Holiday Drink Battle: Eggnog vs. Hot Cocoa

Eggnog and hot chocolate are both sinfully delicious holiday drinks. But one of them is better in terms of healthfulness. So, which winter drink is superior when it comes to nutrition? Let’s find out.

Eggnog Cons

The typical eggnog contains whole milk, cream, sugar, and ,eggs (thus, the name). Eggnog is an incredibly rich and decadent drink, and its nutritional profile reflects that. Half a cup of eggnog has about 20 grams of sugar and 180 calories. Plus, this winter drink often contains alcohol, which boosts the calorie count even more.

Eggnog Pros

The amount of dairy in eggnog translates into one significant health benefit: calcium. Half a cup of eggnog delivers 13 percent of your daily dose. The same serving size also offers you 4 grams of protein.

Hot Chocolate Cons

Depending on how you make it, hot chocolate’s nutritional profile can vary considerably. A regular coffee-shop hot chocolate with whole milk and a drizzle of the sweetened chocolate syrup has about 190 calories per cup (although let’s be honest, most coffee shops serve a minimum of 12 ounces, not the standard 8). If you top your hot chocolate with whipped cream, the calorie count goes up to 250. Not to mention, you are consuming 24 grams of sugar (approximately 6 teaspoons) from each cup.

Hot Chocolate Pros

A cup of hot chocolate made with whole milk serves 20 percent of your daily recommended intake of calcium. It also contains 7 grams of protein per cup. Not bad for such an indulgent creation. What’s more, unlike eggnog, you can customize your hot chocolate order to make it less high in calories and fat, or create your own recipe at home.

To lower the calories in this heartwarming holiday drink, swap out whole milk for skim. Making the switch saves you 55 calories per cup. If you make it at home, remember to add less sugar. You also have the option to use nondairy milk for a creamy, vegan-friendly cup. If you use natural cocoa powder (the non-alkalized kind), it will give you a healthy dose of antioxidants — the kind that lowers stress and reduces the risk of heart disease.

The Verdict

Hot chocolate is the clear winner. However, classic eggnog and hot chocolate are quite similar nutritionally, but only if you compare a 4-ounce serving of eggnog to an 8-ounce serving of hot chocolate. Per serving, each drink contains about 185 calories and almost equal amounts of sugar. When it comes to calcium and protein, hot chocolate trumps eggnog. And, since limiting yourself to 4 ounces of eggnog can be difficult, hot cocoa is the safer bet if you want to avoid overindulging.

Healthy Hot Chocolate Recipe

If you are making hot cocoa yourself, try this quick and easy recipe for the healthiest cup: Combine 1 tablespoon of natural cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon sugar in a mug. Swirl the contents with 1 cup of steaming low-fat milk. Spice up your drink with delicious add-ins, such as vanilla, cinnamon, orange peels, ground cardamom, or even chili powder. Finally, as always, mind your portions.