Dietitians reveal how much sugar is in festive hot drinks and were shocked

For many coffee lovers, Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. Our high street chains festive drinks menus are often a hotly anticipated part of the Christmas season. But which of these festive favourites are the highest in sugar content?

Expert dietitians at The Hospital Group have warned consumers to be mindful of the extra calories they could be consuming in their festive beverages this winter.

The Hospital Group studied all the high street festive hot drink offerings from Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Caffe Nero, Pret a Manger, McDonalds and Greggs and found that Pret a Manger’s Mint Hot Chocolate and Hazelnut Hot Chocolate contained a WHOPPING 47.9g sugar (that’s the equivalent of 3.2 Mince Pies!) in a regular serving.

TOP TEN MOST SUGAR FILLED DRINKS:

  • Mint Hot Chocolate – Pret a Manger – 47.9g sugar
  • Hazelnut Hot Chocolate – Pret a Manger – 47.9 sugar
  • Mint Mocha – Greggs – 46g sugar
  • Mint Hot Chocolate – Greggs – 46g sugar
  • Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate – Caffé Nero – 38.8g sugar
  • Hazelnut Hot Chocolate – Caffé Nero – 38.2g sugar
  • Toasted Marshmallow Hot Chocolate – Starbucks - 36.7g sugar
  • Ginger Hot Chocolate – Caffé Nero – 35.8g sugar
  • Egg Nog Latte – Starbucks – 33.8g sugar
  • Hazelnut Praline & Cream Frostino – Costa Coffee – 33.2g sugar

Of the UK’s three coffee giants: Starbucks, Costa and Caffé Nero – their hot chocolate offerings had the highest sugar content. All three offered a ginger or gingerbread syrup festive drink; Caffe Nero’s Ginger Latte contains 14.7g of sugar (the lowest of all) but Starbucks’ Gingerbread offering contains almost double that at 28.8g.

Nutritionist Holly Gabriel, from Action on Sugar, said the findings were "shocking". "Coffee shops and cafes need to take much greater steps to reduce the levels of sugar and portion sizes, promote lower sugar alternatives and stop pushing indulgent extras at the till."

A spokeswoman for Starbucks said that customers could customise the size of their drink, as well as asking for reduced fat milk and less or no cream."We are committed to reducing sugar in all our beverages and since 2015 we've delivered a 9% reduction in the sugar content of our gingerbread and core syrup range of vanilla, caramel and hazelnut," the spokeswoman added.

Costa offered the lowest calorie drink, their Hot Spiced Apple drink contained only 75 calories, yet still contained a hefty 16.3g of sugar.

Research found that the average mince pie contained around 14-16g of sugar per pie, meaning some of our Christmas cuppas are triple the sugar content of the classic Christmas snack.

George Hamlyn-Williams, Principal Dietitian at The Hospital Group states that for many “drinking our calories is often a ‘blind spot’ that many of us are naïve to, or ignore.”

The NHS recommended daily intake of sugar for adults is 30g a day.  

Whilst Christmas is a time for relaxation and indulgence, he also advises the best ways to keep your sugar intake sensible over the festive season:

“A Grande Toffee Nut latte from Starbucks made with semi-skimmed milk contains a whopping 345kcal (the same as a Pain au Chocolat) and four teaspoons of added sugar! Whilst swapping to skimmed milk may seem an angelic move, it will actually only save you 50kcals.  Similarly, a Medio semi-skimmed latte from Costa will only set you back 146kcal whereas treating yourself to a semi-skimmed Irish Velvet & Cream Latte will mean your calories soar to 360kcal – the same as their Ham & Emmenthal Croissant!  We like to treat ourselves occasionally, but maybe think about asking them to hold the cream or maybe ask for a sugar-free syrup as well as opting for skimmed milk?”

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