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Hot chocolate, whether topped with whipped cream or stuffed with mini marshmallows, is the comforting beverage that conjures up images of sweet winter memories. Unfortunately, many store-bought brands of hot chocolate may not be so good for you.
To begin with, many store-bought mixes are often filled with sugar and other less than desirable ingredients that could negatively affect your health if consumed in excess. “When looking for a ready-to-use hot chocolate mix, check the label to avoid ingredients like carrageenan, corn syrup, vegetable oil, alkali, artificial sweeteners, and maltodextrin,” shares Alyssa Wilson, Dt.P. and Metabolic Success Coach at signs.
“Corn syrup is a highly processed, inflammatory sweetener that can lead to insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure,” Wilson adds. As for carrageenan, Wilson shares that although it’s considered natural because it’s made from Irish seaweed, it could lead to stomach upset. And alkali is a whole different story: “Alkali, or alkalization of cocoa, is when the cocoa nibs are treated with an alkaline solution to raise the pH, making the color darker and the flavor more strong and less bitter,” says Wilson. “It’s not dangerous, but it takes away most of the nutritional benefits of cocoa, like phytonutrients.”
Dr. Daniel Boyer, MD from the Farr Institute echoes the importance of avoiding substandard ingredients often found in store-bought hot chocolate, such as artificial sweeteners. “Artificial sweeteners are chemicals added to foods and drinks to make them taste sweet without adding calories,” Dr. Boyer says. “Unfortunately, studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may actually lead to weight gain and other health issues.”
When buying store-bought hot chocolate, try to opt for brands that contain fewer ingredients, natural ingredients, and less sugar. If possible, make your own hot chocolate at home from scratch if you have time. “Although it may seem complicated, a homemade version can be mixed in less than 5 minutes and you know exactly what you’re putting in your body,” Wilson points out. “You can make your own hot chocolate at home with your favorite milk or milk substitute, natural sweetener, and unprocessed cocoa.”
To help you better decide which hot chocolate to choose the next time you are on a grocerywe put together a list of 7 brands that use the lowest quality ingredients. Also, if you’re more of a coffee drinker, check out 8 Coffee Brands That Use Lower Quality Ingredients.
land of lakes, best known for making cheese, has its own hot chocolate that you might want to sample sparingly. Not only does it contain 28 grams of sugar per serving, but it also contains artificial flavors, corn syrup and sodium phosphate, a additive that has been linked to weak bones and chronic kidney disease.
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Without surprise, Miss Switzerland has become synonymous with hot chocolate. Although this nostalgic brand has become the go-to for hot chocolate lovers, it’s important to be discerning when choosing which hot chocolate to enjoy. For example, its Hot Cocoa Mix with Mini Marshmallows is loaded with corn syrup (the second listed ingredient) and contains 27 grams of sugar per serving.
If you still want to drink Swiss Miss, but are looking for a healthier option, take her Simply Cocoa Blend which contains limited ingredients, less sugar and is free of artificial sweeteners, flavors and preservatives.
Although lower in sugar compared to other brands, Nestlé hot chocolate is made with corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and cocoa that has been processed with alkalis, ingredients that can have adverse effects on the body if not consumed in moderation.
Not only is Great Value Hot Chocolate Mix made with cocoa that has been processed with alkali, but it also contains maltodextrin, corn syrup, artificial flavors and many additives. Each serving also contains 26 grams of sugar, which is high. For context, the American Heart Association advises women to consume no more than 24 grams of added sugar per day, while men are suggested to consume no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day.
Corn syrup, food starch and maltodextrin make an unwanted appearance in Land O’ Lakes Arctic White Cocoa Blend. In addition to having a high glycemic index, maltodextrin may be linked to negative effects on gut bacteria.
This hot chocolate may sound delicious, but you might want to check the ingredient list before making your choice. Unhealthy ingredients, such as carrageenan, maltodextrin, corn syrup, and artificial flavors, are all popping up. If you want to enjoy a cup of peppermint hot chocolate, it may be best to make your own at home using healthier natural ingredients, such as fresh mint and cocoa.
Between corn syrup, vegetable oil, artificial flavors and a long list of additives, Signature Select Hot Chocolate Mix is the one you might want to pass on. Instead, choose a hot cocoa mix that has fewer ingredients, less sugar, and is made without artificial flavors.