Here’s to the Holidays: A Toast to Healthier Drinks

fancy hot chocolateYou’ll probably have extra opportunities for special meals and party fare during the holiday season, and with every party plate comes the chance for a tasty drink, too.

This season, lunch dates can lead to creamy lattes, and after-work gatherings bring after-hours cocktails. We share tips for toasting them all with an eye on wellness!

Warm Drinks on Chilly Days

It’s the time of year for coffee drinks and spiced teas—the perfect antidote to the cold winds of winter or dreary gray skies. When you’re in the mood for something warm and yummy, here are the kinds of drinks to watch out for and some healthier choices you can make.

Flavored Lattes and Coffees: There are so many options for creamy coffee drinks, topped with whipped cream, that taste a lot like pie. The typical 16 oz. variety of pumpkin spice latte made with 2% milk comes in at 380 calories with 49 g of sugar! And a café mocha of the same size is only slightly less in all the key numbers. A large one gets you easily up near 500 calories, close to the intake of a breakfast or lunch for some women.

Healthier Choices: If you’re watching fat, get it made with skim and skip the whipped cream. Cut back on carbs and sugar by ordering “skinny” so they’ll use sugar free syrup. But the best bet is to drink straight up coffee, maybe with a bit of cream or whipped cream. If you want to make it extra festive, sprinkle on cinnamon or cocoa.

Chai Tea and Spiced Cider: A lot of us like that spiced flavor that comes with holiday treats, including ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. These are included in the beverage flavors for spiced apple cider and chai tea, popular choices at this time of year. If you get your chai tea made into a creamy latte, you’re adding fat, sugar and calories just like you are with a coffee latte, above. And cider, even though it’s made with apples, is pretty much all sugar as well.

Healthier Choices: The best choices for these flavors are regular teas with the chai or spiced flavors you love, brewed, without all the sugar or other additions. You can choose chai tea bags, cinnamon, or even Earl Gray, which includes bergamot, and add a bit of honey and orange for that exotic flavor you love.

Smart Substitutes at Cocktail Time

Whether or not you indulge in cocktails on a regular basis, you might find yourself served a few extra glasses of wine, craft beers, or special mixed drinks over the next couple of weeks. You want to be careful with the extra intake of calories and carbs, so follow these suggestions about common cocktails and healthier choices.

Beer and Wine: Many people are under the misconception that these are milder choices, but you’ll be packing in just as much alcohol, and as many or more calories, carbs and sugar grams, if you choose beer or wine over hard liquor. That’s about 120 per serving. It’s important to note that a serving of wine is a 5 oz. pour, too. Some wine glasses tend to be much larger than that.

Healthier Choices: Red wine actually has some health benefits, in moderation. If you enjoy it, it’s a decent choice. A wise strategy to limit the number of drinks you have for any occasion is to alternate each one with a glass of water. It will fill you up and slow you down, perhaps cutting your alcohol intake in half, painlessly.

pretty red cocktails

Mixed Drinks and Martinis: Hard liquor, like vodka, gin, whiskey or rum, is all about the same if you’re looking at its impact on your diet and your health. It’s not a great addition to any nutritional plan, but it tends to sneak into your special occasions if you are a social drinker. A typical mixed drink shot of 1.5 oz. delivers about 100 calories. Add to that whatever you mix it with. Beware, then, of juice or colas.

Healthier Choices: Drinking your alcohol neat or straight up, like a martini, saves you calories, and will likely go down slow unless you’re a seasoned drinker. Mixing it with water or seltzer dilutes it and makes it last even longer.

Blended Drinks: This is typically the most “dangerous” category when it comes to counting calories, fat grams or carbs. Blended drinks include daiquiris, margaritas, sours, and creamy cocktails like the amazing Brandy Alexander. All of these kinds of selections add mixers like juice or cream on top of the alcohol that is already present in the cocktail. A jumbo frozen margarita can be well over 600 calories of sugary boozy slush.

Healthier Choices: Your best bet in this category is to have just one—it’s probably big, and might even be frozen, so sip it slowly and consider it dessert!

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