Christmas coffee shop drinks 2018: Which to choose and which to avoid

The arrival of the high-street coffee shop festive menu is a sure sign Christmas is coming. Behind the colourful cups and festive cheer, what health hazards lurk inside?

It’s easy to overlook the fat and sugar that comes in our drinks, but if they’re a regular part of your diet they can have a big impact. At this time of year every coffee shop is offering seasonal specials.

Of course, it’s fine to indulge every now and again, but you might want to make some healthier swaps if these are a regular part of your routine. We highlight the nutritional content of some festive favourites at the three biggest coffee chains, and give our top tips for making your hot drink choices more heart-healthy.

Starbucks red cups 

There are lots of different types of festive drinks – we’ve looked at a selection, but all coffee shops will have their own varieties. All drinks we’ve listed as “ones to watch out for” contain more calories than a chocolate bar (a Mars bar has 228 calories) or a typical mince pie (226 calories), and in some cases more calories than two portions of Christmas pudding.

Some have the equivalent of more than 10 teaspoons of sugars in a single cup.Although milk does contain some natural sugars, most of this will have been added.

Many have more than half the maximum amount of saturated fat recommended for a woman to consume in an entire day (the recommended maximum is 20g, or 30g for men)And be aware that larger sizes will contain even more sugar and fat. 

Costa Coffee

Ones to watch out for:

  • Gingerbread and cream hot chocolate. Medium, with semi-skimmed milk, to drink in:
    Energy - 1627kJ, 389kcal. Fat – 19.9g, of which saturates 12.2g. Sugars – 30g (7.5 teaspoons).
  • Black forest hot chocolate. Medium, with semi-skimmed milk, to drink in:
    Energy - 1792kJ, 428kcal. Fat – 21.7g, of which saturates 13.5g. Sugars – 37.9g (9.5 teaspoons).
  • Caramelised orange latte. Medium, with semi-skimmed milk, to drink in:
    Energy - 1265kJ, 303kcal. Fat – 18.6g, of which saturates 11.6g. Sugars – 25.2g (more than 6 teaspoons). 

Costa hot chocolate

The healthy alternative: Mint tea 

Energy – 13kJ, 3kcal. Fat – 0.1g, of which saturates - 0.1g. Sugars – 0.3g

Mint tea in a glass cup 


Ones to watch out for:

  • Gingerbread latte. Tall, with semi skimmed milk and cream:
    Energy – 1081J, 258kcal. Fat – 10.6g, of which saturates – 6.6g. Sugars – 28.8g (more than 7 teaspoons)
  • Yule log Frappuccino. Tall, with whipped cream:
    Energy – 1467kJ, 352kcal. Fat – 23.7g, of which saturates – 16.6g. Sugars – 29.6g (more than 7 teaspoons)
  • Toffeenut Coffee Frappuccino. Tall, with whole milk and whipped cream:
    Energy – 1190kJ, 283kcal. Fat 11.9g, of which saturates – 8.3g. Sugars – 40.8g (more than 10 teaspoons)
Close up of hot chocolate 

The healthier alternative: Latte with cinnamon spice. Short, with skimmed milk

Energy – 406kJ, 96kcal. Fat – 0.3g, of which saturates 0.1g. Sugars – 16.2g.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to reduce your sugar intake, you could opt for a regular-sized steamed skimmed milk with sugar free syrup.

Latte topped with a heart decoration 

Caffe Nero

Ones to watch out for:

  • Caramelised almond brittle latte. Regular, with whipped cream:
    Energy – 1613kJ, 384kcal. Fat – 23.9g, of which saturates 14.7g. Sugars – 29.5g (more than 7 teaspoons).
  • Salted caramel latte. Regular, with semi skimmed milk and whipped cream:
    Energy – 645kJ, 153kcal. Fat – 2.7g, of which saturates 1.4g. Sugars – 24.6g (6 teaspoons).
  • Belgian truffle hot chocolate. Regular, with steamed milk and whipped cream:
    Energy – 1,937kJ, 435kcal. Fat – 24.7g, of which saturates 15.3g. Sugars – 56.9g (more than 14 teaspoons).
Coffee topped with foam 

The healthy alternative: Latte. Regular, with skimmed milk and no cream.

Energy – 258kJ, 62kcal. Fat – 0.8g, of which saturates- 0.1g. Sugars – 6.5g.

Latte surrounded by coffee beans on a pink background 
  • If you fancy some chocolate, why not wait until dessert? Try our heart-friendly chocolate strawberry roulade.
  • Take a look at our 8 healthy hot drinks.
  • Most coffee chains have the nutritional information for their products available in store, online, or both. If we haven't listed your favourite here, you could look up the details to find out more about what you're drinking.

Top tips

When you’re ordering your hot drinks, follow our tips:

1. Hold the cream

Cream is very high in calories and saturated fat, so avoid adding it to your drink, along with any marshmallows or syrup on top which are high in sugar.

2. Go skinny

Asking for skimmed milk rather than whole will reduce the fat and calorie content of your drink, although if you have gone for a sweet drink like hot chocolate or a coffee with flavoured syrup then it won’t change the amount of added sugar in your cup. 

Take our quiz to find out more about milk.

3. Make it a small one

When we talk about a ‘cup’ of coffee, we’re usually talking about the amount you find in a traditional teacup, but on the high street a ‘regular’ size could actually be twice as big. Think twice before ‘going large’ - you’ll consume less saturated fat, sugar and calories, and be left with more money in your pocket.

4. Say no to the tempting treats

As well as the fancy drink flavours, coffee shops will often try to tempt you with treats to go alongside your cuppa. But your drink may contain as many calories as a small meal already, and adding a muffin or mince pie will add even more calories, fat and sugar. Why not make your own, more heart-healthy Christmas treats at home? Or try our seven sweet treats with none of the guilt.

More useful information