Thursday, January 23, 2014

Healthier Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate is the traditional drink served after outdoor playtime on snow days, but moms like me sometimes find it problematic, since American hot chocolate is really high in sugar. After all, sugar lowers the immune system, and is that what my child truly needs, especially after exposure to frigid temperatures?  Why not a vitamin boost along with something naturally healthy, like milk?  Here's one strategy that our family has used for several winters, and I'm happy to share it, even though it represents a significant exception to my preference for whole foods and my avoidance of brand names!

Several years ago, I was grocery-shopping with my husband, who is a label-reader when he has time to indulge in the practice. I wanted to get some baking chocolate to make the low-sugar hot chocolate mix (similar to this one) we used to make from scratch. He began by comparing prices on powdered chocolate and then began inspecting labels of various products, going back and forth between several aisles while I wondered what in the world he was doing. Finally, he announced to me that from now on, instead of buying chocolate mix ingredients, we were going to buy Ovaltine. "Look at all these vitamins!" he said, "And you can't beat the value!" So we began a stealth campaign to convince our younger kids that hot chocolate was actually Ovaltine -- and it worked marvelously.

So ever since that year, our family has made hot chocolate mix by mixing Ovaltine with powdered milk. Until this year, when we bought a milk cow. Now we just mix a bare half-teaspoon of Ovaltine in a little child's mug of fresh milk and warm it on the stove or in the microwave for 44 seconds. It has become our breakfast staple. This Christmas my husband conspired with one of our former little children, now a teen, to buy all three kinds of Ovaltine as a family Christmas present, and our kids enjoyed trying the different flavors. It tastes great with a candy-cane stir-stick too for a snowy-day treat. 

I hadn't quite realized how much we had changed our children's palate until I overheard the five-year-old conferring with her older sister about the holiday packet of cinnamon hot chocolate Baby Jesus had left in her stocking. "It's way too sweet," the five-year-old informed her older sister. "So when you make it, just put in a tiny teency bit, okay? Then fold it up and save the rest for later."  I think she made that one-serving packet of hot chocolate last a week, and now she is happily back to drinking Ovaltine

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