosts the calcium value and gives the drink a thicker body. Skim milk doesn’t increase fat content but does add about 90 calories.

You can make it from scratch by using cocoa powder, a sweetener and a liquid, preferably a low-fat or skim milk. The instructions are on the cocoa powder label.

Cocoa powder is formed when cocoa beans are roasted to extract much of the fat, or cocoa butter. When this fat is not removed, the end product is chocolate. If cocoa or chocolate is to be used for a beverage, a sweetener is added to counter the bitterness. Cocoa mixes contain sugar, whey, corn syrup, cocoa, nonfat dry milk, partially hydrogenated oils and various thickeners and artificial flavors.

Chocolate drink mixes have more calories and a bit more fat than cocoa beverages.

One myth is that chocolate binds to calcium in milk, making this nutrient unavailable to the body. Chocolate does have some oxalic acid that binds with calcium. However, only a small amount of chocolate is used in these drink mixes. And the amount of oxalic acid is insignificant compared to the amount of calcium in the milk.

Cocoa and chocolate contain theobromine and caffeine that have a stimulating effect. A

late-night snack might keep children not used to these stimulants awake later than their parents would prefer.

For more nutrition information, contact your Meade Cooperative Extension Service.

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