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Yes, holiday coffees are sugar bombs

By The Health News Team | December 16, 2019
Yes, holiday coffees are sugar bombs

Let’s face it: you don’t drink a pumpkin spice latte for the pick-me-up. You drink it because it’s warm, it’s creamy and it fills you with holiday spirit.

Warm drinks from your favorite coffeehouse, such as peppermint hot chocolate or an eggnog latte, are holiday must-haves and pair perfectly with family get-togethers and ugly sweaters.

However, these festive drinks are loaded with sugar.

“Almost half of the added sugars in our diets come from beverages and the holidays are no exception,” says Melissa Hughes, a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified wellness and health coach, and program manager for the Sharp Rees-Stealy Center for Health Management. “Holiday coffees are more like dessert than coffee. While all of these seasonal favorites may warm you up at first, they’ll most likely leave you feeling weighed down and craving more.”

Sugar content of holiday drinks
To get an idea of sugar levels, we picked a few popular chains and looked at the nutritional information of some of our favorite holiday beverages. Here’s what we found for a 16-ounce drink … and this is without a dollop of whipped cream:

  • Peppermint Hot Chocolate: 61 grams (about 15 teaspoons)

  • Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate: 65 grams (about 16 teaspoons)

  • Eggnog Latte: 52 grams (about 13 teaspoons)

  • Caramel Brulee Latte: 47 grams (about 12 teaspoons)

  • Chestnut Praline Latte: 39 grams (about 10 teaspoons)

  • Cinnamon Dolce Latte: 41 grams (about 10 teaspoons)

  • Peppermint Mocha: 54 grams (about 14 teaspoons)

  • Salted Caramel Mocha: 59 grams (about 15 teaspoons)

  • White Chocolate Mocha: 53 grams (about 13 teaspoons)

  • Caramel Apple Spice Cider: 71 grams (about 18 teaspoons)

If these numbers don’t grab you, consider this: The suggested maximum allowance of sugar, per day, is 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men.

In general, Americans consume too much sugar. Studies show that we’re consuming an average of three times the recommended daily allowance. That equals about 22 teaspoons per day. So that salted caramel mocha you’re sipping? It’s blowing your daily sugar intake out of the water — with just one drink.

Should festive drinks be banned for life?
There’s no reason to deny yourself an occasional holiday treat. However, there are ways to be smart about it.

To help you keep your sugar intake under control while still celebrating the season, Hughes offers these five tips:

  1. Practice moderation.
    Don’t completely deprive yourself of festive drinks. Instead, focus on portion size and frequency. Opt for the smallest size offered and limit yourself to just a few holiday beverages throughout the season as a special treat rather than a regular indulgence.

  2. Drink mindfully.
    Slow down and take note of the aromas and flavors you enjoy in every sip. Savor the moment, the company and your surroundings as you savor your holiday beverage to make it a special experience.

  3. Be choosy.
    Even the biggest beverage chains have drinks that won’t tip the sugar scale. Unsweetened tea and regular coffee leave you in control of how much sugar to add. Skip the whipped cream and ask for fewer pumps of sugary flavored syrups or replace them with sugar-free versions to add sweetness and flavor without all the extra calories.

  4. Try DIY.
    We know, it’s not quite the same when you make it at home, but there are good recipes to try. Brewing your own coffee lets you choose your own sugar level. Decrease the amount of sugar and add spices — cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg — or flavorings, such as vanilla or almond extract, to enhance your drink.

  5. Stay active.
    Finding ways to stay active during the holidays has many benefits. For one, it is a great way to burn those extra calories you may be consuming. It also boosts energy levels and helps to reduce the stress and anxiety that often increases this time of year.

“Eat mindfully, practice moderation and stay active during the holiday season,” says Hughes. “This allows you to enjoy your favorite indulgences without negatively impacting your wellness goals.”

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