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5 Healthy twists on popular holiday drinks

3. Irish Cream

My mom raised me to enjoy the Christmas cookies we made and received. But when it came to holiday gift giving and other families were preparing plates of cookies to give to the mailman, neighbors and school teachers, she’d say “Everyone makes cookies and there are plenty of them around. What’s missing is the booze to sip with the cookies.” So we made Irish Cream.

I anticipated learning about the history of Irish Cream with pride (I’m Irish), uncovering a long intriguing biography. But it turns out that Irish Cream is a more recent development. It wasn’t until the late 1900s that what seems like a very logical combination (why wasn’t this thought of sooner?) of fresh cream and Irish whiskey came together.

Of course you can buy Bailey’s Irish Cream, but the homemade version is seriously where it’s at. Feature ingredients include: heavy cream, condensed milk, eggs, whiskey, coffee, vanilla and chocolate. It’s easy to lighten this treat up without sacrificing flavor – not to mention take out some risk for foodborne illness risk with raw eggs (side note: my mom made one batch per year with raw egg, the rest with pasteurized egg substitute. The raw egg batch went to a certain cousin). Swap out the heavy cream for whole milk and use egg substitute instead of raw egg. Voila!

4. Pumpkin Spice Latte

OK, now for a non-alcoholic holiday time favorite. Ordering an unmodified grande pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks yields 380 calories, 8 grams of saturated fat, and 50 grams of sugar. If you think you won’t miss the flavor provided in the fat by substituting fat-free milk, making this change plus removing the whipped cream takes the numbers down to 260 calories, no fat, and only slightly less sugar at 49 grams (according to nutritional data provided by Starbucks).

One final tip for healthfully consuming holiday drinks:

5. Moderation

Hopefully this tip doesn’t feel too challenging, because if you drink holiday cheer in moderation it won’t add up to a bunch of excess calories. What is moderation? The CDC and the USDA define moderation with alcohol as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink equals twelve fluid ounces of 5% alcohol beer, five fluid ounces of 12% alcohol wine, or one and a half ounces of eighty proof 40% hard alcohol. So yes, the rich holiday drinks that we love do pack more of a caloric punch (the brown sugar, butter and spices that make hot buttered rum so yummy makes it a 300 – 350 calorie drink) than our everyday drinks. But if consumed in moderation, it won’t add up to holiday weight gain.

It’s not just the ingredients in holiday drinks that can get made-over, it’s also the way you drink. Don’t mindlessly gulp. Sip and savor. There is such thing as mindful drinking and practicing it will help you drink an amount you feel good about.

Interview with One of the Last Survivors of the Transatlantic Slave Trade: Click “Next Page” below!

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