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How to Safely Enjoy Drinking Hot Chocolate During Pregnancy
Winter is just wrapping up here in Northern Minnesota, but a nice cup of hot chocolate is never out of season. (Just ask my four-year-old!)
So, you’re craving something warm and sweet, but not sure if you can drink hot chocolate while pregnant. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Lots of mamas-to-be have wondered the same thing.
After all, when you’re pregnant, everything you consume could potentially affect your growing baby in some way or another. Which is why it’s crucial that you’re cautious about what you eat and drink.
For example, eating fish that’s high in mercury can be harmful to a baby’s brain development. Similarly, drinking alcohol during pregnancy could cause a range of developmental and behavioral problems.
Even something as innocent as a cup of hot chocolate can be a cause for caution, mainly because it contains caffeine, and also because hot chocolate mix often contains lots of sugar.
Ultimately, you just want to be sure that your baby is given the best start in life, which is why you’re here today. First of all, let’s answer your pressing question.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to replace professional medical advice.
Can I Drink Hot Chocolate While Pregnant?
Yes, it is safe to drink hot chocolate while you’re pregnant, but as with anything, you should do so in moderation. The general recommendation is that pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to 200 milligrams daily – or approximately one 8-ounce cup of coffee.
While hot chocolate contains less caffeine than coffee, it’s still a good idea to be mindful of your total daily caffeine intake.
Consuming too much caffeine could affect your baby’s heart rate and movements, while too much sugar is a concern in regards to gestational diabetes. It’s also a good idea to be aware of any other ingredients in your hot chocolate mix, such as artificial sweeteners, thickeners, or additives.
While hot chocolate can absolutely be enjoyed in moderation during pregnancy, you should be cautious about caffeine and sugar intake, checking ingredients labels for the specifics.
As always, it’s a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or questions about your diet during pregnancy.
Hot Chocolate Ingredients
Wondering what exactly is in your hot chocolate mix? Naturally, the ingredients will vary by brand, but common ingredients include:
- Cocoa powder or chocolate chips: to provide a chocolatey flavor
- Sugar and/or artificial sweeteners: for that familiar sweetness
- Milk powder: to help the powdered mix combine with hot water or milk
- Emulsifiers and stabilizers: to prevent clumping
- Flavorings: such as vanilla, cinnamon, or peppermint
- Thickeners: to create a thicker, more pudding-like texture
Of course, not all hot chocolate mixes contain these exact ingredients, and some might have other additives. Read the label carefully if you have particular dietary needs or preferences.
Benefits of Drinking Hot Chocolate During Pregnancy
The good news is that drinking hot chocolate could potentially be beneficial to your pregnancy. Possible benefits:
- It’s rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants in cocoa powder could help protect against cellular damage and inflammation, which is especially helpful during pregnancy when the body is under increased stress.
- It contains essential minerals. Hot chocolate contains minerals like iron, magnesium, and zinc – all of which are essential to the development of a baby’s brain, bones, and immune system.
- It could enhance your mood. We all know that mood swings and stress are common during pregnancy. Drinking hot chocolate could boost your mood and reduce stress levels due to the presence of phenylethylamine and serotonin.
- It could ease constipation. Constipation is a common pregnancy symptom, and the fiber content in cocoa powder could promote healthy digestion.
Of course, we need to use common sense and enjoy your hot chocolate consumption in moderation – as in one cup, not cup after cup…after cup.
Risks of Drinking Hot Chocolate During Pregnancy
Assuming you don’t have any specific dietary concerns, drinking the occasional cup of hot chocolate doesn’t pose any risks. But when consumed in excess, there’s a long list of concerns due to the caffeine and sugar – and potentially even artificial sweetener – intake.
Key concerns include:
- Fetal growth restriction
- Preterm labor
- Increased birth defect risk
- Sleep disruption
- Gestational diabetes complications
- Weight gain
- Dental problems
- Fetal programming (risk of chronic disease later in life)
While it’s always a good idea to use moderation when consuming sugary (and artificially sweetened) foods and caffeinated beverages, it’s particularly important during pregnancy.
How to Enjoy Hot Chocolate Safely During Pregnancy
If you’re pregnant and craving a cup of hot chocolate, fear not! You can safely enjoy that cup, guilt-free.
A few tips to keep in mind, though:
- Enjoy in moderation. (Have I said that enough times yet?!)
- Go low-sugar. Hot chocolate mixes typically contain lots of sugar, so look for lower sugar or sugar-free options — or even make your own homemade hot chocolate. You could even add a little honey or real maple syrup to sweeten it.
- Read the label. While artificial sweeteners are generally safe during pregnancy, it’s better to avoid them if you can.
- Use milk rather than water. This way, you’ll get some additional nutrients in your hot chocolate.
- Be mindful of any other sources of caffeine in your diet (coffee, soda, dark chocolate, etc.). Keep your caffeine consumption to no more than 200 milligrams daily.
- Drink plenty of water. Be sure to rehydrate, either with plain water or other pregnancy-safe hydration drinks.
And last – but not least – savor that cup of hot chocolate! As long as you’re not overdoing it, you have no reason to feel guilty.
Hot Chocolate Alternatives
Want to enjoy a warm, comforting beverage without the caffeine and added sugar? You have plenty of options! Here are a few:
- Warm lemon water. It’s great for digestion, especially when consumed first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything else.
- Hot tea. Talk to your healthcare provider about which herbal teas are safe, or try some green tea.
- Spiced apple cider. Heat up some apple cider and add cinnamon, cloves, and any other spices you like.
- Warm milk. You can even add natural sweeteners (try honey and cinnamon) to your warm milk if desired.
- Naturally sweetened hot cocoa. You can either use unsweetened cocoa powder or sugar-free hot chocolate mix, then add your own natural sweeteners, like honey or maple syrup.
Try one of these five hot chocolate alternatives if you just want something hot to drink while avoiding any extra caffeine or sugar.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can drinking hot chocolate cause miscarriage?
There is no evidence that suggests drinking hot chocolate on occasion can cause miscarriage. However, as we have already discussed, it’s important to be mindful of the amount of caffeine and sugar you’re taking in during pregnancy.
High caffeine levels have been linked to miscarriage and other complications. Just limit your caffeine intake to no more than 200 mg per day, and you should be okay.
What makes pregnant women crave hot chocolate?
Pregnancy cravings are common, and there’s no exact answer why pregnant women crave hot chocolate specifically. However, there are a few theories:
- It contains sugar and caffeine, both of which can trigger the release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, creating a sense of satisfaction.
- It contains nutrients that are vital to a healthy pregnancy, like calcium and magnesium. Sometimes, we crave foods that are rich in these nutrients when our bodies most need them.
- It can be comforting. Pregnancy can be stressful at times, and when we’re stressed, we often reach for comfort foods and drinks.
How much caffeine is in hot chocolate?
On average, one 8-ounce cup of hot chocolate that’s made from chocolate syrup or cocoa powder contains about 3-13 milligrams of caffeine, depending on the brand.
As we learned in today’s post, you can absolutely drink hot chocolate while pregnant, so long as you drink it in moderation. While there could potentially be benefits to drinking it, the main concerns are caffeine and sugar, so you should be mindful of any other caffeine and sugar you’re taking in throughout the day.
If you’re simply craving something warm, comforting, and liquid, then there are a few alternatives that are, frankly, healthier. But if only hot chocolate will do? Then by all means… Enjoy it!