Is Ovaltine low in sugar?

Ovaltine is a popular malt powder drink mix that has been around for over 100 years. With its rich chocolate flavor, Ovaltine has long been a bedtime treat for children and adults alike. However, in today’s health-conscious world, many people are concerned about the sugar content in the foods and drinks they consume. So an important question arises: is Ovaltine actually low in sugar compared to other chocolate drink mixes and beverages?

What is Ovaltine?

Ovaltine is a brand of milk flavoring product made with malt powder. It was developed in Switzerland in 1904 and brought to the United Kingdom in 1909. The name Ovaltine is believed to have come from the abbreviation OV, which stands for “oval” and alludes to the original oval-shaped malt extract product, and tine, which is an English variant of the Latin word for linseed (literally “tiny”) which was one of Ovaltine’s original ingredients.

The original Ovaltine formula was a nutritional powerhouse, including things like:

– Malted barley
– Dried milk solids
– Cocoa
– Whey
– Eggs
– Malt extract

This nutritious combination made Ovaltine popular as a restorative health drink, especially for sickly children and the elderly. It was even advertised as being more nutritious than coffee or tea and taken as a meal replacement by some.

Today’s Ovaltine in the U.S. no longer contains eggs or whey, but is still made with barley malt, milk, and chocolate or cocoa. The barley malt gives it a unique taste and sweetness. Ovaltine comes in chocolate, chocolate malt, and rich chocolate flavors. It is commonly mixed with milk but can also be made with hot water.

Nutritional Profile of Ovaltine

The nutritional profile of Ovaltine gives us clues into its sugar content.

According to the nutritional label, a serving of Ovaltine contains:

– Calories: 100
– Total fat: 1g
– Sodium: 160mg
– Potassium: 70mg
– Total carbs: 23g
– Dietary fiber: 1g
– Sugars: 13g
– Protein: 3g

So in a single serving of Ovaltine there are 13 grams of sugar.

To put this in context, the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar intake to no more than 24 grams or 6 teaspoons for women and 36 grams or 9 teaspoons for men each day.

Thirteen grams of sugar is equal to about 3 teaspoons of sugar. So Ovaltine supplies almost half the recommended daily added sugar intake for women in just one serving. That’s a significant amount from a single drink!

Sugar Content Compared to Other Drinks

How does Ovaltine’s 13 grams of sugar stack up against other popular chocolate drinks mixes and beverages?

Here’s a comparison:

Drink Serving Size Total Sugars
Ovaltine (chocolate malt) 1 oz (28g) 13g
Nesquik Powder 2 tbsp (28g) 16g
Milo Powder 1 oz (28g) 12g
Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa Mix 1 packet (26g) 14g
Hershey’s Hot Cocoa Mix 1 packet (26g) 15g
Starbucks Hot Chocolate 12 fl oz (grande) 25g
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar 1.55 oz 24g

As you can see, Ovaltine has a similar sugar content to most other chocolate drink mixes. It actually contains slightly less sugar per serving than Nesquik or Swiss Miss.

However, Ovaltine still contains more sugar than many people would expect from a “health drink”. It has nearly as much sugar as chocolate milk (13g vs. 18g per 8oz) and 2/3 the amount in a 12oz can of Coke (39g).

Compared to solid chocolate like a Hershey’s bar, Ovaltine fares better but a 1.55oz chocolate bar still packs 24g sugar compared to Ovaltine’s 13g in a 1oz serving.

So while Ovaltine is not an egregiously high source of added sugar, it supplies a considerable amount from a single serving. The sugar in Ovaltine largely comes from the malt and cocoa.

Sugar Sources in Ovaltine

As mentioned, the sugar in Ovaltine comes primarily from two ingredients:

**Malt extract** – Malt extract is made by soaking malted grains like barley in hot water to extract the natural sugars. Malting grains converts their starch into maltose, a disaccharide sugar. Malt extract can contain up to 80% maltose.

**Cocoa** – Cocoa naturally contains some sugars as well, primarily sucrose, glucose, and fructose. Dutch processed cocoa contains very little sugar, while natural cocoa has not been treated to reduce the sugar content. Ovaltine likely uses a combination.

Other minor sources in Ovaltine’s total sugar content include:

– **Milk** – About 5% lactose sugar.
– **Natural flavors** – Can contain sugars.
– **Salt** – Often contains dextrose or other sugars.

So while Ovaltine does not have any artificial sweeteners or added table sugar (sucrose), the malt, cocoa, and other ingredients provide a significant amount of natural sugars adding up to 13g per serving.

Sugar Content of Different Flavors

Ovaltine comes in several flavor varieties that contain slightly different amounts of sugar:

– **Chocolate malt** – 13g sugar
– **Rich chocolate** – 12g sugar
– **Original** – 9g sugar
– **Vanilla** – 9g sugar

The chocolate flavors generally have 2-4 more grams of sugar than original or vanilla. This is likely due to the higher cocoa content in the chocolate Ovaltine. So if you are looking to limit sugar intake, the original or vanilla flavors are better options.

