My daughter is mesmerized by the little boxes of chocolate milk they sell for lunch at her school. There is something about them to her: the fact that they fit perfectly into her little hands, or the fact that some of her friends get to have it. Or maybe it’s all of it together. I am not sure. But I AM sure that the actual milk is not the factor because she loves the home made version I make for her.
And here is why:
- It tastes better (at least to me, but she drinks it with gusto each and every time, so I am led to believe it’s not too shabby)
- She gets to participate in making it
- It has clean ingredients that are way more flavorful. See Point #1.
What’s so special about my hot coco?
The cocoa powder. I use unprocessed, raw coco powder. It still has all the magnesium and antioxidants in it for which cocoa beans are famous. Processing removes all the good stuff, leaving us with just a taste (if that). I prefer using Navitas brand because of my personal taste preference (even though it's Divine Organics in the photo - that's what I had on hand). Both of them are local to where I am, making them extra special!
The milk. I use the best quality organic full fat milk. You can also use any plant-based version that you are comfortable with.
The sweetener. I use raw cane sugar, Rapadura or Sucanat will do, and I like this particular kind of sucanat. It is basically dried up cane juice with the trace minerals still intact. I use it for my baking and everything in between. It is not super sweet which is perfect for the kids’ developing palates. But you can also use coconut or date sugar, maple syrup, raw honey, etc. All of these sweeteners are still sweet and sugary, but they are better than using regular white sugar. And the two biggest reasons why are:
- the effect on the blood sugar is not as strong;
- because they are unrefined, the enzymes and the minerals they contain assist your body in metabolizing the sugars instead of pulling these minerals and enzymes from your organs.
The sea salt. When you add salt to chocolate, it enhances its flavor. Plus, you add the valuable nutrition to your kiddo’s menu. I use Celtic sea salt but you can use regular fine sea salt. I like Celtic sea salt because of its minimal processing and trace mineral content. If you can find it in bulk, go for it. Locally, it is sold in bulk at Good Earth, and Sebastopol Community Market.
The Vanilla extract. Pure vanilla is what it is - pure. Macerated vanilla pods that percolate in a mixture of alcohol and water. That's it. It is more pricey but it’s void of synthetic chemicals and when it comes to our kids, to me it’s worth it. You don’t have to add it to your hot chocolate, but it does add to the flavor.
Now let’s look at the ingredients in one of the better types of commercial hot chocolate powders.
Cane syrup solids. Another name for plain white refined sugar (all enzymes and trace minerals are removed). Two tablespoons of this mix provide 22 grams of sugar!
Non-fat dry milk. Processed with little to no nutrients left.
Cocoa (processed with alkali) - minerals removed.
Calcium carbonate. Used for white coloring and anti-caking. Usually derived from limestone and marble. May cause constipation and bloating.
Natural vanilla flavor. Derived from animals or plants other than vanilla beans or chemically synthesized. Here is a good article from Harvard that breaks it all down.
Xanthan gum. Emulsifies and stabilizes. Like all gums, it may cause gastrointestinal irritation in some individuals.
Basically, you are looking at a clean vs. commercial version of hot coco. Of course, if your child rarely drinks it, may be it is not that big of a deal to have a cup of the commercial version. I buy my daughter a cup here and there when we are out and I don't think much of it.
But I still prefer to make it myself. And here is why:
It's about the Quality which i can control.
If I am going to give her a treat (and hot coco is a treat), I'd like for it to be made from high quality ingredients that she can taste in their pure and simple form, AND that is not overwhelmingly sweet (8g of sugar in my version vs. 22 g in the commercial).
I don't know if you remember the taste of the commercial hot coco, but the first thing you notice is the sweetness. You'll taste chocolate although the processed chocolate is a far cry from what your real, minimally processed coco tastes like. Vanilla flavor is also different from what real vanilla tastes like because it is derived from anything but vanilla. And finally, water mixed with non-fat powdered milk will never taste like a full-fat non-homogenized milk.
I hope that makes sense.
Here is the recipe for the Hot Coco (or chocolate milk if you want to drink it cold).
- 3/4 cup organic full fat milk (or plant based if lactose intolerant)
- 1 tbsp unsweetened raw cocoa powder
- pinch of salt
- sweeten with a natural sweetener to taste (I used 2 tsp of sucanat)
This is how you make it:
1. Heat the milk to a desired temperature
2. While the milk is heating up, mix the cocoa powder, salt and vanilla in a cup.
3. When the milk is ready, slowly start pouring it into the cocoa mix stirring vigorously until all the clumps are gone.
4. Add sweetener to taste.
5. Drink up right away or pour it in a thermos and send it with your kiddo as a snack, or stick it into the fridge for a chocolate milk version.
I get small percentage from the affiliate product links that I mentioned in this post. Thank you for your support and I hope you can enjoy these products as much as I do.