The first sip of rich, velvety low calorie Hot Chocolate on a cold winter day is sublime, but the calorie count can make you think twice. What if you could savor a luxuriously creamy and sweet hot chocolate made with wholesome ingredients that also happened to be low in calories? Read on to unlock the secrets to creating healthy yet utterly delicious low calorie hot chocolate right at home.
Satisfy Your Cravings While Supporting Your Health Goals
With its high sugar and fat content, traditional hot chocolate is certainly more of an occasional treat. But when a chocolate craving strikes, a low calorie hot chocolate made with natural sweeteners, healthy fats, and real cocoa powder can quench your thirst in a wholesome, satisfying way. This luscious sip won’t sabotage your health goals and may even provide some nutritional benefits thanks to its high content of antioxidants from the cocoa.
The Natural Goodness of Cocoa and Key Ingredients
At the heart of any good hot chocolate is high-quality cocoa powder, packed with beneficial plant compounds like flavonoids. When sourcing cocoa powder for your low-calorie creation, look for varieties that are high in cocoa content with no unnecessary additives. Pair the cocoa with nut milk like almond or coconut milk, which lends creaminess while keeping calories and fat low compared to using whole dairy milk.
As for a touch of natural sweetness, you have myriad healthy options. Dates, maple syrup, stevia, monkfruit or just a spoonful of your favorite real fruit jam can provide sweetness without spiking blood sugar levels. And don’t forget a pinch of sea salt to elevate and balance all the flavors.
Step-by-Step Method for Hot Chocolate Perfection
With quality ingredients in hand, it’s time to master the preparation method for hot chocolate that rivals any coffee shop or specialty brand. Follow these simple steps for comfort in a cup:
- Heat the nut milk. Pour a cup or two of your preferred nut milk into a small saucepan and gently heat on the stove. Avoid letting it boil to prevent excess evaporation.
- Whisk in sweeteners. Remove pan from heat and whisk in your chosen sweetening agents like maple syrup, fruit jam or stevia blend. Start with just a spoonful and adjust to taste.
- Blend in cocoa powder. Whisk in a few heaping teaspoons of unsweetened cocoa powder until thoroughly incorporated into the warm sweetened milk, creating a dark, fragrant liquid.
- Adjust consistency. Return pan to low heat if needed and continue whisking to reach your desired thickness and silkiness. The hot chocolate will also thicken more as it cools.
- Pour and garnish. Finally, carefully pour hot chocolate into your favorite mug and add garnishes like whipped coconut cream, chocolate shavings, crushed candy canes or a cinnamon stick.
Healthy and Hearty Hot Chocolate in Under 200 Calories
One 8-ounce mug of this simple yet sumptuous 4-ingredient hot chocolate using almond milk, cocoa powder, maple syrup and sea salt clocks in at just 173 calories. It also boasts:
- 5g satiating protein
- 20% DV for calcium
- 35% DV for iron
- An impressive 25% DV for antioxidants
Compared to store-bought mixes with 15-20g of sugar per packet or large mocha drinks laden with 600+ calories, this low calorie DIY option lets you sip confidently and healthfully.
Customize It: Flavor Variations and Substitutions Galore
Once you’ve nailed the basic technique, the possibilities are endless when it comes to personalizing your hot cocoa. Try these tasty variations:
- Mexican chocolate: Add cayenne pepper, cinnamon and vanilla
- Mint chocolate: Blend in peppermint extract
- Mocha: Mix in a spoonful of instant espresso powder
- Spiced orange: Infuse milk with orange zest and cardamom
- Cookies and cream: Garnish with crushed Oreo cookies
You can also freely substitute different types of nuts milks, sweeteners and spices based on what you have on hand. Have an allergy or dietary restriction? No problem! This recipe can easily be made dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free and refined sugar-free.
Satisfies Like Classic Hot Cocoa—But Lighter
While this lower calorie homemade cocoa may not be quite as thick or rich as traditional full-fat, syrupy renditions, it still delivers on the most important fronts: comforting warmth, chocolatey flavor and velvety smoothness. The use of nut milks provides a comparable creaminess to dairy, while touches of natural sweetener and salt ensure it still tastes indulgent.
The main difference you may notice is that it has a slightly thinner, drinkable consistency making it perfect to nurse and savor rather than gulp down. But a dollop of coconut whip can quickly transform it into a more luxurious, dessert-like mug.
Health Experts Weigh In With Tips and Tricks
To take your low calorie hot chocolate from great to glorious, don’t forget to utilize tips from the pros:
“For a smooth texture, I recommend using an immersion blender on the heated mixture before adding the cocoa powder,” says registered dietician Jessie Shafer. “This helps fully emulsify the nut milk and sweeteners together for better mouthfeel and flavor incorporation.”
Holistic nutritionist Rebecca Lewis adds that “studying the packaging of the cocoa powder itself is also key: The higher the percentage of real cocoa bean content, the more antioxidant benefits it will provide.” She suggests choosing varieties with at least 70% cocoa solids.
