Sales of comforting drinks such as hot chocolate soared by 15 per cent over lockdown last year but market analysts say consumers are now looking for healthy versions.

Mandy Francis asked Ruth Kander, dietitian at Fleet Street Clinic in London, to assess some of the healthier hot chocolates around. Then, we rated them.

This should help you to sleep 

Chocolate Milk Chocolate Drink to Sleep Well

3 x 200ml cartons, £4.95,

For 200ml of ready-mixed cardboard: Calories, 166, saturated fat, 5.4g, sugar, 12.8g, protein, 6.6g, salt, 0.28g

Claims: ‘Made with whole Jersey milk, honey, cocoa powder and valerian [a traditional herbal remedy]. Valerian will help you relax and contribute to getting better sleep.’

Expert opinion: Some people find it helps them fall asleep by drinking milky drinks at bedtime. It’s thought this is due to significant levels of the amino acid tryptophan in the whole milk, which plays a role in the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

Valerian root has been used as a traditional sleep remedy for thousands of years — small studies suggest it may help some people to fall asleep faster and improve sleep quality.

There is no standard dose but 300-600mg is considered effective — you’ll get around 400mg in a single-serve carton here. However, you’ll also receive just over half of a teaspoon of sugar per serving.

Note: Valerian may not be suitable for you if your are breast-feeding or pregnant. 7/10

Taste: The taste is a bit bland, but with strong honey notes. 5/10

Sleep Well Chocolate Milk Drink

Chocolate Milk Chocolate Drink to Sleep Well

Skin care products that nourish the skin

Ancient + Brave Cacao & Collagen

250g, £22

Ancient + Brave Cacao & Collagen

Ancient + Brave Cacao & Collagen

Serving size 200ml (made from semi-skimmed dairy milk): Calories 132.8, saturated fat 2.61g, sugar 10.4g, fibre 2.98g, protein 10.94g, salt 0.33g

Claims: This blend contains bovine collagen, raw cacao and peptides [a form of collagen, from cows]Plant extracts such as beetroot and carob. [Indian ginseng]• and baobab [from the African tree] ‘to nourish skin from within’. ‘A rich source of fibre . . . and excellent source of protein.’

Expert verdict: Collagen, a naturally occurring protein keeps the skin firm and flexible while keeping bones strong. While there are some indications that supplements can repair tendon or ligament injuries, further research is necessary to see if they improve the skin’s condition.

But collagen definitely provides muscle-building protein — this drink offers the highest content of all here. Only a tenth (or less) of daily fiber is provided by the cacao and other vegetable components. Raw cacao contains more flavonoids than regular cocoa. All the same, it’s not cheap.


Taste: Sugar may be an option to offset the bitter taste. 5/10 

Low-calorie treat 

Cadbury Highlights instant hot chocolate sachet

Cadbury Highlights Instant Hot Chocolate sachet

Cadbury Highlights Instant Hot Chocolate sachet

11g, 28p,

Serving size: 200ml (with hot): Calories 38, saturated fat, 0,7g, sugar, 2.7g, fibre, 3.2g, protein, 1.8g, salt, 0.24g

Claims: ‘Light way to enjoy hot chocolate. Only 38 calories a cup.’

Expert verdict: Due to the long list of added ingredients (including one sweetener), this food is extremely processed.

Ultra-processed food diets have been shown to be linked with obesity. Some of the sweetness will come from the dairy ingredients but there is also glucose syrup and sugar, which count as added sugars — this sachet portion contains half a teaspoonful of sugar from the powdered milk, chocolate and added sugar.


Taste: Watery and it’s also cloyingly sweet. 3/10

High in nutrients 

Superfoods from the Earth invigorate Hot Chili

Of The Earth Superfoods Invigorate Chili Hot Chocolate

Superfoods from the Earth invigorate Hot Chili

180g, £5.99,

For 200ml of semi-skimmed dairy milk: Calories: 165. Saturated fat, 2.77g. Sugar, 12.6g. Fibre, 3.4g. Protein, 9.3g. Salt, 0.23g.

Claims: Ingredients include organic cocoa powder, banana flakes, and lucuma. ‘Nutrient dense superfood. High in flavonoids and essential minerals like potassium and zinc. No added sugar.’

Expert verdict: Chocolate will contain useful, heart-healthy antioxidant flavonoids. Cocoa can also be a source of zinc that is essential for an immune system strong.

