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Hot chocolate with marshmallows, warm cozy Christmas drink in a wooden tray

Nothing says happy holidays like a delicious cup of hot chocolate, and nothing says healthy holidays like these 3 hacks for enhancing the nutritional value of your cocoa without sacrificing flavor.

If you’ve never made hot chocolate from scratch, you’ll be amazed at how simple it actually is.

Essentially, you need three things: a variation of chocolate, sweetener, and milk. 

Three main ingredients give you three opportunities to health-ify your drink.  Here are some of our favorite options for each.

Chocolate- You’re probably used to seeing cocoa powder in the store-bought packets of hot chocolate, but there are alternatives.

  • A chocolate bar high in cacao – Cacao has some great properties such as the fact that it’s packed with antioxidants (not today, flu!). The more cacao, the less added sugar and milk fats in your chocolate bar.  Don’t worry about the bitterness, that’s what the sweetener is for!
  • Cacao powder- There’s cocoa powder and then there’s cacao Cocoa powder is roasted at high temperatures which lowers its nutritional value, while cacao powder is cold-pressed.  Find cacao powder in the health food section of your grocery store.

Milk- Whole milk or even cream are the traditional options but if you’re aiming for a healthier version, try out one of these.  

  • Plant-based milks – almond, cashew, coconut, soy to name a few – these “milks” are much lower in calories than their dairy alternatives and offer lots of great nutritional benefits as well.
  • Non-fat or 2% milk- if you’d prefer to stick with dairy, a lower fat milk is a great way to cut back on calories.

Sweetener- Cane sugar isn’t your only option! 

  • Maple syrup- Maple syrup has a much lower glycemic index than regular cane sugar. Additionally, just a little bit of maple syrup packs a ton of sweetness so you don’t need much.
  • Coconut sugar (or other naturally derived sugars)- Coconut palm sugar is a great alternative to cane sugar due to the amounts of nutrients found in it (iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium to name a few). It’s also a perfect sub for those adhering to the Paleo diet.
  • Stevia – For those who want a completely sugar free hot cocoa, Stevia is a great natural option.

Here’s an easy recipe for one cup of hot cocoa.


1 c milk

2 tsp cocoa/cacao powder, or chocolate (add more for a richer drink)

Sweetener to taste (around 1-2 tsp)


Heat the milk on the stove until steaming (not boiling or simmering).  Take the milk off heat and add in the remaining ingredients.

*Alternatively, make your favorite hot chocolate recipe and implement some of our hacks.

Happy and healthy holidays to you and yours!

-Next Level Urgent Care

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