Everyone knows that the holiday season is the season of overeating, which can put you at risk of piling on the pounds. One thing you might not realize? You’re probably drinking a ton of your calories.
We get it: you look forward to cocktails and warm, chocolate-y drinks all winter, and indulging in one every once in a while is totally fine. But drinking too much of these sugary calorie bombs can wreak havoc on your body, especially once the holiday cheer dies down and January rolls around. Here are five drinks that tend to be loaded with empty calories and the smarter options to reach for instead.
There’s a reason why you feel like you ate a full meal after drinking a glass of eggnog. With ingredients like egg yolks, heavy cream, and sugar, eggnog is worse for you than most foods on the holiday table.
“Most eggnogs pack a powerful combination of fats and sugars in liquid form, so I’d recommend treating those beverages as a dessert,” says Shannon A. Garcia, M.D.S., R.D. Even if you opt for the low-fat organic cartons, you’ll still be downing 20 grams of sugar per half cup.
Try this: “To have more room to enjoy your dinner and dessert, stick with clear cocktails that are made with only one to two ingredients, like champagne or Prosecco,” suggests NYC-based dietitian Chelsey Amer, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N.
We know you only drink mulled wine once a year, but it’s loaded with the sweet stuff. Plus, the combination of red wine and sugar is the perfect recipe for a killer hangover.
Try this: “To still enjoy a fun holiday cocktail, without a sugar hangover, I recommend making holiday sangria with red wine, club soda, sliced citrus, cranberries, and a few aromatic spices,” says Amer.
However, if you look forward to mulled wine all year long, Abbie Gellman, M.S., R.D. suggests making it with just a touch of honey and loading up on the aromatic spices. It will deliver huge flavor without all the calories.
Maybe you’re spending your holiday someplace tropical, where winter-themed frozen margaritas are on the menu. Not only are margaritas packed with sugar and artificial flavors, but they’re also usually the size of two normal drinks, which is a recipe for overindulgence.
Try this: “Instead of ordering a margarita that comes from a sugary mix, ask for a freshly made variety with good tequila, lots of fresh lime juice and a small hit of simple syrup,” suggests Sara Haas R.D.N., L.D.N. Feel free to throw in some muddled winter fruit, like cranberries or pomegranate arils, and don’t forget the salt!
HOT BUTTERED RUM
The thing that makes this holiday drink taste so good is, unsurprisingly, butter, and lots of it. Standard recipes for this classic hot drink call for an entire stick of butter, or the same amount used in a batch of chocolate chip cookies.
Try this: If you really want to treat yourself to hot buttered rum, Gellman suggests cutting the butter way back to one or two tablespoons. Amp up the warming spices, like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, and add in a little apple cider to cut back on the calories, she adds. You can also try a hot toddy, which has very similar flavors.
This drink is essentially more dessert than cocktail. Many recipes call for some sort of creamy liqueur or even ice cream, both of which are loaded with sugar and calories.
Try this: The baseline flavor of this cocktail is, quite simply, ginger. Luckily, you can get the same taste from a classic Moscow mule. Traditionally made with vodka, lime, and ginger beer, a Moscow mule has fewer ingredients and calories than anything with ‘gingerbread’ in the name. It’s also much easier to whip up and won’t put you in a sugar coma.
By Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D.