4 Smart & Healthy Swaps for High-calorie Drinks this Fall

Hey Angels and Alphas,

The arrival of sweater weather in the nutrition world is synonymous with a long list of warm beverages, whether it’s going to be one to start your day or one to pair with a relaxing evening and a good book.

While a big nice cup of black coffee or tea is a healthy, antioxidant-rich option, some other fall classics drink like apple cider and sugar-pumped pumpkin spice lattes can be very high in sugar and calories, working to hinder your weight-loss efforts. 

These beverages contain several forms of sugar, including highly-processed blends, whipped cream, and flavored syrups. But the good news is you don’t have to go cold turkey on your favorite seasonal treats. These are drinks synonymous with comfort food, and there’s nothing wrong with adding a few foods like that to your diet as long as it’s in moderation.  

And moreover, you can make smart swaps that will still give you that comfort and amazing taste without having to sacrifice sweetness. Let’s talk about it.


Chai tea is usually infused with a lot of warm fall spices such as cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. When you order your typical chai tea latte at your local coffee shop, you will likely get the following: steamed milk combined with a small concentrate of chai tea poured out from a box, containing a ton of sugar. In fact, those grande chai tea lattes you find at Starbucks have about 40 grams of sugar. Even though you’re getting nutritional antioxidant benefits from the tea, the extra sugar might not be worth it.

The fix here is simple: ask your barista to go light on the concentrate or just ask for a smaller size. Another option that’s even healthier – order a plan brewed chai tea, brewed from a teabag, which has zero calories and still contains the much-needed anti-inflammatory antioxidants.


Apple cider is essentially unfiltered apple juice and that’s why it looks like regular apple juice only cloudier. Some coffee shops and restaurants will actually create specialty apple-flavored drinks and add regular apple juice, flavor syrup, and whipped cream. And in places such as Starbucks, this Caramel Apple Spice racks up to about 71 grams of sugar. That’s almost 400 calories in a 16-ounce grande.

Here’s a smart swap: Instead of trying to reach for that specialty beverage, enjoy a small glass of the real deal. It’s still juice, but by cutting down your serving size, you will eliminate the extra added sugar and whipped cream that cuts those calories to about a third. Not only that, but the real juice will contain about 100% of your daily recommended value for vitamin C.


If you truly want to embrace this season by switching from a regular morning latte to your daily pumpkin spice latte, you’re likely tripling the calories you consume from it. One medium pumpkin spice latte from Dunkin’ that has additional skim milk brings in about 350 calories with 50 grams of sugar. Compared to its unflavored alternative, that’s more than three times the calories!

The smart swap: If you want one, skip the whipped cream. Just make an effort to ask for fewer pumps of the pumpkin spice syrup. Or, the best option out there, just make it at home. Pumpkin spice is not difficult to make, and when done right, you can bring down the calorie count to a mere 100 calories while retaining the flavor you’re looking for.


While chocolate does contain antioxidants, it’s by far the drink that’s loaded with the most added sugar in beverage form. Let’s take a classic Swiss Miss packet – it contains about 28 grams of sugar and 160 calories, while a medium hot chocolate from McDonald’s contains about 60 grams of sugar and 350 cal. And let’s not get started on the fancy hot chocolate beverages you’d find at your local Starbucks. They’re essentially sugar bombs made with caramel sauce, white chocolate, and whipped cream. 

The smart fix is: for your small hot cocoa fix, you have to try your own recipe: just find chocolate labeled 65% or higher (the darker, the better.) And then just control your own sweetener – because a little drizzle of maple or a teaspoon of sugar can go a long way to making it more delicious without having the need to go overboard.