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Think before you drink: Choose holiday beverages wisely to avoid too much sugar


December 5, 2021

Watch out for those calories in drinks this holiday season and minimize your sugar intake.


The festive holidays at the end of the year are full of traditional seasonal beverages (egg nog!), and the calendar fills with parties and events where alcohol is served. Approaching this holiday season, be aware of the drinks you consume. Calories sneak into beverages such as alcohol, soda, sweetened tea and even coffee drinks. (This is good to pay attention to all year, actually  — many favorite Southern drinks come loaded with added sugar.) Watch those calories in drinks you consume this season!

Instead of guzzling those empty calories, think before you drink! Keep this list of sugar and calorie counts in mind when deciding whether to indulge:

  • 1 cup of eggnog: 343 calories, 21 grams of sugar
  • 12 ounces of rum and Coke: 160 calories, 30 grams of sugar
  • 5 ounces of sweet, dessert wine: 237 calories, 12 grams of sugar
  • Grande pumpkin spice latte: 380 calories, 50 grams of sugar
  • 1 cup of hot chocolate: 200 calories, 24 grams of sugar

To avoid taking in too many calories from drinks, look for lighter substitutions that can satisfy your cravings. Here are some strategies:

  • Enhance the flavor of water by infusing it with fresh fruit.
  • Replace sweetened drinks with water when dining out at restaurants.
  • Add fizz to your wine by combining 1 part wine with 2 parts sparkling water.
  • Choose low-fat or skim milk instead of whole milk in specialty coffee drinks.
  • Leave off the whipped cream.

If you’re drinking alcohol, it’s smart to alternate big glasses of water with your wine or booze. This not only cuts your calories but keeps you hydrated and reduces the amount of alcohol you consume. Another advantage to cutting back on alcohol, besides saving calories, is avoiding a hangover the next day (read here for guidance on whether you’re drinking too much). If plain water doesn’t feel festive enough for a holiday occasion, though, try one of these alcohol-free “mocktails” instead. They’re a lower-calorie, lower-sugar way to enjoy a party but still feel well in the morning.

Source: Health Plus. Health Plus provides resources to support the health of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s faculty and staff.