Lighten up your favorite winter beverage

When winter hits we seek WARMTH; a comfy sweater, a cozy blanket, or perhaps a nice hot beverage? But have you ever stopped to check what’s in your favorite hot beverage? Many can be laden with extra sugars and fats and some can even pack more calories than a meal. The next time you go to make or order your favorite beverage, consider ways that you can keep the flavor while lightening up the recipe!

Research suggests that when drinking liquid calories such as those in a flavored coffee beverage or a soda we don’t compensate for those calories very well in our day. This means we are less likely to decrease the rest of our total food intake in an attempt to balance those calories. Over time this can lead to higher total energy (calorie) intake and potentially weight gain.

The “liquid calorie” component of beverages could include: milk and milk alternatives, juices, flavored syrups, and crystalized sugars (which melt when heated), among other things. Our table below gives ideas on how you can lower the calorie content of your favorite hot beverage while providing familiar taste and enjoyment: 

Liquid Calories

Calories per 2 Tablespoons

Lower Calorie Alternatives

Calories per 2 Tablespoons

Whipped cream


Milk foam


Light Cream


Half and Half


Whole milk


Skim, 1% or 2% milk


Flavored nut milk,

i.e. vanilla almond


Unsweetened almond milk


Fruit juice


Diet or light juice


Flavored syrup OR swirl,

i.e. caramel


Sugar free flavored syrups

Unsweetened cocoa powder

Cinnamon / nutmeg powder




Sugar, honey

i.e. white, in the raw


Splenda, Equal, Stevia, Monkfruit


(per packet)

When comparing additives, the difference between two tablespoons of whole milk or 1% may not seem like much at first. However, for beverages such as lattes which use larger quantities of milk, the difference could be 50-150 calories more depending on the size. If you can’t fathom changing an ingredient, try a smaller serving size or indulging in your favorite beverage less often. Looking for new recipe inspiration? See below for some tasty, yet low calorie beverage ideas: 

Low Cal Horchata Style Drink

Recipe adapted from: Sparkpeople

1 Cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze (40 cals per cup)
2 tsp granulated Splenda or to taste
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground Cinnamon
Dash of Nutmeg


  • Warm almond milk in the microwave.
  • Add Stevia, vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix well.

100 Calorie (or less) Hot Cocoa

Recipe adapted from: Stockpiling Moms

1 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5 Tbs. Splenda or sugar substitute
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup of hot skim milk (or water to make it only 20 calories)


  • Mix together dry ingredients in a mug and pour 1 cup milk over mixture. Mix well.
  • Add vanilla extract (or mint!) and stir.
  • Allow to cool and serve.
  • Variations: Use unsweetened nut milk instead of milk, Stevia instead of Splenda, or 1/2 cup of chocolate Fairlife milk + water instead of Splenda and skim milk.

Vanilla Turmeric Golden Milk Latte

Recipe adapted from:

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon honey, to taste (can sub pure maple syrup for vegan version)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (can sub 1-2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger, to taste)
1 5-inch cinnamon stick (can sub 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil (optional)*


  • Set a small saucepan over low heat. Add almond milk, 1 teaspoon honey, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon stick, and black pepper and stir with a whisk until combined.
  • Bring to steaming, just below a simmer. Do not let it boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and whisk occasionally
  • Remove from heat. Remove the cinnamon stick. Stir in the vanilla and coconut oil (if using). 

Instant Pot ‘No Added Sugar’ Apple Cider

Recipe from: 

6 apples cored and cut in half (2 ½ to 3 lbs) 
1 small orange peeled and quartered 
6 cups water or to just cover
1/3 cup pure maple syrup 
1 inch piece of fresh ginger 
2 cinnamon sticks 
2 pieces star anise optional 


  • Remove apple cores and cut apples in half. Peel the orange and break it into sections.
  • Place apples and orange in the Instant Pot. Add water, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, and star anise. Cover pot and turn the knob to Sealing. Set the pot to Manual for a 15 minute cook time at high pressure. (Note: It may take up to 30 minutes to come to pressure.)
  • After the 15 minute cook time, let the pot natural release its pressure for at least 15 minutes. Then, release remaining pressure. Mash the fruit with a potato masher, strain the cider through a fine mesh sieve.
  • Serve warm. Store in the refrigerator.

Premade No Sugar Apple Cider

Look for brand: Alpine Spiced Apple Cider, Sugar Free

Fruity Green Tea

Recipe adapted from: 

Green tea bag of your choice
1/4 cup frozen mixed berries
Enough boiling water to fill your cup


  • Place berries on the bottom of your cup. Pour in boiling water and steep with tea bag for 3 minutes. Remove tea bag and spoon off berries.