The winter season is the perfect time to enjoy a mug of hot chocolate. It is creamy, chocolatey, and warm; what is not to love? Due to the high sugar content, traditional hot chocolate recipes may seem off-limits for ketogenic dieters, but there is hope! There are delicious keto hot chocolate recipes that fit the low-carb, high-fat keto lifestyle. This article explores keto hot chocolate, its differences from traditional recipes, and its nutritional benefits.
The keto diet and its principals
The ketogenic diet has become extremely popular in the last 10 years. For those who are unfamiliar, the ketogenic diet eliminates (or severely restricts) carbohydrates and focuses on deriving daily energy needs primarily from fat. By eating 80–90% of your daily calories from fat, the body starts to use ketones for energy instead of glucose (from carbs). This can help catalyze fat loss and support people seeking to lose weight.
Transitioning to the keto diet means learning some new approaches to your favorite foods, and the holidays are no exception. So, what can you do if you want to stay committed to your keto diet while also enjoying your favorite holiday treats, like hot chocolate? Keep reading to learn alternatives to achieving both!
Keto vs traditional hot chocolate
There are three main differences between traditional and keto hot chocolate:
1. Sugar substitutes
The biggest difference between keto and traditional hot chocolate lies in the sweetener you choose. Traditional recipes rely on sugar, while keto recipes opt for low or no-carb sweeteners like monk fruit, stevia, or erythritol. With these substitutes, you still experience the sweet taste of your favorite hot chocolate without the spike in blood sugar levels.
It’s best to avoid artificial low- and no-calorie sweeteners like aspartame, acesulfame-K, saccharin, neotame, cyclamate, and alitame because, although they do offer a sweet taste, the “breakdown products of these sweeteners have controversial health and metabolic effects,” as found in a study published in the Journal of Food Science Technology.
Plant sugars like monk fruit and stevia, or sugar alcohols like erythritol, will sweeten your hot chocolate without the negative health impacts.
2. Milk options
Traditional hot chocolate typically uses regular dairy milk, which contains lactose (a natural sugar). In keto hot chocolate recipes, you'll find alternatives like almond milk, coconut milk, or unsweetened dairy substitutes, which are much lower in carbohydrates. Using these milk substitutes ensures the creamy texture you’re familiar with while staying in line with the keto diet framework.
3. Cocoa quality
Both traditional and keto hot chocolate recipes use cocoa powder, but keto versions opt for unsweetened cocoa powder. This ensures a rich chocolate flavor without the added sugars found in some commercial cocoa mixes. When in doubt, read the ingredient label to ensure it’s pure cocoa with no added sugar.
Nutritional benefits of keto hot chocolate
Traditional hot chocolate is decadent, rich, and sweet, not what you might normally think of as healthy. But believe it or not, by making the above-mentioned substitutions, your favorite winter treat can offer some unique health benefits.
No spike in blood sugar
Low carb means no spike in blood sugar. Keto hot chocolate recipes are designed to be free of sugar and carbohydrates. This helps maintain a state of ketosis, where the body uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. Using low- or no-calorie plant-based sweeteners or sugar alcohols results in no spike in blood sugar. With things like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease on the rise, stable blood sugar levels are paramount to good health.
Keto hot chocolate recipes often omit dairy milk (to avoid the lactose sugar). So to ensure the rich, creamy taste you know and love, keto recipes incorporate sources of healthy fats such as coconut oil or grass-fed butter. These fats help you feel fuller, and longer, and support the macronutrient profile of a ketogenic diet.
Cocoa powder, a staple in hot chocolate, is rich in antioxidants, including flavonoids. These compounds have been associated with various health benefits, such as improved heart health and reduced inflammation.
Antioxidant and Redox Signaling Journal found that “cocoa can protect nerves from injury and inflammation, protect the skin from oxidative damage from UV radiation in topical preparations, and have beneficial effects on satiety, cognitive function, and mood.” You can enjoy your favorite winter beverage and support your health!
Things to keep in mind
A lot of people have different ideas about what the best keto hot chocolate recipe is. Even though the ingredients are all the same, the amounts and ratios will change depending on what kind of hot chocolate treat you want to make. Here are a couple of things to consider when trying keto hot chocolate recipes:
Choice of sweetener
Experiment with different keto-friendly sweeteners to find the one that best suits your taste preferences. You might experience an aftertaste with certain sweeteners, so it's worth exploring alternatives to find the perfect fit.
Different sugar substitutes have different ratios and measurements. Liquid stevia may mean using drops, while granulated monk fruit may use teaspoons or tablespoons. Experiment and see what you like best.
Personalize and experiment
Get creative with your keto hot chocolate by adding things like vanilla extract, nutmeg, cinnamon, or a pinch of sea salt. These additions can enhance the overall taste without compromising ketogenic diet principles. You may need to try a few recipes before you perfect your favorite.
Great place to start
A great place to start your personalized experimenting to find your favorite keto hot chocolate recipe is:
- 1-2 cups dairy-free milk
- 2 tablespoons high-quality cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon of your favorite fat, like coconut oil or grass-fed butter
- Sweetener of choice
Warm all of the ingredients over low-medium heat and stir well to combine. Pour in your favorite mug and enjoy!
The last word on keto hot chocolate
While winter calls for a warm cup of hot chocolate, ketogenic dieters may struggle with traditional recipes' high sugar content. Delicious keto-friendly hot chocolate recipes provide a solution that meets the low-carb, high-fat keto lifestyle. Keto hot chocolate also provides nutritional advantages, allowing enthusiasts to savor the warmth and richness of this beloved beverage guilt-free during the chilly winter months.
Hot chocolate is a staple among many in terms of winter beverages, but it can often be high in sugar and carbohydrates.
People who follow the ketogenic diet focus on fat (80–90% of their daily calories) and eat very few carbs (0–5% of their daily calories).
With keto hot chocolate recipe alternatives, people can stick to their keto diet and enjoy their favorite holiday drink!
- Journal of Food Science Technology. Artificial sweeteners – a review.
- Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. Cocoa and Chocolate in Human Health and Disease.
- Journal of Clinical Diabetes. Practical Strategies to Help Reduce Added Sugars Consumption to Support Glycemic and Weight Management Goals.
- Frontier Immunology. Cocoa and Dark Chocolate Polyphenols: From Biology to Clinical Applications.
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Effects of cocoa powder and dark chocolate on LDL oxidative susceptibility and prostaglandin concentrations in humans.
- National Library of Medicine. Ketogenic Diet.
- Modern Medicine. A Review of Ketogenic Diet and Lifestyle.