wellness — By chris mohr
When there’s a chill in the air—maybe snow is falling or you’re just coming in from an afternoon on the slopes —there’s nothing more comforting than putting on your Reign All Around Joggers and Hoodie and curling up by a fire or under a blanket with a warm drink and a good book.
Now when I say “warm drink” it reminds me of what that looked like for me a few decades ago.
I remember going to be my grandparents with my brother, where my grandpa would always promise us hot chocolate after playing outside in the cold weather. While that sounds so idealist and Norman Rockwell-esque—two young boys, sipping hot chocolate with their grandfather, while he shares stories on a cold winter day. He was of course a child of the great depression and that meant he cut costs wherever he could.
In this case, the hot chocolate packet was divided by two – sometimes three, if he wanted some himself, and therefore diluted with way too much water, so rather than sipping on a nice, chocolatey beverage, we had to bite our tongues to not comment and enjoy what we now refer to as just slightly dirty looking water.
Fast forward a few decades and I’ve learned some things. One of them is how to make a better hot chocolate, but at the same time, it’s a memory we do still laugh about to this day so there’s that.
I also understand there’s a lot of difference from sugar laden hot chocolate with a tower of whipped cream and the many other options that can actually be fantastic for your body and offer a bevy of nutrients that also taste great.
Here are 5 hot drinks to try this winter.
Decadent Mexican Hot Cocoa. OK, there’s clearly a time difference between ripping open a packet and dumping chocolate flavored sugar into a cup of hot water and this, but this version is also simple and offers a richer chocolate flavor, naturally occurring sweetness and plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The pinch of cayenne also gives a little kick to the normal hum drum hot cocoa. All you do is blend, heat and serve.
1 cup favorite milk or milk alternative (my favorite for this is unsweetened, vanilla almond milk)
3 Medjool dates, pitted
2 tbsp unsweetened 100% cacao powder
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch sea salt
Directions. Add all ingredients to a blender, then heat on a stove or in microwave until desired temp is reached.
Four Sigmatic Mushroom Cacao with Reishi
So maybe you’re not looking to warm up in the morning, but rather something to help you wind down the evening but still tasty and oh so good for you. Because let’s face it, better bedtime starts with a ritual and this has been part of mine for awhile. Made with 500 mg of reishi mushrooms – a known dose of a high quality mushroom that’s been studied for its help reduce stress – along with cacao, cinnamon and a few other delish ingredients, this one is a keeper. So, sticking with the hot cocoa theme, while the above recipe is easy, admittedly this is even easier – yes, just tear open a packet, pour, sip and savor.
Vital Proteins Matcha Collagen Powder
You’ve probably heard of matcha, and you've likely heard of collagen. This product puts them together, tastes incredible, and is how I transition from coffee in the AM. It's a little less caffeine and a whole lotta’ goodness.
First, matcha. It’s been around and popular in many cultures for 1000s of years, but more recently it’s made waves for its health benefits. Matcha is a form of green tea, but just a little better. It comes from the same plant but is grown and prepared differently. Flavor wise matcha isn’t quite as delicate as green tea and offers a grassy, more intense flavor, which can be overpowering for some, but a little dose goes a long way both in flavor and health benefits so it’s something to consider.
Most of the matcha grown is cultivated in Japan and at the end of its life cycle, grows in shade which increases the chlorophyll levels, turning the plant much darker and accounting for that deeper flavor as well. Matcha (and green tea, for that matter, are both rich in antioxidants, polyphenols and a unique amino acid called L-theanine, which has been shown in research to help ease anxiety (otherwise known as 2020), improve cognition and even brain function.
Complement it with collagen peptides and you also give your skin a little TLC, and who couldn’t benefit from that in the dead of winter? You know what else? A study on healthy athletes and related joint pain in athletes at my alma mater, Penn State, found that supplementation with 10 grams of collagen helped athletes feel less joint pain at rest, when walking, standing and lifting.
Hot Water with Lemon, Ginger, and Mint
OK, so maybe the name needs a bit of work. But this one is delicious and worth adding to your winter regimen. No calories. No sugar. Just flavor and warmth. It started several years ago when we were in Slovenia visiting that beautiful country. Our friend is married to a Slovenian woman named Nastia. She made this for us and our kids in the summer as lemonade but said it’s often enjoyed hot as well. We now refer to it has “Nastia’s Lemonade” and whether hot or cold, it’s delish - though admittedly we all prefer it hot.
8 oz water
Large handful fresh mint (don’t be shy)
Juice of 1 full lemon
1-2 slices ginger (or to simplify this, The Ginger People make a minced ginger you can find in most grocery stores).
Add all ingredients to the cup, muddle the mint to release some flavor, then pour hot water atop, let steep a bit, sip and enjoy. No sweeteners, no odd flavors – just deliciousness in a cup!
The Ginger People Turmeric Latte Mix
Well, since I brought up The Ginger People earlier, let’s stick with the theme and give their Turmeric Latte Mix some love. This is a little sweeter treat that we’ll occasionally throw in the mix for a delectable drink when you want something just a tad sweet without all the other junk and calories that often accompany that sweetness. That fantastic, caffeine free flavor – which is great for the afternoon when you’re hopefully laying off the caffeine to improve your sleep – is also complemented by the wonderful ingredients of turmeric and ginger. Turmeric (and ginger) both have enormous amount of health benefits making this a winner that delivers awesomeness with the ease of ripping open a packet.