Cocoa, banana flakes and lucuma all provide potassium, a mineral that’s important for steady blood pressure, and it has 12 per cent of your daily fibre (in a tablespoon).

This contains only one percent chilli. However, spicy foods should be avoided before bed as they could cause stomach upsets. This is a good thing. 


Taste: This is a grownup, spicy chocolate flavor. 7/10

To increase energy

No Guilt Bakes Cocoa Plus

220g, £9.99

No Guilt Bakes Cocoa Plus

No Guilt Bakes Cocoa Plus

200ml semi-skimmed or skimmed milk contains: 135 calories; saturated fat, 2.47g. 9.6g. fibre 2g. protein 8g. salt, 0.0g

Claims: To help you ‘power through your day’. Formulated for people following a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet; the hot chocolate mix includes a ‘boost’ from MCT [medium chain triglyceride]Oil powder This oil powder does not contain any added sugar.

Expert verdict: MCT oil is usually extracted from coconut oil and more rapidly digested than other fats, to provide an immediate source of energy — so it would be more useful to drink this in the morning than at bedtime. 

Good thing there are very few ingredients. It does contain erythritol which is a zero-calorie sweetener, and can lead to digestive issues.

Taste: Smooth — like an everyday hot chocolate. 9/10 

Heart health 

Aduna Super-Cacao

100g, £5.99

Aduna Super-Cacao

Aduna Super-Cacao

For 200ml (with semi-skimmed Milk): Calories 160, saturated fat 9.6g, fibre 7.7g, protein 11.2g, and 0.22g

Claims: Made with high-flavanol-content cacao beans and nothing else, this has ‘twice the flavanols of regular cacao powder’. The manufacturer says a daily dose of 200mg flavanols (four heaped teaspoons of this) is ‘proven to help maintain the elasticity of blood vessels, which contributes to normal blood flow’. Also ‘high in protein and a source of magnesium’.

Expert verdict: Flavanols are powerful plant compounds with protective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits — several studies show flavanol-rich foods such as cacao can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The recommended daily intake of cacao flavanols, also found in red wine, peanuts, and apples, is 200mg. A cup of tea will provide you with almost 23% daily fiber and 11.2g of protein. You will not find any added sugar.


Taste: To balance out the bitter aftertaste, you may add some sugar. 6/10

Rheal Superfoods Coco Dream

Rheal Superfoods Coco Dream


Rheal Superfoods Coco Dream

180g, £25

Per 200ml, unsweetened almond milk, calories 52. Sugar, 0.7g and fibre 0.96. Protein, 1.59g. Salt, 0.28g.

Claims: Made from raw cacao, coconut sugar and reishi mushrooms. [Indian ginseng] and cinnamon, this has ‘adaptogenic [stress-busting] properties to support sleep and manage stress.’

Expert verdict: Reishi mushrooms were a long-standing staple in traditional Eastern medicine. They are known for their ability to improve immunity. Some studies suggest reishi may help improve the activity of white blood cells, a key part of the immune system — but more research is needed.

Ashwangandha root is a traditional medicine that is believed to help the body manage stress — but again, there’s not enough evidence. 

This is sweetened with coconut sugar but you’ll get less than a fifth of a teaspoonful per serving.


It is extremely bitter with strong cinnamon flavors. 5/10

Eases tiredness

Myvitamins Beauty-Boost Hot Chocolate

12g, 49p

Myvitamins Beauty Boost Hot Chocolate

Myvitamins Beauty-Boost Hot Chocolate

For 150ml of hot water, calories are 36, saturated fat, 0.3% sugar, 1.5g fibre, NA protein, 3.4g salt.

Claims: This powder with dried, skimmed milk claims to ‘support your beauty routine’. Also contains biotin [vitamin B7], vitamin B6 ‘to reduce feelings of tiredness’, and collagen and vitamin C ‘to support collagen formation’. ‘High in protein — a healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth.’

Expert verdict: This sachet contains 50% of the recommended daily intake of B vitamins and 15% of the recommended amount of vitamin C. This vitamin is essential to healthy skin, hair, and nails as well as for energy.

Dairy ingredients, as well as artificial sweetener are responsible for the sweetness. The generous 1000mg of collagen provides 3.4g of muscle-building protein in a serving — that’s about half an egg’s worth.

There are many processed ingredients. 


It is a sickeningly sweet taste with some powdery notes. 1/10