Healthier Homemade Peppermint Mocha

I am addicted to Starbucks Peppermint Mocha. But it’s expensive at $4.35 a cup.  And even ordering it lo-co style – skim milk and no whipped cream – it still packs 290 calories and an astonishing 52g of sugar.

While that’s sad, it could be far worse.  Order the full-fat with whipped cream version and you’ll be drinking a scary 440 calories with 55mg of cholesterol and 54g of sugar.

Thank goodness I prefer skim milk – and my barista is kind enough to respond to my ‘skim milk’ request with, “so you want no whipped cream, right?”  To which I can nod – which is far easier than speaking that particular request out loud.

Oh, who am I kidding – I order this so often they don’t even ask – they make it as I get to the register.

But I digress.  So I’ll move on to something really handy. To calculate the impact of that whole milk or whipped cream, check out the Starbucks site. There, you can figure out the calorie, fat and cholesterol in your particular Starbucks vice. Go there only when feeling brave.

There is some good news, though, for all you peppermint mocha fans.  Ordering it with skim milk and no whipped cream, this drink is under 5mg of cholesterol – so at least it’s a decent lo-co treat.

Though all that sugar is distressing…and probably is raising my triglycerides.  Starbucks does offer a ‘skinny’ version – made with sugar substitute. Unfortunately, I despise sugar substitutes.

Thus began my quest to create an at-home recipe to deliver that delicious chocolate-mint coffee punch with less sugar. Plus, finding a way to make this at home preserves my right to this wintry treat once my beloved skim-milk, no whipped decaf peppermint mocha goes off-menu. (Why Starbucks deems this a ‘holiday’ drink is beyond me – it would be delicious all winter.) Oh, and making it at home saves money, too.

So I began experimenting. I tried mint tea (awful) and mint cocoa (flavor was too thin.) Then I found some Andes Thin Mints and that was good, but didn’t dissolve well.

A few more tinkers and I had it – a homemade Peppermint Mocha you can whip up in seconds, that costs mere pennies, and has FAR less sugar – and even fewer calories – than the Starbucks version.

Indeed, mine is so good my son keeps asking why I’ve not blogged about it yet…right after he asks me to make him one.

I make mine in my Keurig one-cup machine (which happily will not raise your cholesterol, as I wrote about in this blog post).  If you don’t have a Keurig, I’m sure it’d work to simply stir these ingredients into a cup of hot coffee.

Karen’s Keurig Lo-Co Peppermint Mocha

  1.  In a large mug, fill bottom with Andes Creme De Menthe Baking Chips. (You can use Andes thin mints but they don’t melt into the coffee as well). I use about 2 TB. The mints you can buy most anywhere, but the chips I found only at WalMart, my local food store did not stock them. So of course, I bought 5 bags on my last foray to WalMart. You can also find the Andes Baking Chips online.
  2. Add 1 heaping TB of Ovaltine Chocolate Malt. You could probably use hot chocolate mix, but I like that Ovaltine has a malt taste (if you don’t, they have other flavors) and also lists lots of vitamins on its nutritional label.  Am sure those vitamins are immaterial, but…hey, added vitamins is a bonus in my book.
  3. Make a cup of decaf or regular coffee right into the mug and STIR.  Stir a lot to make sure all those lovely chocolate mint bits & Ovaltine are fully dissolved.
  4. Add Silk Soy Creamer – as much as you like to get the coffee the color/lighness you like.  I add A LOT – like 4TB – as I like my coffee light. If you are making this for folks who don’t need lo-co, feel free to use half-half instead – that’s how I make it for my son. And if you haven’t discovered Silk Creamer – check out this post for a great way to reduce cholesterol without sacrificing flavor in your morning cup of joe.

The result? Delicious AND decidedly less sugar!

Using the nutritional values listed on all the ingredients, I calculate my version delivers fewer calories (mine’s about 220 vs Starbucks at 290), which is great. BUT the key – the real winner – is that my version only has bout 20g of sugar, instead of 52!

Less than HALF the sugar, about $0.50 per cup – and I can make one of these treats anytime I want?

I’d call that a minty, delicious lo-co success.


The alcohol-triglyceride connection

After 3 months of lo-co lifestyle changes, my cholesterol test results were mixed.  Total and LDL (bad) cholesterol dropped, but HDL (good) and Triglycerides went the wrong way.  Triglycerides, in particular, went up A LOT.

As you may recall, my doctor advised 4 key things.  The first in this list below was to ensure I stay on track with lower cholesterol results, and the other THREE were for triglycerides in particular:

  1. Keep up the low-fat, low-cholesterol, plant-sterol, high fiber dietary changes I’d made (I have been  marginally successful with this in recent months)
  2. Exercise more (marginally successful here would be a HUGE overstatement)
  3. Add fish oil (not too difficult, have done OK with this)
  4. Cut out or reduce alcohol (this I pretended not to hear)

I would have kept ignoring the dreaded cut out reduce alcohol recommendation, except my friend Christine asked me yesterday WHY you should reduce alcohol when you have high cholesterol and/or triglycerides.

Normally, I don’t care why – the technical details just plain bore me.  But if I’m (or she’s) supposed to do something as drastic as abandon that best-part-of-the-day-glass-of-red-wine, then knowing why I should ditch the wine is important – or it’ll never happen.

Oh, who am I kidding.  I know it’s not going to happen.  But hell, I might as well know why I should cut out reduce my alcohol intake!

So I did some research: here’s what the Cleveland Clinic has to say about triglycerides (you can see the full page and more useful links on my Resources/Info Links page):

“Excess calories are stored as triglycerides in the body. If you eat more calories than you need, it could elevate your triglyceride level.

You may be able to reduce high triglycerides without medication by following a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet and reducing sugar, fat, and alcohol intake. If you currently smoke, stopping may decrease your triglyceride level and your risk for heart disease.”

Woot!  Alcohol is just ONE factor!  Not the be all and end all!  I mean, really, from what I read, it looks like a key cause of high triglycerides is extra calories & sugar, not alcohol per se.  (I’m inferring that alcohol = bad because it has empty calories & sugar: I could not find a lot more about specifically WHY one should cut out reduce alcohol.  If anyone has any solid info, please comment!)

As my jeans are not fitting me well right now (oh, the muffin-top horror) and I’m still a sugar addict, I decided that WINE IS NOT MY PROBLEM.  Well, it might be a problem, but it’s not what is causing my sky-high triglycerides.  Probably that is due to too much fat and sugar (see muffin-top horror above).  So it seems totally clear to me that best way for me to lower my triglycerides is to work on items #1 (low fat and low sugar diet) and #2 (exercise) above.

Yes, OK, as for #1 – Phish Food is still in the freezer.  And it was on sale last week, so I bought 4 pints.  So shoot me.  And as for #2, exercise, well, that is not what this post is about.  So I am not discussing it.

But I did discover something great just past that freezer case…and it is cutting fat in my daily diet: Silk Soy Milk Creamer.  Instead of half-and-half in my coffee, this is not bad…in fact, it’s downright good if you add a splash of half-and-half as well.  And soy is on the it-lowers-cholesterol list, so hey, double bonus.  And triple bonus:  I even managed to cut the sugar in my coffee in half last week.

These sound like small accomplishments, but in fact they are HUGE victories for me, as my feeling about coffee is that it exists solely as a vehicle for cream and sugar.  My (former) order at Dunkin’ Donuts:  a medium decaf, light and 2 sugars.  Oh, I miss those days.

So take that, triglycerides.  You can mess with my coffee.  But you are NOT taking my wine!