Drop that drink! Sneaky calories from holiday beverages can pack on pounds

by Katherine Whaley / KHOU 11 News


Posted on December 13, 2011 at 2:55 PM

HOUSTON—If, come January, you’re wondering where a few extra pounds came from during the holidays, look no further than those festive holiday coffee drinks and seasonal spirits. Although those libations are full of Christmas flavors, they are also chock-full of calories.

Registered dietitian Carol Lapin, of CSL Nutritional Services, explains why what you drink could make a bigger difference than what you eat this holiday season.

“You’re drinking these liquids, and they’re getting digested really quickly, and you’re ready to have something else without being full,” Lapin explained. “So you’re really cramming a lot of calories.”

From seasonal coffee drinks, to holiday ice cream shakes to cocktails, just a few gulps can add up to hundreds of calories. Lapin explained that during the holidays, it is even easier to lose track of what you consume, especially at holiday parties.

“When you put your glass down it gets refilled,” she said.

And those warm coffee drinks that are often loaded with sugar and whipped cream can really pack on the pounds. According to the nutritional information provided on the Starbucks website, a tall caramel brulee latte contains 370 calories, more than your average Christmas cookie.

We wanted to see if this information surprised people as much as it surprised us, so we set up a test at the local car wash.

First we compared the calories in a Jack in the Box Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream Shake, compared to a Jumbo Jack and small Curly Fries. When we asked Veronica Rivera how many calories she thought were in the shake, she told us, “I would guess a little more than 500.”

We explained that the shake contains 804 calories, which is more than the 769-calorie meal combo.

“Wow that’s a lot of calories… I can’t believe that!” Rivera said.

Next up, we tested a couple of menu items at Starbucks. How did the slice of marble pound cake stack up to the 16-ounce white chocolate peppermint mocha? We asked Layn Bowers.

“I’d say the pound cake has more,” he told us.

In fact, the 16-ounce mocha has 520 calories, while a slice of the marbled pound cake has 350.

“Two hundred more calories in the drink?” Bowers asked. “Naturally you would think food would have more calories.”

Now to traditional favorite, egg nog.

“I love egg nog, please don’t take the egg nog away from me,” Bowers said.

We also asked Bowers to compare the calorie count in a cup of egg nog to a Snickers candy bar.

“I would think the snickers bar has more,” Bowers said.

According to the nutrition labels, the Snickers bar has 280 calories, while a one-cup serving of bottled egg nog has 400 calories.

We asked Rebecca Morgan to guess how many calories a cup contained.

“A couple of hundred,” she guessed. When we told her just one cup contained a whopping 400 calories, she said, “that’s really dangerous!”

To keep from getting carried away, Carol Lapin provided a few tips. First, hold the whipped cream topper, and save about 70 calories. Plus, portion control is key, and even the shape of your glass is key.

“People pour less in a tall thin glass and more in a short fat glass,” Lapin explained. So chose the slender glass for a more slender figure. You can also look for lighter options.

“The good news for Starbucks is, they have skinny drinks,” she said.

So remember, if watching your weight is a New Year’s resolution, you might want to watch what you drink now.

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