How could eggnog – what I considered a “happy” drink, often shared with friends, deliciously creamy and subtly spicy, be so caloric (even without the added booze!)? When I realized this years ago, it felt like a kick in the stomach.

The reason? “It’s the ingredients, dude.”

Check the ingredient label on most commercial eggnogs. It’s usually a combo that includes cream, milk, sugar, egg yolks, and assorted less caloric additions, like vanilla and nutmeg. Most commercial eggnogs run about 170-190 calories per serving. BUT…

….check the SERVING SIZE: “1/2 cup” (usually).


                       Photo: Author’s own

Then check YOUR serving size. If it’s usually 1 cup, you’re drinking about 340-380 calories per cup. Drinking straight half-and-half is less! (That’s “only” 314 calories, per USDA’s FoodDataCentral database.)

To Be Fair…

There are nutrients in eggnog: it’ll still have about the same amount of protein and calcium as an equal volume of milk, including non-fat milk. It has some lutein and zeaxanthin from the egg yolks, and some minerals, like potassium, zinc, and selenium, in about the same amounts.

Eggnog – delicious as it is – isn’t exactly the preferred way to get these nutrients, but it’s not an “empty-calorie” drink, either.

Eggnog Lovers, There’s Hope!

First, some “calorie factoids”:

  • 1 cup of heavy cream: 800 calories.
  • 1 cup of whole milk: 150 calories
  • 1/2 cup sugar: 400 calories

This recipe from America’s Test Kitchen uses mostly milk, but still racks up 166 calories in ½ cup. You can certainly make your own eggnog, and control what and how much of, the high-calorie ingredients you include.

                    Photo: Author’s own

Healthier Eggnog Hacks:

  • Use all milk, no cream.
  • Use half-and-half instead of the cream.
  • Swap out some or all of the sugar with stevia, or any low-calorie sweetener. This may give the result a somewhat thinner viscosity, as sugar provides structural properties such as thickening, in addition to sweetness.
  • FAVE HACK: Use eggnog to top Greek yogurt! It gives extra richness, and you’ll have the flavor but WAY fewer calories.
  • And if you don’t want to make your own (I don’t), do a quick-fix lower calorie eggnog:
    • Combine store-bought eggnog with an equal amount of nonfat or low-fat milk. It’ll still be plenty thick and you may not miss the slightly reduced sweetness (I don’t). And calorie-wise, instead of giving you 166 calories in ½ cup, you’ll have 123 calories, with half the sugar and half the fat of the original. Still all the protein and calcium though.

Pro-tip: Treat eggnog as a special drink! It’s not for “gulping” — this drink is for sipping. Put in a special glass — the one above is my grandmother’s 100-year-old wedding crystal! And for the record, the glass holds 4-oz., If you fill it to the rim.  And remember — we eat with our eyes. Don’t forget the nutmeg garnish!

You might even find this “eggnog-lite” more your style. For some, a little less sweet is a good thing. The holidays have enough calories, thanks!

Feature photo: iStock