By Grace Garni, Dietetic Intern
On Valentine’s Day, Nourish had the opportunity to demonstrate a home-made hot cocoa recipe for a nutriton and fitness course at South High School. Being in the midst of the brisk winter season, warming up with a hot cup of cocoa was the perfect idea. This recipe is not only a tasty treat, but it is easy to make, encouraging the students to use this as an opportunity to show off their culinary skills at home!
At the beginning of the presentation the students were shown two hot cocoa nutrition labels and asked to compare the contents of each. After they were done looking at nutrients such as the calories, fat and sugar they were to make an educated guess as to which label was the healthier hot chocolate. Surprisingly, they chose the label that was actually the processed hot chocolate!
The class was informed that the purpose of the demonstration was to make them more aware of nutrition labels and what foods they choose to buy. Just because an item has less calories or less fat does not necessarily mean that it is better for you! No way!?
We then took a peek at the ingredients of the processed hot cocoa, allowing the students to have a better understanding of what items may mislead them on an ingredient label. These items included corn syrup solids which are actually SUGAR and hydrogenated oil which is actually TRANS FAT. Not to mention processed foods are jam packed with chemically processed additives and preservatives. Thus, the students learned that the food industry can be very tricky and mislead us in many ways. Knowing what you are putting in your body is often much better than knowing what the nutrition label says. Would you want to eat something you can’t even pronounce or that you have never heard of?!
Our hot cocoa drink has three ingredients including the milk--whole milk, maple syrup and cocoa! Wow, only three?! Yes, and it tastes amazing too! On the other hand, store bought hot cocoa can have upwards of twelve ingredients, many of which are preservatives!
Have you any idea where cocoa comes from? Many of the students had no idea that cocoa comes from the cacao tree, and that the seeds of the fruit are actually cocoa beans! These trees are found very close to the equator in warm climates, such as Africa and South America. The cocoa beans are harvested, fermented, dried, and roasted, then the fat is removed leaving behind solids which are ground into cocoa powder!
Believe it or not, archaeologists have discovered evidence of hot cocoa consumption dating all the way back to 1400 BC, and it was used for various religious ceremonies. Cocoa beans were also used as currency because of their high value.
After discussing both the nutrition of hot chocolate and the history of cocoa powder, two students graciously vulunteered to assist in making our hot cocoa. They each had a pot of whole milk that they stirred as it heated. Once it was to the appropriate temperature they both whisked in natural cocoa powder until there were no visible clumps. Lastly, maple syrup was added to make the cocoa nice and sweet, with just a touch of vanilla (optional) for some extra flavoring. Once the hot chocolate was completed the students were welcome to try some. There was a toppings bar available, including items such as cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, whipped cream, strawberries, and pink salt.
This fun hot cocoa demonstration enabled the students to recognize various factors that contribute to processed foods and encourages them to be more aware of what they are putting in their bodies. It also educated them on cocoa and how it transforms from a bean to a powder. Overall the students greatly enjoyed the experience and we hope that they take everything they learned and apply it to their daily lives.
Healthy Hot Chocolate Recipe
By Jess Childs
- 1 cup of whole milk
- 1 heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder
- dash of salt
- maple syrup to taste
- In your favorite mug, add 1 cup of whole milk and heat in the microwave until hot.
- Add the cocoa powder, salt, and syrup, and mix thouroughly with a fork until clumps have dissolved.
- Serve with toppings of your choice!
Explore additional flavors by adding vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, or ginger!