Ask Mickey: Fears for Cheers — Navigating Holiday Beverages

How can I enjoy some of my favorite holiday drinks without overdoing the calories?

From holiday parties and family celebrations to shopping trips and end-of-semester traditions, the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s can feel like one marathon celebration. Pair that with all of the tempting holiday foods and drinks that are everywhere you turn, and it’s easy to see how the average American gains between one to five pounds during the holiday season – many of which unfortunately will stick around after the ball drops on 2015.

Staying healthy and feeling good during the holidays means choosing your indulgences wisely and making time to stay active through this busy season. While the department cookie exchange may play a role in packing on the pounds, what you are drinking can also contributes to weight gain. Whether you choose to consume alcohol or not, many typical holiday beverages can have an impact on your well-being. A 16-ounce peppermint mocha from your local coffee shop can clock in at almost 500 calories and 54 grams (13.5 teaspoons) of sugar, more than twice the recommended daily maximum of added sugars for women and 1.5 times the max for men, according to the American Heart Association. One cup of eggnog without liquor will set you back 350 calories and 21 grams (5 teaspoons) of sugar (425 calories if spiked with  a shot of rum), while a 12 ounce cup of hot chocolate from a coffee shop is around 350 calories and 34 grams (8.5 teaspoons) of sugar.

So, how do you stop fearing the sound of “Cheers!”? You can still enjoy all of the flavors the holiday season while keeping calories under control with a few strategies:

  1. Plan your indulgences in advance. Going to a holiday party tonight? Skip your daily latte break with your office buddy or roommate. Use this strategy with food too. Choose the cocktail or dessert, not both.
  2. Be picky and splurge only when it’s really worth it. If you can’t imagine the holidays without a cup of your aunt’s eggnog, wait until you are with her, and savor just one. Same goes for those coffee-bar drinks. Make a date with a friend or family member to catch up over your favorite coffee shop’s peppermint hot chocolate, or treat yourself when all of your holiday shopping is done. Don’t order one every chance you get between now and January 1st.
  3. Enjoy the flavor without the calories. Instead of ordering a gingerbread latte, brew your own gingerbread-flavored coffee, or enjoy a seasonal flavored tea with a little steamed milk. Buy eggnog flavored almond milk to “spike” your morning coffee.
  4. Sip water in between other beverage options. Whether you’re drinking wine or a mocktail, sip water or seltzer in between each drink to stay hydrated and keep calories in check.
  5. Skip the sugary cocktails. Wine (125 calories per 5-ounce pour), light beer (100 calories per 12-ounce glass) or a simple vodka with soda water and a lime (70 calories per 1oz of vodka) are your lowest calorie options. Drinks filled with juices, sodas, added sugars (in any form), cream, or multiple liquors can be calorie bombs at up to 500 calories per 8oz.
  6. Make a lighter version of your favorite drink to bring to the party. Try out one of these recipes for holiday cocktails and mocktails.

Most importantly, remember that while food and drinks are the center of many gatherings, the holidays are about spending time with family and friends. Cheers to a happy and healthy holiday season!


12-3790_bamco_askmickey_web-157x300About Ask Mickey: At Bon Appétit, we know there’s a lot on your plate that you worry about. Making good food choices helps you avoid unwanted pounds, work or study (and sleep!) better, and form long-lasting healthy eating habits. In the Ask Mickey column, Bon Appétit Management Company registered dietitian nutritionists offer tips on “chewing the right thing” and answer your nutrition questions. (Mickey, aka Michelina, is a particular feisty Italian grandmother who continues to inspire us.) Email your questions and feedback to [email protected].