The Nutritionist: Holiday Calories in a Mug

Starbucks Red Cups

‘tis the season - and also the weather - for a cozy fireplace. But unless your office has a fireplace (lucky you), you'll be heading to your local coffee shop to recreate that feeling.

And what better way than drinking yourself warm with a fancy holiday latte, hot chocolate, or mug of mulled wine?

But be warned, it’s not just the mince pies that add up to a festive muffin top. Looking at the nutritional value of some of these festive drinks, you might be crossing the finish line of the eat-athon sooner than you expected.

Here are some numbers:

Calories in a mug *

Your normal, everyday skim latte has about 190 calories. Go for some caramel syrup on top and you can add about 50 calories. If you feel more festive, you may choose to drink a small meal worth of calories and have a gingerbread latte (320 calories) or a hot chocolate (370 calories - this includes whipped cream because you're treating yourself). But if you want to top it off and drink ¼ of your daily recommended calories, go for an eggnog latte which has 470 calories.

That’s not a problem, you say. You'll just skip your lunch or have a smaller dinner to make up for the calories - you'll still fit into your LBD at the upcoming Christmas party. But then you find yourself going for a cheeky after work drink in Winter Wonderland, and soon you’re sipping on more calories in a mug, approximately 230 your first mulled wine.

Here’s a thought to take on board: skipping meals will not help you lose weight, and neither will swapping your lunch for a fancy latte. It will only cause your blood sugar levels to drop rapidly or rise very quickly (due to the high sugar content in those winter warmers), which means you will quickly hit the keyboard wanting another of those yummy sweet warm drinks (or one of the mince pies you saw in the kitchen).

Now let’s have a look at the sugar content of some of those warming festive drinks.

Sugar in a mug

When looking at these numbers, remember what I wrote about last week: Your body can only ever deal with one to two teaspoons of sugar circulating in your system. One teaspoon equals about 4.2g of sugar. (I will leave some of the maths to you when converting the sugar content into teaspoons.)

Your normal skim latte has about 16g of sugar (because of the sugar in milk), but choose one of the festive lattes and you can easily double the sugar content and drink up to 39g of sugar in a medium sized cup. A hot chocolate might even have up to 43g of sugar which is about as much sugar as your daily recommended allowance. And if maths has never been your strengths, this equals about 10 teaspoons of sugar. Now imagine having your morning cup of tea adding 10 (in words, ten!) teaspoons of sugar. I would like to know if you will still be able to enjoy it.

The problem with all this sugar is that you will not only get an energy slump, but your body will also release more insulin to take the sugar out of your cells. And if you don’t end up using all this energy, your body will eventually store it, and your LBD won’t be looking as good anymore.

Why not choose an equally warming herbal tea that's full of spices, such as yogi or chai tea? After all, you don't want to be first to cross the finish line of the six week eat-athon. Because you most definitely won't be wearing your LBD.