Best (and worst) holiday coffee drinks

Ho, ho, ho-ly crap are those holiday drinks at your local coffee chain bad for you. We know, we all want to indulge in a sugary-sweet holiday drink while we're out shopping for Christmas presents, and sometimes we just need an excuse to feel the holiday spirit. But with all the gingerbread cookies, peppermint bark, pies, hams, — and don't even make us count the wine and beer — the holiday drinks we've come to love and expect every holiday season are just adding onto your daily limit of calories and sugar.

Best (and Worst) Holiday Coffee Drinks
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Best (and worst) holiday coffee drinks

Worst Drink at Starbucks: Eggnog Latte

Look, we feel your pain: we know you can’t resist that eggnog-espresso combination, with the steamed milk and ground nutmeg on top. But the Grande size with whole milk has nearly as many calories as a Big Mac (at 550 calories) with 470 calories — and 22 grams of fat. Even the Tall version with nonfat milk has 350 calories and 15 grams of fat.

Credit: Jane Bruce

Best Drink at Starbucks: Gingerbread Latte

Despite that gingerbread flavored syrup, even the full-fat, full-whip Grande size of the Ginger Bread Latte (pictured with the Peppermint Mocha and Caramel Brulee Latte) only calculates at 360 calories. (It’s like ordering the grilled chicken sandwich at McDonald’s instead.) Order with nonfat milk and no whip, and a Tall weighs in at only 150 calories with 0 calories from fat and 0 grams of total fat.

Credit: Starbucks

Worst Drink at Dunkin' Donuts: Peppermint Mocha Latte

A medium-sized peppermint mocha latte weighs in at 360 calories, with 9 grams of total fat — and that’s not including the added calories of a sweetener. You can cut back, however, if you order a small peppermint mocha coffee with no cream and sugar — that’s a mere 120 calories.

Credit: Jane Bruce

Best Drink at Dunkin' Donuts: Gingerbread Latte

At 310 calories for a medium-sized drink with whole milk, you’re without the added calories of a Peppermint Mocha. But even then, it still has 9 grams of fat. It’s best to get a small Gingerbread coffee with no sugar and cream; it’s only 90 calories.

Credit: Courtesy of Dunkin' Donuts

Worst Drink at McDonalds: McCafé Caramel Hot Chocolate (or the McCafé Egg Nog Shake)

Yeah, did you really think there was a way to make the Egg Nog Shake healthy? A medium-sized shake is 680 calories. A small with no whipped cream or cherry is 460 calories. The McCafé Caramel Hot Chocolate will still do a number on your waistline: 350 calories for a medium, whole-milk beverage.

Credit: McDonald's

Best Drink at McDonald's: McCafé Peppermint Mocha

There is hope after all: the killer drinks at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are surprisingly better for you than its egg nog shake/ partner-in-crime. A small McCafé Peppermint Mocha is 300 calories — but you should know that includes 12 grams of fat. If you go for a small nonfat peppermint mocha with no whipped cream and no chocolate drizzle, you’ll cut back to 160 calories and only ½ gram of fat.

Credit: PR NEWSWIRE/ Newscom

Worst Drink at Caribou Coffee: The Salted Caramel Bundino

Oh goodness: the cutest name for the fattiest drink on our list. If you were to get the whole milk, with whip, medium sized of this drink, you are consuming 850 calories, 56 grams of fat, and 66 grams of sugar. If you are determined to splurge on this treat, please get a small, skim milk, no-whip version: you'll cash in at 480 calories.

Credit: Courtesy of Caribou Coffee

Best Drink at Caribou Coffee: Fa La Latte

It's saying something when the eggnog-based drink is in fact the drink with the least amount of calories. A medium-sized, with whip, Fa La Latte is still 440 calories with 22 grams of fat, but that's an indulgence we can go for compared to its caramel sisters. Order a small with nonfat whipped cream, and you'll cut nearly 200 calories and 13 grams of fat.

Credit: Courtesy of Caribou Coffee

Worst & Best Drink at Peet’s Coffee and Tea

A medium-sized eggnog latte at Peet’s has a whopping 650 calories, with 29 grams of fat and — get this — 75 grams of sugar. We don’t need to explain this to you. But the cinnamon gingerbread latte, a blend of espresso, steamed milk, gingerbread spice, and ground cinnamon, isn’t as much of a diet-buster. It’s a mere 339 calories and 12 grams of fat for a medium-sized drink with whole milk.

Credit: Courtesy of Peet's Coffee and Tea

Worst Drink at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

It’s the same story over and over again: the iced, blended drinks are what will bust your diet. So Californians, beware of the iced blended drinks on the holiday menu: the Peppermint Vanilla Ice Blended drink has 480 calories, with 10 grams of fat and 81 grams of sugar. Similarly, the Gingerbread Cookie Ice Blended Drink is 480 calories, with 9 grams of fat and 91 grams of sugar.

Credit: Courtesy of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

Best Drink at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

It should be no surprise that a tea-based drink is the healthiest option; it’s made with the Winter Dream Tea, vanilla powder, and steamed milk. A 16-ounce Winter Dream Tea Latte is 280 calories, with 7 grams of fat and 48 grams of sugar. Coffee lover? The Gingerbread Cookie Latte is your next best bet: a 16-ounce has 370 calories, with 3.5 grams of fat and 68 grams of sugar.

Credit: Courtesy of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf


There's no need to fret, though (as we're sure you're already panicking about meeting the in-laws or buying the wrong gift for your little ones)—you can still indulge in your peppermint, gingerbread, and cinnamon-flavored drinks this month.
Click here for the The Holiday Coffee Drinks That Will Help — or Ruin — Your Diet Slideshow

While we can't tell you that a peppermint mocha is as good for you as a carrot stick, we can tell you that at every coffee shop you visit, there is a healthier holiday option available. With fewer calories, grams of fat, and the true killer of it all, grams of sugar, these drinks can still make your holiday season sweet as can be.

Of course, there are always options to make your beloved holiday coffee drink healthier — or "skinny." Ask for no whip (save it for the pie), or low-fat or skim milk in your drink to cut back. At some shops, like The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, you can ask for no-sugar-added or sugar-free syrups to make the drink a bit healthier.

With research from Hannah Allaman.

Flip through our slideshow above to view some of the best and worst coffee choices this holiday season.

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