The Diet Detective: Winter Drinks and Their Calories

When you're battling the winter weather, you feel somewhat justified in drinking whatever you want. However, you may be surprised at the calorie costs for some common winter drinks. Take a peek and see if you can make the better choices--because when it comes down to staying fit, it's all about the "better" choices. 

Hot Chocolate vs. White Hot Chocolate vs. Dunkaccino

What is white hot chocolate? Basically, it's hot chocolate with added white chocolate and vanilla syrup. At Starbucks a 16-ounce White Hot Chocolate with whipped cream is 520 calories--450 without the cream, and 360 calories made with nonfat milk. Compare that with their classic hot chocolate at 400 calories, made with steamed milk, mocha syrup and whipped cream. Without the whipped cream and made with nonfat milk, it drops to 240. Not exactly a Calorie Bargain, but not bad for hot chocolate. A Dunkin' Donuts medium (14-ounce) White Hot Chocolate is 340 calories, and their Dunkaccino, a combination of coffee and chocolate, is about 230 calories for 10 ounces. However, your best bet is the Dunkin' Donuts Chocolate Coffee: just 20 calories for 10 ounces--not bad. 

Hot Buttered Rum vs. Eggnog

Eggnog has 340 to 460 calories per eight-ounce glass. It's typically made with egg and heavy cream. You can, however, make yours lower in calories by using nonfat milk, egg whites and artificial sweetener, which would drop it down to about 100 to 110 calories per eight ounces. And if you think hot buttered rum is much better--think again. It's made with rum, of course, but also loads of butter (just one tablespoon has 100 calories) and brown sugar, and it weighs in at anywhere from 220 to 350 calories per eight ounces. 

Hot Apple Cider vs. Hot Toddy

A hot toddy is typically made with tea, honey and brandy, so depending on the recipe (a couple of teaspoons of honey is about 45 calories) you're looking at 145 to 165 calories. The hot apple cider is a slightly better choice at 140 calories for eight ounces, because it also has some nutritional benefits, such as a bit of niacin, riboflavin and a dash of vitamin C. Unfortunately, however, the processing strips out most of the really good benefits from the apple, including the fiber.

Gingerbread Latte vs. Eggnog Latte

A Starbucks Eggnog Latte, which is espresso, milk and steamed eggnog, has 480 calories for 16 ounces. If you shift from whole to nonfat milk, you'll save 30 calories. Move to a small (12 ounces) with nonfat milk and it drops to 350 calories. A Starbucks Gingerbread Latte, made with espresso, steamed milk and gingerbread flavored syrup, will cost you 290 calories for 16 ounces without the whipped cream. If you choose the 12-ounce version with nonfat milk it drops to 160 calories. Keep in mind that these numbers are just for Starbucks. If you go with the Gingerbread Latte from Dunkin' Donuts, it will cost you 400 calories for only 10 ounces.
Other holiday offerings at Starbucks include the Peppermint Mocha Latte, which has 350 calories for 16 ounces when made with whole milk--and if you choose whipped cream, add another 70 calories, making it 420. And the 16-ounce Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with whipped cream has 560 calories. Your best bet is a 16-ounce Gingerbread Latte made with sugar-free syrup and nonfat milk for 130 calories.

Irish Coffee vs. Spanish Coffee vs. Chocolate Martini

Spanish coffee usually contains coffee, coffee liqueur, (e.g., Tia Maria or Kahlua), rum and sometimes brandy, but it always has whipped cream and will cost you 350 to 400 calories for about eight ounces. Irish coffee is made with coffee, Irish whiskey or Bailey's Irish Cream, sugar and heavy cream (or half-and-half), and will probably have slightly fewer calories: about 250 to 325. As for the chocolate martini, made with vodka, chocolate liqueur, cream and dark crème de cacao, it has about 440 calories. Bailey's Irish Cream and hot coffee is about 120 calories. 

Christmas Punch vs. Champagne (Sparkling Wine)

A four-ounce glass of champagne is only about 85 calories, whereas the Christmas punch can be made with juice, soda (e.g., 7UP or Sprite), liquor, fruit and sugar. So, clearly the punch has a lot more sugar than the champagne and will cost 130 to 150 calories per four ounces. And because punch goes down pretty easily, you will probably drink about twice as much of it as you would of champagne. 

Tom and Jerry vs. Mulled Wine

Mulled wine has a combination of red wine, sugar/honey, spices (e.g., cloves, nutmeg), orange peel and lemon peel for a total of about 210 to 300 calories per five ounces, depending on how much sugar (or honey) is added. A Tom and Jerry has eggs, milk, sugar (sounds like breakfast), rum and spices. It's sort of a hot version of eggnog, and the calories are similar, too--about 340 to 460 per eight-ounce glass. Mulled wine is the better choice, but your best bet would be a glass of dry red wine with a cinnamon stick--it's only about 125 calories for five ounces.

Charles Stuart Platkin is an Active Expert, nutrition and public health advocate, author of the best seller Breaking the Pattern (Plume, 2005), Breaking the FAT Pattern (Plume, 2006) and Lighten Up (Penguin USA/Razorbill, 2006) and founder of Integrated Wellness Solutions. Sign up for The Diet Detective newsletter free at

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