Your favorite warm seasonal drinks without the guilt

When the temperature starts to cool down, it’s time to warm up with your favorite seasonal drinks. Pumpkin spice lattes, hot chocolate with whip cream and peppermint mochas are some of the favorites this time of year – and really, who can resist?

But take one look at the calorie count and sugar in these beverages and you might have second thoughts. Luckily, you don’t have to miss out. Katie Johnson, a registered dietitian and board-certified health and wellness coach, said there’s plenty of swaps you can make to help cut the sugar in some of these popular drinks and still enjoy the flavors.

“The benefit of all of these healthy recipes is that you are saving calories and added sugar intake. And a bonus is there are super nutrients in these recipes that are actually beneficial to heart health,” she said.

Katie highlights three seasonal drinks that are normally high in sugar and calories, and she suggests healthier versions that cut down the calorie count while still satisfying your sweet tooth.

Pumpkin spice latte

Your typical pumpkin spice latte contains more than 40 grams of sugar and over 350 calories.  

Pumpkin on its own is packed with nutrients, including a big dose of vitamin A, Katie said. However, in the case of most lattes, it comes in the form of a sauce, which includes additional sugar. Add that to the sugary syrups and whip cream and you’ve got more than your recommended daily intake

Katie’s homemade version cuts the amount of sugar in half. Katie’s homemade version cuts the amount of sugar in half.

Healthier pumpkin spice latte


  • 8 ounces coffee
  • ½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons sweetener of choice
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon 


  1. In sauce pan over medium heat, mix together almond milk and pumpkin.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, spices and sweetener. 
  3. Using a frother or blender, process for 30 seconds or until foamy. 
  4. Pour coffee into a large mug, add the foamy milk mixture on top. 
  5. Optional: Top with low-calorie, non-dairy whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Calories: 110 | Sugar: 17 grams

Hot chocolate

While hot chocolate is a classic winter drink, it can contain around 40 grams of sugar and 400 calories. That’s about the same number of calories you’d find in a full meal. 

By making swaps and trying your own version at home, you can decrease the calorie count to only 90. Ditch the sugar-dense sauces and syrups. Replace it with unsweetened cacao powder, which Katie said is both low in calories and contains minerals and antioxidants that are beneficial to your health. Using almond milk as the base makes it dairy-free, with added vitamins and minerals.

A surprising ingredient is the dash of ground ginger, which is loaded with nutrients that benefit your body and your brain. It ties in the rich chocolatey flavor with a zesty twist.

Healthier hot chocolate


  • 3 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons cacao powder
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 1-2 tablespoons of sweetener of choice
  • Optional: low-calorie whipped cream and cinnamon sprinkles


  1. Warm the milk in a pot over the stove.
  2. Whisk in the cacao powder until fully incorporated.
  3. Whisk in the ginger.
  4. Add in your sweetener to your taste preference. 
  5. Heat until just before your mixture reaches a simmer. 
  6. Pour into two mugs, top with whipped cream and cinnamon. 

Calories: 80-90 | Sugar-free

Peppermint mocha

Peppermint mochas may be one of the most unhealthy options of your favorite festive drinks, with more than 50 grams of sugar and around 440 calories.

You can dramatically decrease those numbers to only 35 calories with this recipe, which gets rid of the sugary sauces and syrups.

It’s also friendly for vegans or those who are lactose intolerant, since the base of the hot chocolate is cashew milk. Most varieties of cashew milk are enriched with vitamins and minerals, and it’s best to choose one that does not have added sugar, Katie said.


  • 1 cup unsweetened cashew milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6-8 drops vanilla crème stevia 
  • 4 drops peppermint extract 
  • ¾ cup coffee


  1. In a sauce pan over medium to low heat, mix together milk, cocoa powder and stevia until fully incorporated.
  2. Once the mixture is completely warmed through, stir in the peppermint extract.
  3. Add the coffee to a mug, and pour the milk mixture on top.

Calories: 35 | Sugar-free

Next time you cozy up with a warm winter drink, consider these healthier homemade versions.

“I chose these swaps because I didn’t want to sacrifice flavor. It’s really important when you are making healthy swaps that you find substitutions that are tasty and satisfying. Otherwise, you won’t follow through with it,” Katie said.

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