Spring may be officially here, but cooler temperatures keep coming back for more. Get through what’s hopefully the last cold snap of the season with a steaming cup of hot cocoa. We rated 5 popular brands, looking at taste and the amount of added sugar — find out our top picks.
We looked at 5 popular brands of powdered cocoa mix — some made with milk chocolate and some made from dark chocolate. We rated each on a 5-point scale (5 being highest) based on flavor, texture and nutritional content. Each hot chocolate was made according to the package directions, which usually was to mix with 6 or 8 fluid ounces of milk (skim milk for our taste test.) Nutrition information is given for the chocolate powder without the addition of milk.
Nesquick Chocolate Flavor
Cost: $3.99/10.9 ounce container
Nutrition Info Per 2 Tablespoons: 60 calories; 0.5 grams fat; 13 grams sugar
Our Take: The label touts that it contains 25-percent less sugar than other leading syrup brands, but it still was overwhelmingly sugary with a not-so-chocolatey flavor. The first ingredient listed was sugar which is not surprising based on how it tasted. It also was the only brand that fortified its product with several vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, calcium, vitamin B6 and biotin — something not really necessary for a hot chocolate mix.
Ghirardelli Double Chocolate
Cost: $6.29/16-ounce canister
Nutrition Info Per 4 Tablespoons: 140 calories; 1.5 grams fat; 31 grams sugar
Our Take: One of the more expensive of the bunch, our 5-year old kid taster claimed this hot chocolate “tastes like a brownie!” Sweet ground chocolate and processed cocoa are the first 2 ingredients, but it does have a much richer chocolate flavor than many of the other brands. The 4 tablespoon suggested serving size could be cut down to 2, which would maintain that delicious flavor while cutting the calories and sugar in half.
Scharffen Berger Sweetened Natural Cocoa Powder
Cost: $9.95/8-ounce canister
Nutrition Info Per 3 Tablespoons: 95 calories; 3 grams fat; 10 grams sugar;
Our Take: There are two ingredients in this powder: cocoa and sugar. If you’re looking for a true bittersweet chocolate flavor, then this is for you. Using skim or low fat milk as opposed to hot water will help increase the sweetness and cut the bitterness. To make it worth the money, halve the suggested portion.
Swiss Miss Dark Chocolate Sensation
Cost: $2.79/8 (1.25 ounce) envelopes
Nutrition Info Per Envelope: 150 calories; 3.5 grams fat; 18 grams sugar
Our Take: Within the first 4 ingredients, you’ll find sugar, corn syrup and hydrogenated coconut oil (a.k.a. trans fat.) Even though this claims to be dark chocolate, don’t fall for the marketing claim. The benefits of the dark chocolate won’t be found in this hot cocoa mix. Though the flavor wasn’t among the favorites, it did have a darker chocolate flavor, it was still very, very sweet.
Nestle Rich Milk Chocolate
Cost: $1.50/8 (1.25 ounce) envelopes
Nutrition Info Per Envelope: 80 calories; 3 grams fat; 12 grams sugar;
Our Take: Once again sugar, corn syrup and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (a.k.a. trans fat) appear on the label, but this time as the first 3 ingredients. The flavor tastes likes your average overly-sweetened ski lodge hot chocolate. Save your money and use half an envelope per portion, which will also save you calories and sugar.
TELL US: What’s your favorite hot chocolate brand?
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »