Certain things just feel right during the holidays: watching
Theres a pretty good reason why eggnog tastes so good.
Your typical batch is made with heavy cream, whole milk, sugar, raw eggs, nutmeg, and some form of booze-usually rum, brandy, or Cognac.
“Eggnog is high in calories and saturated fat because of the whole milk and heavy cream. It's also loaded with sugar,” says Christy Brissette, R.D., President of 80 Twenty Nutrition.
Here's what you get in a half-cup serving of eggnog (pre-booze):
Of course, toss in a shot of rum (because, duh) and you’re adding another 64 calories for a total of about 176 calories per serving.
Are you ever actually measuring out that half-cup serving (or sticking with it) though? Yeah, neither am I. Brissette says most people drink at least a full cup-meaning you're taking in more like 288 calories per spiked drink.
Here’s a silver lining: Because it’s made with milk, says Brissette, eggnog is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins A and D.
And while the store-bought stuff is convenient (and sometimes has fewer calories and fat if it's made with skim or low-fat milk), Brissette suggests making your own. (Try one of these eggnog recipes from our friends at Delish.) That way you can use whole foods and avoid the artificial ingredients-high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and coloring-found in many pre-mixed eggnogs.
Just keep in mind that since even homemade virgin eggnog is made with raw eggs, you should avoid drinking it if you’re expecting or have a compromised immune system.
Okay...is eggnog any better (or worse) than spiked hot chocolate or mulled wine?
Depends. Both hot chocolate and mulled wine can be higher or lower in calories than eggnog, depending on the recipe you're using. For example, virgin, plain hot chocolate has 96 calories per half-cup serving ...but that number can jump up to 250 to 300 calories if you add peppermint schnapps and decadent toppings like whipped cream or marshmallows.
But there are some nutritional perks to both drinks. The pure cocoa in homemade hot chocolate contains flavanols, antioxidants that may help improve circulation and blood pressure. And mulled wine is made with spices like cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg, which also have antioxidants that may help boost your immune system during cold and flu season.
“Whether these benefits balance out the booze is questionable.” Brissette adds.
Another plus in favor of eggnog and hot chocolate: Each have some protein and fat from the milk. “If you're drinking on an empty stomach, that can help you feel more satisfied and avoid a big sugar rush and subsequent crash,” says Brissette. If you opt for mulled wine, munch on a small handful of nuts to get the same effect.
Brissette also cautions that store-bought versions of all of these beverages are often loaded with added sugars. “Read your labels carefully and look for versions with little to no added sugar,” says Brissette. “You can always add more sweetness later if you really need it.”
How do you make healthy eggnog that doesnt taste totally disgusting?
Brissette recommends DIY-ing it using skim milk or unsweetened almond milk. She also replaces the sugar in traditional recipes with monk fruit or stevia to cut back on calories and avoid added sugars. As for other variations:
- Low-carb eggnog: Use cream instead of milk (it's low in lactose) and a zero-calorie sweetener like monk fruit, stevia, or erythritol, which brings the carb count way down.
- Paleo eggnog: Swap cow's milk for sugar-free coconut milk (since dairy isn't permitted on the paleo diet). And sweeten with maple syrup or honey instead of refined sugar.
- Keto eggnog: Follow the same trick as making a low-carb eggnog, but skip the alcohol. (Sorry!) “Alcohol is metabolized similarly to a carb, so it will likely take you out of ketosis,” says Brissette.
The bottom line: Enjoy eggnog (in moderation), and be mindful of the stuff you add in your drinks-because it can really add up.