How sugary are Christmas drinks? The high street's 10 worst offenders

Christmas hot drinks might be delicious - but they're packed with sugar [Stock photo: Getty]
Christmas hot drinks might be delicious, but they're packed with sugar (Getty)

The festive season is here, with many of us indulging in rich hot chocolates or syrupy lattes to satisfy our sweet tooth.

While we may justify Christmas as the perfect time to treat ourselves, one regular-sized order can contain an astonishing 47.9g of sugar, nearly 18g more than the recommended 30g daily maximum.

And for those who think drinks don’t cause weight gain, these sugary treats can contain three times more of the sweet stuff than your average mince pie and nearly a quarter of your recommended daily calorie intake.

READ MORE: How many calories are in your Starbucks festive latte?

“Drinking our calories is often a ‘blind spot’ that many of us are naïve to, or ignore,” George Hamlyn-Williams, principal dietitian at The Hospital Group, said.

“A grande toffee nut latte from Starbucks made with semi-skimmed milk contains a whopping 345 calories, 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 50 calories.

“Similarly, a medio semi-skimmed latte from Costa will only set you back 146 calories whereas treating yourself to a semi-skimmed Irish velvet & cream latte will mean your calories soar to 360 calories, the same as their ham & emmental croissant.”

His comments back up analysis by Action on Sugar, which found that more than 200 drinks sold in high street coffee chains contain up to 23 spoonfuls of sugar.

“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,” Action on Sugar nutritionist Holly Gabriel told the BBC.

Biggest increases in sugar in hot drinks 2016 v 2019. See story HEALTH Sugar. Infographic PA Graphics.
Overall, Action on Sugar found drinks in some chains are getting sweeter (PA)
Biggest  decreases in sugar in hot drinks 2016 v 2019. See story HEALTH Sugar. Infographic PA Graphics.
Others, however, are making big reductions to their sugar content (PA)

10 Christmas drinks with the most sugar

Pret A Manger mint hot chocolate: 439 calories

Just for Christmas, customers can enjoy Pret’s signature hot chocolate complete with a shot of mint syrup, whipped cream and a dusting of chocolate powder.

While it may sound delicious, a standard-sized drink - made with semi-skimmed milk - contains 47.9g of sugar and 439 calories.

That’s almost a quarter of the 2,000 calories the NHS recommends for the average women. Men are advised to consume about 2,500 calories a day.

Pret's mint hot chocolate is the joint worst offender, with 47.9g of sugar (Pret A Manger)

Pret A Manger hazelnut hot chocolate: 439 calories

In joint position for the most calorific Christmas drinks is another festive offering from Pret.

Swapping mint for hazelnut syrup, a regular size of this chocolatey treat also comes in at 47.9g of sugar and 439 calories, even when made with semi-skimmed milk.

Greggs mint mocha: 346 calories

For those who need caffeine to put a spring in their step, this combination of coffee and hot chocolate comes with mint flavour syrup, cream and chocolate sprinkles.

The decadent indulgence will add 46g of sugar to your daily diet and set you back 346 calories.

For those craving coffee, Greggs' mint mocha contains 46g of sugar (Greggs)

Greggs mint hot chocolate: 334 calories

If you want to skip the coffee, Greggs’ mint hot chocolate could keep you warm on a cold winter’s day.

While it boosts of being made with “fat-reduced cocoa powder” and semi-skimmed milk, a regular-sized drink still contains 334 calories, not to mention the 46g of sugar.

If you want to skip the coffee, Greggs' mint hot chocolate still has 46g of sugar (Greggs)

Caffè Nero salted caramel hot chocolate: 401 calories

It may sound like the most indulgent option so far, but Caffè Nero’s salted caramel hot chocolate comes fifth in the high street’s most sugar-filled festive drinks.

Complete with salted caramel syrup, whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce, customers can even go all out and add marshmallows.

A regular size with semi-skimmed milk contains 38.8g of sugar and 401 calories.

Caffè Nero hazelnut hot chocolate: 399 calories

For those who prefer more traditional Christmas flavours, Caffè Nero swaps salted caramel for hazelnut syrup.

Don’t be fooled into thinking nuts are good for you though. A single serving contains just 0.6g less sugar at 38.2g, as well as 399 calories.

Starbucks toasted marshmallow hot chocolate: 308 calories

A combination of mocha sauce, marshmallow syrup, whipped cream and caramelised sugar, this festive offering is sure to hit the spot.

Indulging in a regular-sized, semi-skimmed option will add 36.7g of sugar to your daily intake and 308 calories.

This chocolatey indulgence will add 36.7g of sugar to your daily intake (Starbucks)

Caffè Nero ginger hot chocolate: 390 calories

This milky indulgence is made with ginger syrup and topped with cinnamon, classic Christmas flavours.

Customers can then add whipped cream and marshmallows for an extra treat.

The festive drink contains 35.8g of sugar and 390 calories.

Starbucks eggnog latte: 272 calories

This comforting drink is inspired by festive traditions in the US. Eggnog is usually a mix of raw eggs with sugar, whole milk and double cream.

The whole lot is then finished off with bourbon or rum.

While drinking raw eggs may not appeal to everyone, this latte bypasses that part of the recipe but doesn’t hold back on the sweet stuff. This festive latte has 33.8g of sugar and 272 calories.

A Starbucks spokesperson said: “All our drinks can be customised, such as asking for our smallest size; short, requesting skimmed milk and less or no whipped cream.

“To help make it easier for customers to make informed choices, nutritional information is also available in-store, on our mobile app and online.

“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.”

A Christmas classic, this taste of the States has 33.8g of sugar (Starbucks)

Costa Coffee hazelnut praline & cream frostino: 382 calories

A “frostino” is a Costa original. The new Christmas classic combines milk with hazelnut syrup, Belgian chocolate sauce, cream and “golden milk chocolate wafer pieces”.

This decadent indulgence is the least sugary of the 10, but still contains 33.2g of the sweet stuff and 382 calories.

With chocolate sauce and hazelnut syrup, the "frostino" has 33.2g of sugar (Costa Coffee)