Ways to Reduce the Sugar in Ovaltine

If you enjoy Ovaltine but want to reduce the sugar content, there are a few easy ways to accomplish this:

– **Use less Ovaltine powder** – Instead of the usual heaping spoonful or two, use just one level scoop or tablespoon. This cuts the total sugar roughly in half.

– **Mix with unsweetened milk** – Choosing unsweetened almond or skim milk instead of sweetened milk avoids any added lactose sugars.

– **Add less sweetener** – If you normally add sugar or honey, cut back on the amount or eliminate it altogether.

– **Use sugar-free syrup** – Flavor it with a bit of sugar-free chocolate or caramel syrup instead of sugar.

– **Boost nutrition** – Add a spoonful of wheat germ or ground flaxseed to increase the fiber and nutritional value to help offset the sugar content.

– **Water it down** – For a lighter option, mix the Ovaltine with hot water instead of milk.

Is Ovaltine Considered Low Sugar?

Given its 13 grams of sugar per serving, Ovaltine would not be considered a low sugar drink by most standards.

To be labeled “low sugar” according to the FDA, a drink must contain:

– No more than 5g of sugar per serving

Some global health organizations like the WHO consider “low sugar” to be:

– No more than 5% of calories from sugar

So by these definitions, Ovaltine (23% of calories from sugar) would not qualify as low sugar.

However, Ovaltine does have less sugar than many other sweetened beverages. It could be considered “lower sugar” than soda, fruit juice, or chocolate syrup, for example. But there are many drinks with minimal added sugars that would be preferable from a sugar-control standpoint.

Health Impact of Ovaltine Sugar Content

13 grams of sugar in one drink may not seem like a lot, but regularly consuming sugar-sweetened beverages has been linked to negative health outcomes:

– **Weight gain** – The added calories from sugar can lead to obesity over time, especially in children.

– **Blood sugar issues** – Sugary drinks cause fast blood sugar spikes and can worsen insulin resistance.

– **Tooth decay** – The sugars interact with oral bacteria promoting cavities and tooth decay.

– **Inflammation** – Added sugars may trigger inflammatory pathways in the body.

– **Fatty liver disease** – Excess fructose can increase liver fat.

Some studies have found a correlation between sugary drink consumption and risk of heart disease, gout, cancer, and dementia, although more research is needed.

But overall, there is strong evidence that limiting sugary beverages and reducing added sugar intake provides health benefits and reduces risk of chronic disease.

So while the sugar in the occasional Ovaltine may not be detrimental, regularly drinking sugary Ovaltine multiple times a day could potentially impact health. Moderation is key.

Popularity Among Children

Ovaltine has traditionally been marketed toward children as a bedtime drink or snack. The rich chocolate taste appeals to kids’ palates.

However, some pediatricians warn parents to limit added sugar from a young age to build healthy lifelong eating habits. Childhood obesity remains a major public health concern.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

– Children under 2 should avoid any added sugars.
– Children 2-18 should limit added sugar to less than 6 teaspoons daily.

One serving of Ovaltine already provides 50% of this recommended daily added sugar max for kids. Drinking Ovaltine multiple times per week could easily put kids over the limit.

Of course, an occasional Ovaltine as a treat will not harm an otherwise healthy child. But regular daily consumption is not advised. There are lower sugar Ovaltine alternatives and healthier bedtime snacks to choose instead.

Alternatives to Ovaltine

For those looking to limit added sugars or follow a low-carb diet, there are several delicious alternatives to enjoy instead of sugary Ovaltine:

– **Sugar-free Ovaltine** – This provides the classic malty flavor without any added sugar. It’s sweetened with maltitol.

– **Unsweetened cocoa** – Mix with your milk of choice for a simple chocolate flavor.

– **Sugar-free chocolate syrup** – Adds chocolate taste without the added sugar.

– **Cacao powder** – Made from raw cacao beans, it is packed with antioxidants.

– **Yogurt parfaits** – Layer yogurt with nuts, seeds, coconut, fresh fruit, etc. for a protein-rich dessert.

– **Protein shakes** – Whip up a shake with nut butter, avocado, greens, protein powder, etc. for a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory beverage.

– **Herbal tea** – Soothing caffeine-free teas can promote relaxation before bed.

– **Tart cherry juice** – Provides melatonin to support sleep.

With a little creativity, you can find many nourishing low-sugar bedtime drink options the whole family will love.


Ovaltine delivers a whopping 50% of the recommended daily added sugar intake for children and adults in just one serving. With 13 grams of sugar coming from malt, cocoa, and other natural sources, Ovaltine would not be considered low in sugar by any definition.

Compared to chocolate bars and other sugary drinks, Ovaltine could be seen as a “better” option. But consuming it regularly, especially for children, may increase risk of obesity, blood sugar dysregulation, cavities, and other health conditions.

While the occasional Ovaltine as a treat or for nostalgia may be fine, daily consumption or using Ovaltine as a “health” food is not advisable, especially for diabetics or anyone watching their sugar intake. Luckily, there are many delicious lower sugar alternatives to enjoy at bedtime while still avoiding the high amounts of added sugar in Ovaltine.

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