Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday blitz, a time loaded with treats. In addition to the obvious – boxes of chocolates, platters of cookies, cheesy potatoes and creamy casseroles – extra calories sneak into your diet through seasonal beverages.
In October, it's pumpkin spice lattes. In November, there's hot apple cider and December ushers in eggnog. It's hard to resist these yummy sips, but all those extra calories can add up, says Franciscan Health registered dietitian and health coach Kelly Devine Rickert, MS RDN, CSSD, LDN.
"Beverages don't fill you up. That means you're going to eat just as much at your next meal. Mentally you don't register a drink as a filling treat, but often it's a whole meal's worth of calories," says Rickert.
The good news: You don't have to give up your favorite, once-a-year refreshments. With these tips you can fit liquid treats into your diet without packing on holiday pounds.
Small Tweaks Make a Big Difference
There are easy ways to lighten up the most popular seasonal beverages so you can satisfy your taste buds while keeping your waistline in check, says Rickert.
Flavored coffee drinks are the worst offenders this time of year because they're loaded with calories, fat and sugar, and people often drink them multiple times a week – sometimes multiple times a day. For example, sipping a 16-ounce pumpkin spice latte from your local coffee shop may run you in the neighborhood of 380 calories, 50 grams of sugar and 14 grams of fat. The sugar alone is double what you should have in an entire day!
To slash those numbers but still get the same great taste, Rickert suggests these simple strategies:
Ask for non-fat milk instead of 2 percent or whole
Skip the whipped cream topping
Order a smaller size
Making those modifications can get your drink down to 130 calories and 0 grams of fat. The sugar content is still high enough that it should be considered an occasional treat, not your daily cup of coffee.
Rickert also recommends taking the following steps:
Opt for a latte over a Frappuccino or mocha because you get more protein.
Ask to reduce the number of pumps of flavoring (so, if there are four pumps in a pumpkin spice latte, ask for only two pumps to reduce sugar content).
Sprinkle cinnamon into a plain latte to get a seasonal taste without added sugar.
Purchase pumpkin spice at the grocery store and use it in your coffee at home.
For drinks like eggnog, simply buy "light" versions of the seasonal treat.
"You can't eat the same way and then add in these 200 to 300 calorie drinks without expecting a weight gain," Rickert states. Still want to indulge? Make sure you cut calories and sugar from elsewhere in your diet – have a salad for dinner, eat smaller portions at your next meal or skip your nightly cup of ice cream. You can also squeeze in more activity to burn the extra calories you consumed.
Like with any healthy holiday eating plan, planning ahead is key to ensure you don't gain weight. Rickert recommends downloading a fitness/nutrition tracking app to figure out how many calories are in seasonal treats. Also, many companies share nutritional information on their online menus. (Note: Holiday-season drinks that are between 80 to 120 calories are a good pick.)
At Franciscan Health, we have doctors, dietitians, personal trainers and mental health professionals that can help you develop a weight loss plan to reach your goals. For more information on our support groups, classes and individual consultations, find one of our fitness and weight loss centers nearest you.
Pumpkin Spice Smoothie Recipe
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)