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Highlights | More sugar than coffee

  • Holiday drinks often have double the amount of daily recommended sugar servings.
  • Think of your holiday drink as a treat rather than just a drink.
  • Plan ahead to keep from overindulging.

It’s the holiday season. And we all have favorite treats and traditions that we look forward to indulging in.

Maybe it’s warming up with a salted caramel hot cocoa after a long day of skiing, enjoying an eggnog latte while you do your holiday shopping or sipping a peppermint mocha at your favorite coffee shop.

But perhaps you’ve gotten in the habit of ordering one of these holiday drinks every morning on your way to work to curb a little bit of the holiday stress. Turns out, that might not be the best idea.

Fancy coffee drinks are loaded with sugar

The fact is, these comforting holiday drinks are sneaky.

One sip and you are enjoying a cup of holiday cheer. The next, you are doubling the recommended sugar intake for a day with just one drink.

“Some drinks are close to 400 calories for a grande-sized drink, which for a typical female, is a meal — that’s breakfast,” says Vanessa Imus, a registered dietitian who sees patients at the UW Medicine Weight Loss Management Center. “So you really need to think, OK, what’s going to fill me up and what’s going to give me nutrition, and what’s going to get me through the day, because 400 calories of sugar is probably not going to do it.”

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day for women and 9 teaspoons for men. When we talk about sugar intake, we are talking about added sugars. Think caramel drizzle, pumps of peppermint and chocolate syrups, and pillows of whipped cream, aka the “-oses”: fructose, glucose, dextrose, etc. — not the natural sugar you find in a piece of fruit.

“One thing people can do is think of it like this: This is a treat. This isn’t a drink,” says Imus.

Plan ahead to party on

Imus suggests planning ahead for holiday parties. If you know there will be a hot chocolate bar or an open bar, make a plan on how you want to spend your added-sugar bank.

“Be mindful of what you’re doing. Be mindful of the choices you make. Be mindful of when you go out and when you go to a party,” says Imus. “Think about things ahead of time instead of acting impulsively.”

Rather than being blindsided at brunch by their featured gingerbread latte or by a holiday party serving spiked eggnog and Irish coffee, you can find sweet success in planning ahead and avoiding sneaky sugar setbacks.


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