At Christmas, there are things that happen every single year. The kids wake up at 4 am, Michael Buble enjoys an annual resurgence on the Billboard Charts, and the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg and mint fills the air as millions of Americans enjoy the holiday drinks on offer at chains across the country.
Festive-flavored lattes, hot chocolates, and milkshakes are now a staple of the festive period. Coffee chains and fast-food companies alike now launch their new holiday menus every year.
However, when guzzling down these drinks, you might not realize how many calories are actually in them. We know, it’s a bit Scrooge-like of us. But while you should treat yourself this festive season, it’s worth knowing how many calories and the sugar levels are in some of these drinks.
For example, even based on its own statistics, there’s as much sugar in Starbucks Grande Peppermint White Hot Chocolate as in two of its Double Chocolate Brownies.
Based on a 16oz cup size, we looked at ten of the biggest coffee and food chains in America, including Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Biggby Coffee, to uncover the holiday drinks with the highest and least number of calories, and sugar, according to their website menus, so you know more about the delicious drinks you’re consuming this festive season.
We analyzed the dozens of newly released limited-edition holiday drinks on each chain’s website, to find out the nutritional value for each of them.
Shake Shack’s Chocolate Milk and Cookies Shake came top, with 1,100 calories in the 16oz shake. Drinkers of the milkshake will actually be consuming the equivalent of more than two Shake Shack cheeseburgers, according to the details on its own website.
All drinks in this list include more than the number of calories for a Mcdonalds’ cheeseburger, which comes in at 300 calories.
Five of the drinks in the top 10 were cold drinks, including the Dutch Bros Peppermint Bliss Freeze, at 730 calories, and Biggby Coffee’s Eggnog Creme Freeze at 490 calories for a 16oz drink respectively.
Starbucks’ Peppermint White Hot Chocolate was its most calorific drink, with the beverage including whipped cream, dark chocolate curls, and peppermint-flavored syrup.
Starbucks actually had the lowest calorie holiday drink from the chains we covered, with just 150 calories for a 16oz Grande drink. The Iced Sugar Cookie Almond Latte from Starbucks is the chain’s first-ever vegan holiday drink, inspired by classic Christmas sugar cookies. People that don’t like hot drinks don’t have to miss out on feeling festive, as the Holiday Spice Cold Brew Latte from Peet’s Coffee comes second and the Peppermint Bliss Cold Brew from Dutch Bros comes third, with white chocolate sauce and candy cane sprinkles at just 210 calories.
After having the highest calorie drink, Shake Shack also came tenth for the lowest calorie, with its Christmas Cookie Shake totaling 830 calories.
There is a huge 99.4g of sugar in a 16oz portion of Dunkin Donut’s White Mocha Hot Chocolate – the equivalent of eating seven chocolate crème donuts from the same chain. The drink has an estimated 24.85 teaspoons of sugar inside it – based on the average teaspoon containing 4g of sugar.
And at Starbucks, the Peppermint White Hot Chocolate has 74g of sugar. You would need to consume 18.5butter croissants from Starbucks to consume the same amount of sugar.
When it comes to seasonal lattes, Caribou Coffee comes top, with 64g of sugar for each 16oz portion of its Fa La Latte, with 16 teaspoons of sugar in it. If a consumer opts for the smaller version of the drink, the amount of sugar reduces to 10.75 teaspoons (43g).
Looking at these figures, many of the colder drinks actually have more sugar contents than the warmer alternatives. For example, the large Peppermint Bliss Freeze from Dutch Bros has 25.25 teaspoons (101g) of sugar. The AHA suggests an added-sugar limit of no more than about 6 teaspoons of sugar per day (for most women) and 9 teaspoons per day for most men.
According to Insider, most people burn 30-40 calories for every 1,000 steps they walk. By taking the higher figure, it would take an estimate of 27,500 steps to burn off Shake Shack’s Chocolate Milk and Cookies Shake – though it could take less time depending on the exercise.
Kerri Ferraioli, nutritionist at YorkTest, said: “Many of us fail to think about calories and sugar when we’re consuming drinks throughout the year. But at Christmas, with more syrups, toppings, and chocolates on our hot and cold beverages, people may not realize how much extra sugar they’re consuming. The facts speak for themselves – these drinks have much more sugar in them than many of our favorite, more filling, sweet foods do.
“The holidays are a time to spend with our loved ones and indulge in plenty of foods and drinks as the year comes to an end. But we wanted to raise awareness that the festive drinks you consume may actually be much higher in calories and sugar volume than our favorite Christmas snacks like mince pies, gingerbread and yule log.
“Christmas should not be spent worrying about what you’re eating or drinking. While we all know these drinks often have a higher sugar content than a standard coffee, the amount of calories might surprise you – would you be willing to spend 700 calories on your hot chocolate? I would suggest being mindful with your choices when it comes to consuming holiday drinks regularly and of course consider any food sensitivities that you may have to those additional seasonal ingredients not usually found in your regular choice of drink.”
According to the Dietary Guidelines For Americans, moderately active women should consume up to 2,200 calories per day, while men should limit themselves to around 2,800, depending on their age and lifestyle.
If you’re concerned that your gut health is not as it should be and a food sensitivity test could be an underlying issue, check out our Premium Food Sensitivity Test.
To reveal which holiday drinks are the highest and lowest in calories and sugar volume, we used nutritional data from each chain’s own online U.S. menu to conduct our research. To ensure comparison was fair, we compared a 16oz drink from each chain.
*Dunkin’ Donuts drinks sizes are 14oz and 20oz respectively, so we have calculated what a 16oz drink would equate to in calories and sugar volume.
There are more than ten chains in America serving holiday drinks, however these chains were selected due to their availability at the time of research, and their prevalence across the United States.
These figures were correct as of 11/19/21.