EWG News and Analysis
The latest from EWG’s staff of experts >>
Easy Tips for Healthier Holiday Beverages
'Tis the season for hot holiday beverages.
Hot chocolate, apple cider and other warm, comforting drinks are popular with kids and parents alike. But these treats can pack a ton of calories and sugar. And children easily fill up on these drinks, crowding out stomach space better filled by nutritious foods at mealtime.
Here’s how to have fun and indulge this holiday season without sacrificing your health.
Order a smaller size. When buying a drink, request a small or children’s size for both kids and adults. A large Dunkin' Donuts hot chocolate contains 460 calories and a whopping 63 grams of sugar. Order a small and those numbers drop to 220 calories and 30 grams of sugar. Your guilty pleasure just got a little less guilty.
Choose your milk. Some cafés pour rich, creamy whole milk unless you request otherwise. You can easily cut back on calories and saturated fat without losing flavor by choosing low or nonfat milk, or a non-dairy milk such as almond or soy. By switching from whole milk to nonfat, a 12-ounce hot chocolate at Peet’s Coffee & Tea drops from 255 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat to 185 calories and no saturated fat.
Drink tea. Warm up from the inside with healthy and flavorful tea. Holiday favorites include peppermint and cinnamon, which studies indicate might help lower blood sugar. Garnish cinnamon tea with a slice of orange for a zesty treat. You can also try popular holiday blends, but watch out for caffeine when giving tea to kids.
Go easy on toppings. Adding whipped cream to your Starbucks caramel apple cider can tack on as much as 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 80 calories. Turning your Starbucks hot chocolate into a peppermint hot chocolate can add as many as 22 grams of sugar. To enhance the flavor in your holiday beverage, skip whipped cream and sugary syrups and choose healthier flavor additions like cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla or peppermint extract.
Make it yourself. Parents can serve their families the healthiest versions of these beverages at home. Offer kids a demitasse cup instead of a mug, pour lowfat or nonfat organic milk, dilute cider with water and look in your spice cabinet for fun, nutritious flavors. (Try chili powder for a new kick; recipe below).
Make your cocoa less sweet by using unsweetened cocoa powder instead of powdered hot chocolate. (You can search for healthier cocoa options using EWG’s Food Scores database). Swirl apple cider with a cinnamon stick rather than a drizzle of caramel.
Here are some recipes to try at home:
Take it to go. Carry your warm beverage with you during a brisk family walk, building a snowman or ice skating. Exercise helps burn calories, improve your overall health and enjoy the company of loved ones.
Enjoy sweet drinks on special occasions. Count these sweet beverages among the cookies, cakes, pies and other treats your family enjoys only on special occasions. Talk to your kids about the importance of good nutrition, practice what you preach, and enjoy these holiday beverages as a delicious but infrequent indulgence.