It’s the most wonderful time of the year! A season for family, friends, and a never-ending supply of big meals, sweet treats, and delicious drinks. While I am a firm believer in enjoying all foods in moderation—especially around the holidays—being mindful this time of the year is key.
Many people brush aside the weight gain during the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, but these added pounds can become a problem. On Christmas Day alone, research has found the average person consumes up to 7,000 calories! Those calories aren't just coming from food. When you factor in drinks—whether it’s eggnog, hot chocolate, or cider—that's at least 100–400 calories.
To avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain, let’s take a look at healthy alternatives to your favorite hot beverages.
This beverage takes me back to chilly winter days spent outside with my family. Frozen fingers and toes would bring us inside to a warm mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows.
The traditional version of this drink uses whole milk, cream, and lots of sugar, which can pack on the calories and fat. Try this delicious and healthier, dairy-free recipe, or come up with your own take on this cold weather classic using these substitutions:
- Use a plant-based milk instead of cow’s milk. While almond, cashew, or soy milk may be lower in protein, they are also lower in calories and offer a creamier consistency that fat-free cow’s milk lacks. An added bonus is that they are full of antioxidants and made with heart-healthy fats.
- Choose your chocolate wisely. You can go with either an unsweetened cocoa powder or solid chocolate. If using powdered cocoa, be sure that it’s made with cacao instead of Dutch cocoa. “Dutching” removes antioxidants that are naturally found in cocoa. If you decide to go with solid chocolate, look for one that is darker or has a larger amount of cacao in it. Anything labeled with 65% or higher cacao is a great choice!
- Use a natural sweetener. Traditional hot chocolate mixes often contain refined sugars, corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners. Instead, try adding a small amount of maple syrup, honey, agave, or turbinado raw sugar for a little extra sweetness to cut through the bitter taste of unsweetened chocolate.
- Add spices. Spice up your hot chocolate with cinnamon, vanilla, peppermint extract, or a blend like pumpkin pie spice. It’s a natural and fun way to add extra flavor to an already delicious treat.
If you tried Lindsey Joe’s healthy take on a Pumpkin Spice Latte and were left wanting more, then this recipe is for you! This gingerbread latte combines all the delicious and rich flavors of the season without any of the guilt. Skim milk, maple syrup, vanilla, and a collection of warm spices come together perfectly to satisfy your holiday drink fix.
Ah, eggnog. Another "love it or hate it" holiday drink. I was once one of those people who couldn’t wait for eggnog to appear at the grocery store. I used to love it so much as a child that my mom eventually had to put a limit on how many glasses I drank because I would go through a whole carton on my own!
It’s important to not make this a habit, since eggnog can pack up to 400 calories per cup. If it is one of your favorite holiday drinks, try these healthier suggestions:
- Light vanilla eggnog floats. Traditional eggnog is very high in calories and saturated fat, which come from using whole milk or cream as the base in addition to excessive added sugars. Instead, use fat-free or low-fat cow’s milk, or use a plant-based milk like almond or cashew as the creamy base to keep calories and fat lower.
Another typical ingredient, raw eggs, can also be troublesome for people. This recipe uses pasteurized eggs, which you can often find at the grocery store. You can also use liquid eggs, found in cartons near the whole eggs, which are pasteurized as well. If you are unable to find either of these, the recipe gives you an alternative way to properly cook the eggs with the milk.
- Try a plant-based, pre-made eggnog found in stores. With half the calories, fat, and sugar, these substitutes are sure to please. Silk Nog, made with soy milk, is a delicious alternative, as well as the Califia Farms Holiday Nog, made with almond milk. Those two are my go-to replacements when I find myself having a craving!
- Watch your portion size. If none of these options appeal to you, then just be sure to watch your portion size. The serving size is only a half cup, so use a smaller cup when pouring yourself a glass, or measure it out to keep yourself from going overboard.
Making your own apple cider is surprisingly easy and much healthier than the store-bought version. Naturally sweetened by seasonal apples, a drizzle of maple syrup, and the addition of one or two cinnamon sticks, homemade apple cider is the perfect drink for a chilly evening. Since the recipe does require additional time for the apples to break down, we recommend using a crockpot.
Hungry for more?
Check out 2 Easy, Healthy Holiday Delights and 5 Gluten-Free Holiday Recipes. You can also learn more about nutrition counseling offered by our experienced team of RDs at a Y near you. Let us help you reach your wellness goals!