Watch Out For Hidden Calories in Your Favourite Winter Beverages

Key Takeaways:

  • Liquid calories can pose a greater issue than solid food calories as our systems tend to be less sensitive to them, leading to potential overconsumption.
  • Seasonal beverages such as pumpkin spice lattes, peppermint mochas, and sugary apple ciders, often contain surprisingly high-calorie counts due to additions like milk, syrups and whipped cream.
  • Use fewer pumps of syrup, opt for plant-based or low-fat milk, minimize milky latte content and avoid whipped cream to make your favorite cold-weather drinks healthier.
  • Preparations at home are usually healthier because you can control the sweetener content.
  • Winter beverages should not be relied upon for energy. Holding a hot cup or soaking in a warm bath might activate similar feelings of comfort.

During the chillier months, comfort-inducing seasonal drinks become the preferred choice for many. Whether it’s the sweet allure of a pumpkin spice latte, a refreshing peppermint flavoured beverage or something else, these drinks become an easy way to find solace in the cold weather. However, calories have a sneaky way of creeping into these drinks, which is both unexpected and unwelcome.

Calories: Liquids vs Solids

According to nutrition experts, the calories we ingest through liquids can sometimes pose more of an issue than those obtained from solid food. Our systems tend to be less sensitive to liquid calories, which means we may end up consuming more than we need. Marie-Pierre St-Onge, an influential voice in nutritional medicine, points out that “solid food calories trigger stronger fullness signals, making it easier to manage our calorie intake. With liquids, the signals heighten weaker, which can result in overconsumption.”

The Unseen Caloric Value of Seasonal Drinks

Take, for instance, a pumpkin spice latte. A 16-ounce preparation made with 2% milk, dressed with whipped cream, incorporates about 380 calories. This includes 14 grams of fat and a staggering 50 grams of sugar. But it’s not just the pumpkin spice latte. Various other seasonal drinks are brimming with calories. Whether it’s peppermint mocha, chai latte, sugary apple cider, eggnog, or warmed-up cocktails, the calorie count can surprise you.

Moreover, these beverages often contain alcohol, which lowers inhibitions and may lead to overeating amongst other unhealthy choices. The real challenge is finding a drink that’s inherently healthy, even without the seasonal spices like pumpkin, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, or peppermint.

Revising Your Cold-Weather Drink Choices

“Pumpkin spice itself is virtually calorie-free,” explains Judith Wylie-Rosett, renowned health promotion and nutrition expert. However, the calorie count starts to pile up when the syrups and milk join the mix. Below are a few tips to make traditional cold-weather favorites healthier:

  • Ask for fewer pumps of syrup in your beverage or simply use spices instead of flavored syrup if you’re preparing your own drink at home.
  • Choose plant-based or low-fat milk instead of whole or condensed milk.
  • Minimize milky latte content by opting for black coffee or espresso first, then adding spices to give it a seasonal edge.
  • Purchase hot chocolate mix devoid of vegetable oil.
  • Forget about the extra topping of whipped cream.

Home-prepared drinks are usually healthier, says St-Onge. This is because one has the leverage to manage the sweetener content.

Switching to Healthier Winter Drink Alternatives

Milk, especially fat-free or low-fat over whole milk, is an important ingredient for your winter beverages. It contributes greatly to our vitamin D intake, which is especially crucial during the shorter, colder days of fall and winter. During these times, St-Onge shares that it’s beneficial to experiment with incorporating fruits, vegetables, and seasonal spices into smoothies. Yet, she cautions, the health benefits may not be fully derived when ingredients like these are liquefied.

No matter what the season, one should not rely on drinks for energy. As research shows, to retrieve the cozy aura of a winter drink, you may not even have to drink it. Merely holding a hot cup of coffee or soaking in a warm bath may activate memories associated with warmth, trust, and comfort. So, be mindful of your winter beverages and make your comfort drink choices wisely.

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