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The Best and Worst Seasonal Drinks

Peppermint, pumpkin spice, eggnog, oh my! ‘Tis the season for hot frothy drinks in cozy cafés and holiday cheers with friends and family. Though there’s nothing wrong with a little merrymaking, our favorite seasonal drinks can add hundreds of extra calories, added sugars and unhealthful fats to an already hefty holiday load.

We’ve rated the best and worst holiday drinks so you can fully enjoy your celebrations in moderation. As always, make sure to be mindful of portion sizes, sticking to 4–6 ounce servings when it comes to holiday beverages. And remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and satisfied.

Peppermint Mocha

Worst: Just one 16-ounce (medium) serving of peppermint mocha made with whole milk and topped with whipped cream packs 470 calories, 19 grams of fat (11 of which are saturated fats) and 54 grams of sugar.    

Better: If you’re really craving a peppermint mocha, order an 8-ounce (small) with nonfat milk and hold the whip. One 8-ounce serving has 160 calories, 1.5 grams of fat and 26 grams of sugar.

Best: If you’re a peppermint fanatic, try a cup of plain peppermint tea with your sweetener of choice. It’s a hydrating way to warm your winter afternoons.

Eggnog

Worst: You rarely see eggnog outside of December, but it’s still important to know the facts: 8 ounces (1 cup) of traditional eggnog has approximately 356 calories, 17.8 grams of fat (with almost 50 percent of your daily saturated fat limit) and 41.5 grams of sugar — that’s 10.4 teaspoons in just one cup!  

Better: If you’re an eggnog fanatic, you’re in luck — there are many light versions of eggnog on the market that tend to be lower in calories and saturated fat. Unfortunately, even the light varieties are packed with sugar, so stick to a 4–6-ounce serving, or about half a cup.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Worst: The aroma of sweet pumpkin spice lattes is hard to ignore, but a typical serving is jam-packed with not-so-sweet nutrition: a 16-ounce (medium) serving made with whole milk and whipped cream has 420 calories, 50 percent of your daily maximum for saturated fat and 50 grams of sugar (more than a can of Coke!).

Better: Lighten the load by ordering an 8-ounce cup made with nonfat milk and hold the whipped cream. You’ll save 290 calories, 10 grams of saturated fat and 26 grams of sugar.

Best: If you love hot spiced drinks, opt for a soothing cup of unsweetened spiced chai tea. It’s calorie-free, hydrating and just as flavorful.

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

Worst: Good old hot cocoa has gone through a major transformation in recent years, and not exactly for the better. With sugary ingredients such as caramel, mocha and toffee syrups, an otherwise moderate choice can be quite the calorie and sugar bomb. One 16-ounce (medium) cup of salted caramel hot chocolate can pack nearly 500 calories, 60 percent of your daily limit for saturated fat and 65 grams of sugar!  

Better: Stick to the classic — a small, 8-ounce hot chocolate made with nonfat milk is only 140 calories with 1 gram of saturated fat and 23 grams of sugar.

Best: Take it one step further for an even healthier cup of cocoa by making it at home. Steam a low-fat milk of your choice with unsweetened cacao, cinnamon and a little bit of sugar if desired.

Hot Buttered Rum

Worst: If you’ve ever wondered what’s in buttered rum, it’s just like it sounds: butter, rum, sugar and some spices. The result is very high in calories, added sugars and saturated fats. Depending on the recipe, one serving of buttered rum can contain up to 480 calories, 70 percent of your saturated fat limit and 70 grams of sugar. For some of us, that’s close to an entire meal’s worth of energy!

Better: If you’re in the mood for something hot with a twist, try a lower-calorie hot toddy with rum, a cup of hot water, a twist of lemon, spices and a bit of honey. One serving has just over 100 calories with 0 grams of fat and 12 grams of sugar or less, depending on how much honey you add.

Caramel Apple Spice

Worst: A hot caramel apple spice may sound like a balanced choice from the name, but it’s not much better than its other frothy counterparts: one 16-ounce serving with whip contains 380 calories, 5 grams of saturated fats and 71 grams of sugar.  

Better: Enjoy a plain hot apple cider instead. It will do the trick just the same, and 6 ounces contain only 90 calories, 0 grams of fat and 22.5 grams of sugar. Don’t like it hot? A chilled sparkling cider is also a balanced holiday choice with 107 calories per 6-ounce serving.

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