Healthified: Classic Holiday Beverages
by KRISTY LIN
“Healthified: Holiday Beverages” is a three-part series of Total Wellness Magazine.
“Classic Holiday Beverages” is the first article of the series.
There's no escaping the holiday spirit. Grocery stores are stocked with holiday-inspired items, while homes and public spaces are adorned with garlands, wreaths, and Christmas trees. Of course, we cannot forget about the abundance of delicious holiday beverages that coffee shops offer during this time of the year. There’s the classic peppermint mocha, topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings to satisfy your sweet tooth. Or, if coffee isn’t for you, you can be sure to enjoy a gingerbread tea or hot chocolate at almost every cafe.
Although these beverages taste ridiculously amazing and are an essential component of the holiday season, the ones typically found at popular coffee chains are often loaded with artificial flavors, high-sugar syrups, and preservatives. In fact, many of the holiday drinks do not even contain the real ingredients, but are instead flavored with simple syrups. As many may know, high consumption of refined sugars can contribute to increased health risks, ranging from acne, weight gain, and lower mood, to potentially life-threatening illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. [1, 2] However, while it is true that holiday beverages contain large quantities of processed sugar, this does not mean that you cannot ever enjoy these drinks again. By recreating them at home, you can not only feel at ease knowing exactly what you are putting into your body, but also customize the flavor and sweetness of your drink. Not to mention, you are less likely to break the bank! Here are some simple and healthy alternatives to classic holiday beverages that you can make at home this holiday season. Drink away!
Eggnog is a holiday beverage traditionally made with whole milk, cream, sugar, and raw eggs, making it high in saturated fat and calories. Also, eggnog sold at coffee shops often contains high fructose corn syrup, a notorious sweetener that is linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.  This recipe, however, uses agave nectar or maple syrup for sweetness. Although these sweeteners are still high in sugar, they are healthier than processed white sugar because they do not cause blood sugar to spike as readily, and are abundant in minerals such as manganese and zinc.  Some of the sweetness in the beverage also comes from the natural sugars in bananas. Furthermore, this recipe does not contain egg or dairy, reducing the cholesterol and saturated fat content overall. Instead, the recipe uses coconut milk which, despite also being high in calories, has greater nutritional value than animal milk because it contains a significant amount of iron and copper, thereby supporting energy production and immune health. 
vegan eggless eggnog
1 ½ cup coconut milk
1 small banana, chopped
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp vanilla extract
⅛ tsp ground clove
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp agave nectar or maple syrup
Place the milk, banana, spices and agave nectar or maple syrup in a blender and blend for 30 seconds or until smooth.
Pour into mug and top with ground cinnamon if desired.
Caramel Brûlée Latte
For those who prefer a more sweet and smoky non-spiced drink, the caramel brulee latte may be perfect for you. While this beverage sold at coffee shops often contains simple syrups to mimic the caramel flavor, the following recipe for caramel brulee latte has significantly less refined sugars and is instead flavored with a homemade caramel sauce, made with coconut oil, maple syrup, and almond butter. Coconut oil is high in healthy saturated fats, which help to increase fat burning and raise healthy cholesterol levels to protect heart health.  Maple syrup is high in antioxidants which can protect against cell damage in the body, while almond butter helps to lower cholesterol and supply Vitamin E. Speaking of almonds, almond milk is a healthy alternative to whole-fat dairy because it contains a third of the calories in animal milk and is also rich in protein and Vitamin E. 
vegan caramel brûlée latte
Equipment : coffee press or maker if you are making your own coffee, microwave
1-2 oz. brewed coffee
1 cup steamed almond or soy milk
1-2 Tbsp caramel sauce (recipe below)
Line your mug with the caramel sauce.
Add brewed coffee to the mug.
Heat your milk of choice and pour into the mug.
If desired, top with whipped cream and enjoy!
vegan caramel sauce
Yield: about ½ cup sauce
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons almond butter
Sea salt, vanilla, or cinnamon to taste
Melt the coconut oil and maple syrup together in a microwavable bowl for 1 minute.
Add the almond butter and mix until fully combined and smooth.
A popular favorite of many, the peppermint mocha is an espresso drink that blends milk with peppermint and chocolate flavors. Peppermint oil is derived from the peppermint herb and has been found to significantly alleviate digestive and gut-related abdominal pain.  Instead of flavoring the beverage with high-sugar syrups like most chain coffee shops do, you can use cocoa powder, which is derived from cacao beans and delivers a more authentic chocolate flavor.
hot peppermint mocha
Equipment: coffee press or maker if you are making your own coffee, saucepan + stove, microwave
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1/4 cup milk of choice (dairy milk or unsweetened vanilla almond milk recommended), divided into two 1/8 cup servings
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar or maple syrup
1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 ounce dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 to 2 drops peppermint oil
Add coffee and 1/8 cup milk in a small saucepan over low heat.
Add in honey/agave nectar/maple syrup, cocoa powder, and chocolate. Continue heating while stirring over low heat for 4 minutes or until chocolate melts.
Stir in peppermint oil and pour into mug.
Optional Froth: Place remaining 1/8 cup milk in a microwave-safe container with a lid. Shake for 1 minute until milk is frothy. Remove lid and microwave milk for 30-60 seconds. Top your mug with the milk froth and enjoy!
frozen peppermint mocha
Equipment: blender, ice cube tray
1/8 cup cold coffee
1 medium banana, sliced and frozen
1/8 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/4 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/16 teaspoon peppermint extract (can be found in baking/spices aisle at grocery stores) or oil
The night before, pour coffee into an ice cube tray and place in the freezer.
On the day of, place banana into the blender and blend until the banana becomes crumbly.
Add almond milk and blend until smooth and creamy.
Add coffee ice cubes and blend until well mixed and smooth.
Add cocoa powder and peppermint extract. Blend until smooth.
Pour into a cup and top with whipped cream and enjoy!
Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgaris.” Adv Dermatol Allergol. (2016).
“Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults” JAMA Intern Med. (2014).
“High fructose corn syrup and diabetes prevalence: A global perspective.” Global Public Health. (2012).
“Maple Syrup: Healthy of Unhealthy?” healthline.com. (2018)
“What Are the Advantages of Coconut Milk Vs. Dairy Milk?” livestrong.com. (2017).
“Top 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Coconut Oil.” healthline.com. (2018).
“The health benefits of almonds.” medicalnewstoday.com. (2017).
“Efficacy of Peppermint oil in diarrhea predominant IBS - a double blind randomized placebo - controlled study.” Mymensingh Med J. (2013).
“The Role of Carrageenan and Carboxymethylcellulose in the Development of Intestinal Inflammation.” Front Pediatr. (2017).