As the days turn colder and winter is at its official start, the urge to warm our bodies with something rich, creamy and comforting can be strong....it's sometimes not always the best choice in the world in terms of our waistlines.
“With flavored drinks, the problem is the sugar,” explains Marissa Lippert, RD, author of The Cheater’s Diet. “At four to five pumps of syrup per drink, you can rack up anywhere from 150 to 300 extra liquid calories.” So before you unknowingly knock back a meal’s worth of calories, check out these 4 Unhealthy Seasonal Hot Beverages from Prevention Magazine, plus slimmed-down versions you can sip guilt-free.
Unhealthy Hot Chocolate: Starbucks White Hot Chocolate
You’re probably not expecting a light treat when you order hot chocolate anyway, but this frothy concoction is heavier than it appears. Order a whipped cream–topped grande made with 2% milk, and you’re guzzling your way to 490 calories and 65% of your saturated fat for the day, as well as more sugar than two Snickers candy bars.
Try this instead: Starbucks Hot Chocolate. Downsize to an 8-ounce serving, ask for skim milk and no whipped cream, and indulge in a chocolate treat that comes in under 200 calories. It will stomp out your chocolate craving for less than half the calories.
Unhealthy Seasonal Drink: Dunkin' Donuts Pumpkin Coffee With Cream
Yes, it tastes like fall, but in this case, you’re better off eating a slice of pumpkin pie than sipping this seemingly harmless coffee. Not only does a large pumpkin coffee with cream contain a whopping 330 calories, but the pumpkin syrup in the season hot beverage also contains a toothache-causing combination of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and brown sugar.
Try this instead: Small Dunkin’ Donuts Cinnamon Coffee. “Flavored coffees are great for saving calories,” says Lippert. For only 15 calories, you get spice-filled flavor guilt-free. Add a teaspoon of sugar, and you’re still right around 30 calories.
Unhealthy Caramel Drink: Au Bon Pain Caramel Macchiato
Macchiatos by themselves are a light blend of espresso and steamed milk. However, with the addition of a few caramel “dots,” this drink morphs into a full-blown dessert. A medium 16-ounce drink contains 430 calories and more sugar than three of Au Bon Pain’s white chocolate chunk macadamia nut cookies.
Try this instead: Au Bon Pain Medium Nonfat Latte With Whipped Cream. Even with the extra 20 calories from the whipped cream, this seasonal hot beverage is still less guilt-inducing than the macchiato.
Unhealthy Latte: McDonald's Nonfat Hazelnut Latte
We’ve already recommended choosing nonfat lattes over other coffee drinks, and with good reason—they’re typically right around 100 calories and contain 30% of your daily calcium. Unfortunately, this “light” latte from McDonald’s doesn’t meet the criteria. A medium nonfat hazelnut latte has a cringe-worthy 220 calories and 55 g of sugar.
Try this instead: McDonald’s Small Cappuccino. “Cappuccinos contain less milk, so you can splurge on full-fat milk,” says Lippert. This creamy drink is just 120 calories, but it’s rich enough to taste like a treat.
It's Not Necessarily All Bad
Research has found that certain hot beverages including coffee may not always be detrimental to your health. It is important to remember that not everything you heard about the positive effects is true.
Download your copy of "Coffee & Health: Fact or Fiction" from the good folks at The Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee.
Nutrition Information From: Prevention Magazine, December 2011