Autumn leaves, warm fireplaces, cozy sweaters, riding boots, and thick jackets aren’t the same without a yummy fall beverage in hand, right? There are certain drinks that simply define the season, and there’s nothing wrong with that — except, of course, that many of these beverages pack lots of empty calories into our diets, not to mention unneeded sugar and fat.
If you’re watching your weight, or simply mindful of what is and isn’t nutritious, you don’t have to completely swear off classic fall drinks. Instead, you can easily slim them down or recreate them at home with healthier ingredients. For a few beverage makeovers, we turned to a couple experts. Check them out now, just before those chillier temperatures.
1. Skinny Peppermint Mocha
Photo by Leena Robinson
- 12 ounces brewed coffee
- 2 Tablespoons half-and-half
- 1 Tablespoon Ghirardelli® unsweetened cocoa
- 1-2 packets Stevia
- 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
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“Brew your coffee extra strong while stirring the half-and-half, cocoa, Stevia, and your peppermint extract in a small pot over medium heat until mixture is dissolved,” says Lauren Popeck, a dietician at Orlando Health. “Stir with a whisk until foamy. Pour your brewed coffee into a large cup, and then add your hot cream mixture over your coffee.” Stir to blend. Voila!
2. Skinny Pumpkin Spice Latte
Oh, Pumpkin Spice Latte. Three words that scream, “Cold weather is on its way.” If you’re ordering from Starbucks, start by downsizing to a tall, skipping the whip, and swapping 2-percent milk with nonfat. “It’s so simple, and yet you’re taking a 380-calorie drink and turning it into a reasonable 200-calorie drink,” says dietitian Keri Gans, author of “The Small Change Diet.”
If you’re making at home, Gans suggests sprinkling a little McCormick Pumpkin Pie Spice into your coffee grounds for the PSL taste, and then simply adding nonfat or almond milk to your brewed beverage.
3. Skinny White Chocolate Mocha
White-chocolate mocha usually appeals to many palates, so try making it for a get-together.
- 6 cups strong brewed coffee
- 2 cups fat-free or unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
“Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles start to form around the edges of the milk,” says Popeck. “Remove from the heat and whisk in the white chocolate chips until smooth. This makes the syrup.”
Want a quicker version? You’ve got options for a single serving, says Popeck. You can add a half-cup of the milk and white chocolate chip syrup to 12 ounces of coffee, or pour a half-cup of the syrup and 12 ounces of the coffee into a blender and carefully blend on medium or high until frothy for the “latte version.”
This slimmer version of the white-chocolate mocha is just approximately 13 grams of carbs, 6 grams of fat, and 110 calories per 12-ounce serving. “Starbucks’ version has 62 grams of carbs, 22 grams of fat, and 500 calories,” says Popeck.
4. Skinny Toasted Graham Latte
The Toasted Graham Latte launched this fall at Starbucks, and it’s already gaining admirers for its childlike sweetness — which isn’t exactly waistline-friendly at 300 calories for a grande. Gans says if you want to order in that little white cup, make it a tall with nonfat milk to immediately cut your calorie total to 190.
- 6 cups regular brewed coffee
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
- Graham cracker squares
You can recreate this one at home by adding cinnamon to your regular coffee grounds. Brew up that coffee, add a half-cup of vanilla almond milk and serve with a graham cracker square. “That will only run you around 17 calories — which isn’t at all bad,” Gans says.
5. Low-Calorie Eggnog
- 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- Dash of cinnamon
- Dash of nutmeg
- Dash of freshly-ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Dash of Stevia
Everybody loves this holiday favorite, which will probably start hitting shelves in late October — but you can make a better version at home.
“Just heat the almond milk in a saucepan, add all the ingredients, and then use a whisk or a hand-held frother to mix,” Popeck says. You’ll shave off calories, but still get that delicious flavor.
6. Low-Calorie Hot Chocolate
With hot chocolate, everyone’s wintertime favorite, the key is how you dress it up. “I view hot chocolate as a chance to have a glass of milk,” Gans says. “Lose the whip, and skip the powdered, sugary hot cocoa.”
There are a couple ways you can tackle a slimmed-down hot chocolate. Gans says you can do a healthy, non-dairy, 60-second version by simply heating up a glass of chocolate almond milk. Or, if you’d rather go a more traditional route, heat nonfat milk and add a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, which is only 10 calories.
7. Skinny Hot Toddy
A traditional hot toddy comes with whiskey, but you can make a virgin version with fewer calories.
Ingredients (single serving)
- 3 ounces thinly-sliced ginger root
- 1 cup water
- 1 cinnamon stick
“All you have to do is boil the water and ginger and then strain,” Popeck says. You’re your cinnamon stick and enjoy.” You can also add a dot of honey for a little extra sweetness.
8. Skinny Caramel Macchiato
If caramel macchiato makes your short list for favorite fall beverages, try a DIY version to save calories and money.
- 1 cup fat-free milk
- 2 Tablespoons caramel sauce
- 3 cups brewed coffee
“Mix milk and caramel sauce, then heat them in the microwave for 90 seconds,” Popeck says. “Froth the resulting mixture, pour over a two-thirds cup full of coffee.” This should make about three medium-sized cups of caramel macchiato.
“The at-home version contains only 59 calories, 12 grams of carbs, and zero grams of fat compared to the Starbucks version, which has 203 calories, 25.5 grams of carbs, and 8.3 grams of fat,” Popeck says. You can shave even more calories off with a sugar-free caramel syrup — but just remember, it likely has artificial sweeteners and colors.
9. Skinny Chai Tea Latte
A coffee-house favorite is always the chai tea latte: Full of sugar, spice, and everything nice for fall and winter — except that whopping 250 calories and 50 grams of sugar, says Gans. So, you’re better off making this one at home.
- 1 chai tea bag
- Non-fat milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To whip up a healthier version of the chai tea latte, start with a bag of chai tea. “You want to skip the concentrate, and buy tea bags that contain that flavor — the spices like cardamom, cinnamon and black pepper,” Gans says. “Brew your tea, add nonfat milk and about a teaspoon of vanilla extract for extra sweetness, which is only about 12 calories.”
10. Skinny Spiced Cider
There’s nothing like hot cider on a chilly day — but it can run you anywhere from around 120 calories to 350 calories, depending on how much sugar and syrup you’ve got in that cup.
Gans says you can get that spiced apple taste a couple different ways, without so many calories. “You can opt for a cinnamon-spice herbal tea, or you can heat half a cup of apple juice with half a cup of water, then add a cinnamon stick,” she says. The former is calorie-free, the latter is about 50 calories and packs some great vitamin C. Either is a win.