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7 Hot Chocolate Brands Made With the Lowest Quality Ingredients

This nostalgic drink may not always be made with the best ingredients
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Hot chocolate, whether topped with whipped cream or crammed with mini marshmallows, is the comforting drink that conjures up images of cozy wintertime memories. Unfortunately, many store-bought hot chocolate brands may not be that good for you.

For starters, many store-bought mixes are often filled with sugar and other less-than-desirable ingredients that could have negative effects on your health if consumed in excess. "When looking for a ready-made hot chocolate mix, check the label to avoid ingredients like carrageenan, corn syrup, vegetable oil, alkali, artificial sweeteners, and maltodextrin," shares Alyssa Wilson, RD and Metabolic Success Coach at Signos.

"Corn syrup is a highly processed, inflammatory sweetener that can lead to insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure," adds Wilson. As for carrageenan, Wilson shares that although it is considered natural because it is made from Irish seaweed, it could lead to an upset stomach. And alkali is a whole other story: "Alkali, or cocoa alkalization, is when cocoa nibs are treated with an alkali solution to increase the pH, making the color darker and flavor stronger and less bitter," explains Wilson. "This isn't dangerous, but it does remove most of the nutrition benefits of cocoa, like phytonutrients."

Dr. Daniel Boyer, MD of Farr Institute echoes the importance of avoiding lower-quality ingredients that are often found in store-bought hot chocolates, such as artificial sweeteners. "Artificial sweeteners are chemicals added to food and drinks to make them taste sweet without adding calories," says Dr. Boyer, "Unfortunately, studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may actually cause weight gain and other health problems."

When buying store-bought hot chocolate try to opt for brands that have fewer ingredients, natural ingredients, and less sugar. If possible, make your own hot chocolate at home from scratch if you have time. "While it may seem like a hassle, a homemade version can be whisked together in less than 5 minutes and you know exactly what you are putting into your body," Wilson points out. "You can make your own hot cocoa at home with your favorite milk or a milk substitute, natural sweetener, and unprocessed cocoa."

To help you better decide which hot chocolate to choose the next time you're on a grocery run, we put together a list of 7 brands that use the lowest quality ingredients. Plus, if you're more of a coffee drinker, check out 8 Coffee Brands That Use the Lowest Quality Ingredients.


Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classics Chocolate Supreme Mix

Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classics Chocolate Supreme Mix

Land O' Lakes, best known for making cheese, has its own hot chocolate you may want to enjoy sparingly. Not only is it packed with 28 grams of sugar per serving, but it also has artificial flavoring, corn syrup, and sodium phosphate, an additive that has been linked to weak bones and chronic kidney disease.

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Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa Mix with Mini Marshmallows

Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa Mix with Mini Marshmallows
Swiss Miss / Facebook

Unsurprisingly, Swiss Miss has become synonymous with hot chocolate. Although this nostalgic brand has become the go-to for hot chocolate fans, it is important to be discerning when choosing which hot chocolate to enjoy from them. For instance, its Hot Cocoa Mix with Mini Marshmallows is filled with corn syrup (the second ingredient listed) and has 27 grams of sugar per serving.

If you still would like to drink Swiss Miss, but are looking for a healthier option, pick up its Simply Cocoa mix which has limited ingredients, less sugar, and is free of artificial sweeteners, flavors, and preservatives.


Nestle Hot Chocolate Rich Chocolate Flavor

Nestle Hot Chocolate Rich Chocolate Flavor
Courtesy of Nestle

Although lower in sugar when compared to other brands, Nestle's hot chocolate is made with corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and cocoa that has been processed with alkali— ingredients that may have adverse effects on the body if not consumed in moderation.


Great Value Mix Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix

Great Value Mix Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix

Not only is Great Value's hot chocolate mix made with cocoa that has been processed with alkali, but it also contains maltodextrin, corn syrup, artificial flavoring, and many additives. Each serving also has 26 grams of sugar, which is high. For context, the American Heart Association advises women to not have more than 24 grams of added sugar per day, whereas it is suggested men do not consume more than 36 grams of added sugar daily.


Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classic Arctic White Hot Cocoa Mix

Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classic Arctic White Hot Cocoa Mix
Courtesy of Land O' Lakes

Corn syrup, food starch, and maltodextrin make an unwelcome appearance in Land O' Lakes Arctic White Cocoa Mix. Besides being high on the glycemic index, maltodextrin may be linked to having negative effects on gut bacteria.


Stephen's Chocolate Mint Truffle Hot Cocoa

Stephen's Chocolate Mint Truffle Hot Cocoa

This hot cocoa may sound delicious, but you might want to check the ingredients list before you make it your go-to. Unhealthy ingredients, such as carrageenan, maltodextrin, corn syrup, and artificial flavors, all make an appearance. If you want to enjoy a cup of peppermint hot chocolate, it may be best to make your own at home using healthier, natural ingredients, such as fresh mint and cocoa.

RELATED: 13 Chocolate Brands That Use the Highest Quality Ingredients


Signature Select Hot Cocoa Mix

Signature Select Hot Cocoa Mix

Between the corn syrup, vegetable oil, artificial flavors and a hefty list of additives, Signature Select's hot cocoa mix is one you may want to pass on. Instead pick up a hot cocoa mix that has fewer ingredients, less sugar, and is made without artificial flavoring.

Brittany Natale
Brittany Natale is a food and lifestyle writer. Read more about Brittany