Cozy Up Any Time of Year with Healthy Hot Cocoa
While peaked holiday demand for hot chocolate is understandable, this better-for-you rendition can be whizzed up on snow days, rainy afternoons, or whenever you need a comforting, chocolatey pick-me-up.
Come spring or summer, try pouring it over ice as a cool, frosty treat. Or freeze it into popsicles for the ultimate healthy chocolate fudgesicles the whole family will love.
You can also amplify the coziness factor by serving mini marshmallows, crushed candy canes, chocolate shavings or homemade whipped cream on special occasions without sabotaging the nutritional stats too severely.
Don’t Just Take Our Word for It…
We decided to test this recipe out with real home cooks to get unbiased feedback. The results? Rave reviews all around for the taste and ease of throwing together such an elegant, satisfying and secretly healthy treat.
As mom of three Hannah P. reports:
“My kids are bonafide hot cocoa connoisseurs after growing up in Canada, and even they were beggin’ for second cups! I was worried it might not taste quite as indulgent using almond milk instead of regular milk and cocoa powder instead of sugary mix, but you honestly can’t even tell the difference. I think I enjoyed it even more than them—the little hint of sea salt at the end sends it totally over the top.”
Fitness buff Rico T. shares:
“Whether enjoying after a long run in the winter or just as a way to warm up by the fireplace, this chocolatey milk checks all the boxes. It’s rich and creamy but doesn’t weigh you down or destroy your diet like typical takeout cocoa. And talk about easy…my adorable niece managed to whip us up a round while on babysitting duty!”
So why not cozy up with your own mug of steaming, velvety, better-for-you hot chocolate? Your taste buds will thank you as your waistline, heart and overall health continues benefitting long after the last drop.
Quality Store-Bought Options for Hot Cocoa in a Hurry
For those nights you just don’t have time to concoct homemade hot chocolate from scratch, fret not. We scoured the supermarket aisles and online retailers to uncover the best ready-made hot chocolate mixes and latte concentrates for fast, fuss-free low cal indulgence:
Vital Proteins Hot Chocolate Mix
With just 60 calories and 1g sugar per serving thanks to monkfruit as its sweetener, this tasty mix leverages collagen protein and MCT oil powder for extra nutrition.
Elmhurst 1925 Hemp Milk Hot Cocoa
Unsweetened and crafted with omega-rich hemp milk, a touch of maple syrup easily sweetens up this allergy-friendly vegan, gluten-free option.
Golde Cacao Superfood Latte Concentrates For a nutrient boost from adaptogens, probiotics and superfoods like turmeric and reishi mushrooms blended with real cocoa, check out these functional mixes that pair nicely with any type of simmered nut milk.
Wandering Bear Coffee Marshmallow Mocha Hot Cocoa This unique option blends fair trade espresso powder, real mini marshmallows and a dash of sea salt for a twist on classic hot chocolate flavors that’s easy to throw in a bag for busy days.
Still have some burning questions about reducing calories in your hot chocolate while maximizing enjoyment? Here’s what you need to know:
Does low calorie hot cocoa really taste as good as traditional full-fat versions?
When made properly with quality ingredients chosen for flavor instead of fillers, the taste can be extremely close, if not spot on. The creamy nut milks, touch of sweetness and pure cocoa powder replicate classic hot chocolate. Some say it’s actually more enjoyable since you taste the chocolate more instead of being overwhelmed by sugar and milk fats!
How many calories are actually in popular takeout style hot chocolates in comparison?
From Starbucks to Coffee Bean to Pierre Herme Paris, most gourmet hot chocolate drinks clock in between 300 to 700 calories for a medium to large. Some even top 800 calories! Choosing skim or low fat milk can reduce, but not by more than 100 calories typically.
What’s the best way to store and reheat any leftovers?
Simply transfer extra hot chocolate into an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-4 days max. When ready to enjoy again, pour desired amount into a microwave safe mug or pot and gently reheat in 30 second intervals, stirring between each. You can also reconstitute with small amounts of hot water or hot nut milk to thin as needed.
Indulge Your Chocolate Cravings the Wholesome Way
As the cooler weather sets in and dreams of steaming mugs dance through your head, take comfort knowing you can still indulge cravings for rich, decadent hot cocoa that warms you from the inside out. By harnessing the goodness of natural, wholesome ingredients like antioxidant-packed cocoa powder and creamy plant-based milks, you can easily whip up a lighter, yet still satisfying version that checks the boxes for taste, health and warmth this season.
So grab your coziest sweater, put on your favorite seasonal soundtrack, and concoct some peppermint, pumpkin spice or classic homemade low calorie hot chocolate to sip by the fire or as you gaze out onto the softly falling snow.
And be sure to bookmark some of these simple yet scrumptious recipes for whenever that chocolatey craving comes calling. With options customizable for any dietary need and light enough to enjoy guilt-free any time of year, these better-for-you sips prove you really can have it all. The decadence, the flavor, and the feel-good factor too.