From mugs of marshmallow-topped hot cocoa to frosty, creamy eggnog, decadent, sugar- and cream-packed beverages are ubiquitous during the holidays. While you don’t have to turn down all of your favorites, you can make smart swaps to avoid calorie-bomb beverages that will sabotage your weight-loss or weight-maintenance goals.
Here are seven holiday beverage swaps to help you enjoy the season’s cheer, without the extra calories.
ORIGINAL: CHAI LATTE
SWAP: TURMERIC GOLDEN MILK
Masala Chai tea, made with warming spices, black tea, milk and sugar, has been consumed in India since the 1800s, when the British began building tea plantations in Assam. Today, the chai served at many chain coffee houses is not the same. It’s usually super sweet and made with heavy milk, making this a calorie-bomb. A comparable substitute is a turmeric tea latte (aptly named golden milk), made with fresh turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper. Turmeric is lauded for its anti-inflammatory properties, ability to aid digestion and has also been said to fight liver disease.
Recipe: Golden Milk Turmeric Latte
ORIGINAL: HOT CHOCOLATE
SWAP: HOT RAW CACAO
Hot chocolate is a classic cold-weather treat, but is often loaded with sugar and fat. Omitting whipped cream and opting for lower-fat milk is a start, but choosing raw cacao instead of processed cocoa can also provide some nutritional benefits. Made by cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans, raw cacao powder is higher in antioxidants than traditional cocoa, and also contains flavanols associated with elevated mood and cognitive function.
Recipe: Maca Cacao Hot Chocolate
ORIGINAL: EGG NOG
SWAP: HONEY STEAMER
Eggnog is synonymous with the holidays, but it gets nearly half its calories from fat and 39% of its calories from carbohydrates — mostly in the form of sugar. Traditional eggnog is often spiked with alcohol, which means even more empty calories. Instead, enjoy the comforts of a decadent drink by trying a honey steamer, which combines high-quality honey with the milk of your choice. A natural energy booster and source of antioxidants, honey is believed to help prevent heart disease and aid in boosting immunity.
Recipe: Steamed Almond Milk and Honey
ORIGINAL: CAFE LATTE
SWAP: ROOIBOS TEA LATTE
Even though they’re creamy and comforting, the amount of calories in a cafe latte can sabotage your daily calorie limit. Naturally caffeine-free Rooibos (also known as Red Bush) makes an excellent stand-in for coffee, especially for those who are caffeine-sensitive. This South African tea has gained popularity worldwide for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties, and its full-bodied, earthy flavor holds up well to a splash of milk.
Recipe: Vanilla Rooibos Latte
READ MORE > 5 COCKTAIL HACKS FOR HEALTHIER HOLIDAY DRINKS
ORIGINAL: GIN AND TONIC
A standard gin and tonic is a popular party cocktail, but watch out: tonic is deceptively caloric, bringing your cocktail to about 150 calories per serving. A 4-ounce pour of Champagne is just 90 calories, and the bubbles slow down consumption so you’ll sip instead of chug. Steer clear of sweeter sparklers like Moscato d’Asti and choose a “brut” or “zero dosage” sparkling instead, as they have the least amount of sugar.
ORIGINAL: CLASSIC HOT BUTTERED RUM
SWAP: LOW-SUGAR HOT BUTTERED RUM
With warming notes of allspice, clove and cinnamon, there’s nothing quite like a hot buttered rum on a cold winter night. If you’re looking for the satisfaction of this buttery beverage without all the calories, leave out the brown sugar and swap in sweeteners made from dates or maple syrup.
Recipe: Paleo-Friendly Hot Buttered Rum
ORIGINAL: CARAMEL APPLE CIDER
SWAP: HOT APPLE CIDER WITH BENEFITS
Caramel apple cider is a seasonal icon for good reason, but is that caramel really necessary? Sans caramel, a simple spiced apple cider is one of the least offensive holiday beverages when it comes to fat and calories, as long as you stick to a version that doesn’t call for added sweeteners. Even better, use a recipe that calls for gut-friendly apple cider vinegar or adds spices with superfood benefits. Cardamom, cinnamon, clove and ginger, in particular, are complementary spices that have been linked to cancer prevention.