The weather is finally starting to feel a bit chillier in Southern California just in time for the holiday season. Hot beverages surge in popularity this time of year. Curling up with a warm drink and a good book sounds pretty cozy, but have you thought about the health benefits of what’s in your cup?
While some hot beverages can help support your nutrition and health goals, others are loaded with unwanted sugar and extra calories. From hot tea to hot chocolate, here’s a quick guide to help you get the most from what you sip this season.
Lift Up Your Latte
Lattes are traditionally made with espresso and steamed milk. Customizing your basic latte can change the healthfulness and taste of the drink. One consideration is the type of milk used. From whole to skim to non-dairy options, there are so many choices. Plus, you can elevate your latte with additional ingredients. Flavored collagen creamers can be added to pack a protein punch. Steer away from lattes sweetened with lots of syrups and instead go for beverages flavored with seasonal ingredients including spices like ground cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, turmeric and pumpkin pie spice.
Put Some Thought into Your Tea
Tea is one of the most popular hot beverages. Both black and green tea are full of antioxidants that offer a wide variety of health benefits. However, frequently consuming sugar-sweetened tea can negatively impact dental health and can cause unintended weight gain, blood sugar concerns and other health problems. Natural options for low-calorie and no-calorie sweeteners include stevia, monk fruit sweetener, erythritol and xylitol. If you prefer your tea with cane sugar, consider reducing the amount of sugar added. Those who are sensitive to caffeine may opt for caffeine-free herbal teas like peppermint, chamomile and ginger tea when enjoying tea within six hours of bedtime.
Enjoy a Superfoods Cider
Apple cider is a delicious treat, but is it really any different than apple juice? There are some steps in the production of apple cider that may render it more nutritious than apple juice. Apple cider often maintains some of the pulp that is strained out in apple juice, making it higher in polyphenols. When preparing apple cider at home, you can enhance it with nutrient rich ingredients. Try adding ingredients like cinnamon sticks, star anise, ground clove, pomegranate seeds, fresh orange and lemon zest for a superfoods cider.
Warm Up with Healthier Hot Cocoa
Packaged hot chocolate mixes can be loaded with unwanted ingredients like corn syrup, vegetable oil and cocoa processed with alkali. While these mixes are convenient for on-the-go, you can take advantage of more nutritious ingredients with homemade hot cocoa. Cacao powder is full of flavonoids that have been shown to support lower blood pressure and cardiac health. Choose raw cacao powder that is less processed than natural and dutch-process cocoa powder. For a lower fat hot chocolate, opt for low-fat milk or almond milk. Add a small amount of vanilla extract and maple syrup for flavor and sweetness, as needed. For a finishing touch, top off your hot cocoa with a few tablespoons of unsweetened whipped cream instead of sugary marshmallows.
LeeAnn Weintraub, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian, providing nutrition counseling and consulting to individuals, families and organizations. She can be reached by email at [email protected].