Last Updated on August 8, 2023 by Jada Glover
Pregnancy can be hard because there are so many dos and don’ts. In fact, you may find yourself struggling to keep track of them all. Some are obvious. You know that you shouldn’t have a glass of wine while pregnant, but what about a warm cup of hot chocolate?
Can I drink hot chocolate when pregnant? Generally, hot chocolate is safe during pregnancy. However, there are some things you should be aware of before filling your cup. We’ll take a look at the ingredients in hot chocolate, and how healthy it is for you and your baby.
The Caffeine Question
When it comes to caffeine during pregnancy, there are a few things to think about. First, you should know how much caffeine is safe during pregnancy. Next, you should know how much caffeine you are getting from hot chocolate and other sources to be sure you aren’t getting too much.
Is Caffeine Safe During Pregnancy?
There’s some controversy about enjoying caffeinated beverages when you are pregnant. Experts agree that you should avoid too much caffeine throughout your pregnancy because it can cause side effects. The official recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is that you limit your caffeine intake to 200 mg of caffeine or less each day.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, or APA, you should avoid any amount of caffeine during pregnancy. They have some valid reasons for this recommendation. Caffeine crosses the placenta, which means it has an effect on your unborn baby. They state that caffeine can interrupt your baby’s sleep and movement patterns during the second and third trimesters. Caffeine is also a diuretic, which can have a dehydrating effect. It raises blood pressure, which is a concern if you have high blood pressure during pregnancy, known as preeclampsia.
Studies have also shown that caffeine during pregnancy increases the risk of low birth weight. In one study, 50 milligrams of caffeine increased low birth weight risk by 13%, and high caffeine intake (350 mg or more daily) increased the risk by 60%.
You may be tempted to completely cut caffeine, including hot chocolate, from your diet. However, there’s more to this story. According to a study from Penn Medicine, low to moderate caffeine intake during pregnancy isn’t harmful, and can even be beneficial. 100 milligrams of caffeine or less has been shown to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes. The study also revealed no increase in hypertension or preeclampsia.
The bottom line on caffeine? Small amounts of caffeine may be safe. Some studies even suggest that low amounts of caffeine can have health benefits for pregnant women. You should limit your caffeine intake. Be sure not to exceed the ACOG recommendation of 200 mg each day.
Caffeine Content of Hot Chocolate
Now that you know how much caffeine is safe during pregnancy, it’s time to see how much caffeine is in hot chocolate. The caffeine content will vary based on the type of hot chocolate you have. Swiss Miss has 5 mg of caffeine per packet of hot chocolate mix, which makes one cup of hot chocolate. Nestle Milk Chocolate hot cocoa mix is 99.9% caffeine free. Starbucks hot chocolate typically comes in a larger size, which means more caffeine. A 16 oz Grande hot chocolate has 25 mg of caffeine.
A cup of hot chocolate won’t get you near your daily limit of caffeine. However, it’s important to consider other sources as well. An 8 oz cup of coffee has about 95 mg of caffeine, and black tea has about 25 mg of caffeine per 8 oz cup.
Bottom line: You should limit your caffeine content during pregnancy. However, hot chocolate has a low caffeine content.
Are the Ingredients in Hot Chocolate Safe During Pregnancy?
Are there hidden dangers in your cup of hot chocolate? Generally, if you are purchasing your hot chocolate from a store, no. However, if you choose to go the natural route and make your own hot chocolate, you should avoid unpasteurized milk. Milk that’s unpasteurized can harbor bacteria, which can harm you and your baby.
Bottom Line: Hot chocolate is safe, as long as dairy ingredients are pasteurized.
Hot Chocolate Nutrition Information
The biggest concern when enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, other than caffeine, is the calories, sugar, and fat it contains. You know that eating healthy is crucial during pregnancy. Are the calories, fat, and sugar in hot chocolate bad for you or your baby?
The short answer is, it depends. The type of hot chocolate you enjoy, your overall diet, and any health issues that you have play a role in determining whether hot chocolate is a healthy addition to your diet or something you should avoid.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “You are eating for two”. You don’t need to double the amount of food that you eat, but you do need to increase your calories by about 300 a day during the second trimester. Of course, too many calories, or too many empty calories, aren’t great for you during pregnancy.
According to the USDA, the average cup of hot chocolate made with milk contains about 195 calories. It also contains around 6 grams of fat, with about 3 grams being saturated fat. This is 18% of your daily intake of saturated fat. It also contains about 9 grams of protein, which is important during pregnancy. One of the benefits of hot chocolate is that it contains 28% of the daily recommendation for calcium and Vitamin D.
Ingredients to Watch Out for In Hot Chocolate
Now for the downside. Hot chocolate is typically high in sugar, which can be problematic. If you have gestational diabetes, consider a hot chocolate recipe with less sugar. Even if you don’t have this condition, you should watch your sugar intake. The average cup of hot chocolate has about 24 grams of sugar, which is nearly the entire recommended daily intake of 30 grams in one cup!
A high-sugar diet has been linked to gestational hypertension, preterm labor, excessive weight gain, and gestational diabetes, so it’s important to limit how much sugar you have while pregnant.
You also want to avoid ingredients like hydrogenated oils which are often found in brands of hot chocolate like Swiss Miss.
To avoid harmful ingredients during pregnancy, make your own using the recipe below or find a healthier alternative in the grocery store or online.
Bottom Line: In moderation, hot chocolate can be a good addition to your diet. However, you should limit your sugar intake.
Healthy Hot Chocolate and Alternatives
Now you know that hot chocolate is generally safe during pregnancy. However, you may be wondering how to get the health benefits of hot chocolate, while minimizing the downsides. Let’s take a look at a few options.
Homemade Hot Chocolate
When making your homemade hot chocolate, you control the ingredients. You’ll start with hot milk. You can choose cow’s milk, or a lower-calorie alternative if needed. Keep in mind that cow’s milk has calcium and Vitamin D, as well as protein and some healthy fats, so it’s good to enjoy it in moderation. Oat milk can also be beneficial.
Next, you’ll add cocoa powder. Choose an unsweetened unprocessed cocoa powder to get the benefits of cocoa, including a reduced risk of heart disease thanks to its flavonoids and antioxidants. You should add one tablespoon per cup of hot chocolate.
Homemade hot chocolate typically has less sugar than the store-bought variety. You can choose to add a small amount of white or brown sugar. If you want to lower your sugar intake, you can opt for artificial sweeteners. However, these should be used in moderation as well. Don’t expect it to be overly sweet. You want the taste of the cocoa to shine through.
To give it more flavor, you can add your own spices. Cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger are all great choices with their own health benefits.
Another way to satisfy your craving for a hot beverage is to enjoy herbal teas. In your second and third trimesters, you can enjoy raspberry leaf and peppermint teas. It’s best to avoid these during the first trimester. Ginger tea can be enjoyed throughout your pregnancy, and is well-studied. Other herbal teas should be avoided because they haven’t been properly studied in pregnant women.
Green tea is another option. It has much less caffeine than a cup of coffee and is considered safe for expectant mothers. It increases blood flow and is packed with antioxidants.
It’s a good idea to use natural sweeteners like honey. You can also use artificial sweeteners if you need less sugar in your diet.
Enjoy Your Hot Chocolate (In Moderation)
The good news is that you are free to satisfy your pregnancy cravings with hot chocolate, as long as you practice moderation. It’s a good way to satisfy your sweet tooth while getting needed calcium and vitamin D. However, it does contain sugar, fat, and caffeine, so you may want to limit yourself to a cup a day or less.
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