It could be because it’s one of the few remaining holiday foods that really is only available at this time of year, or perhaps because it has such a rich and distinctive flavor, but for many people, celebrations aren’t complete without eggnog.
It probably comes as no surprise that eggnog is more dessert than beverage. Traditionally made with eggs, cream, milk, and sugar, even a small serving can pack significant amounts of calories, fat, saturated fat, and added sugars. And there’s an additional health concern with eggnog: If it’s made with raw eggs, it can be a food-poisoning risk.
But this doesn’t mean you need to take a pass on this holiday cup of cheer. Just check out these nutrition and safety facts before you raise your glass.ate Now
A Serving of Eggnog Is Smaller Than You Think
Usually, the serving size for a drink is 1 cup (8 fluid ounces). But for eggnog, the serving size on the nutrition facts panel is for just a half-cup. If you drink more than that, remember to double (or triple) the figures for calories, fat, and added sugars you see on the carton.
The nutritional content of different brands varies, but not by much. In a recent review of 17 eggnogs, the regular dairy versions had 170 to 190 calories, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, and 13 to 16 grams of added sugars. Adding an ounce (a little less than a shot glass) of rum, brandy, or other type of spirits tacks on about 65 calories.
‘Light’ Eggnog Isn’t So Light
When you’re scanning the selections of prepared eggnog at a store, you’ll see several modifications of the traditional recipe. Those labeled “low fat” or “light” typically contain about 140 calories and less than 4 grams of fat per half-cup serving. But the added sugars content is similar to or only slightly lower than regular eggnog. For example, Hood’s Golden Eggnog has 180 calories, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, and 16 grams of added sugars. Its Light Eggnog has 140 calories, 4 of grams fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, and 17 grams of added sugars.
According to Consumer Reports (CR), the dairy eggnogs with the least added sugars were Trader Joe’s Light Eggnog (11 grams per half-cup) and Bolthouse Farms Holiday Nog (9 grams per half-cup).
Vegan Eggnogs Can Be Healthier
Holiday eggnog made from nut, oat, or soy milk will give you the flavor of the season, and it tends to be lower in calories and saturated fat because it doesn’t contain cream, eggs, or milk. Many of ones they evaluated are also lower in added sugars than dairy versions. Califia Almond Holiday Nog and Trader Joe’s Almond Nog each have just 50 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 8 grams of added sugars per half-cup. Elmhurst Oat Nog (made with oats and cashews) has 100 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 8 grams of added sugars. (All three have 0 grams of saturated fat.)
Consider Making Your Own Eggnog
Homemade eggnog can be even higher in calories, fat, and sugars than commercial versions. A half-cup serving of a traditional eggnog recipe spiked with bourbon or rum contains 265 calories, 17 grams of fat (half of which is saturated), and 18 grams of added sugars, but depending on the recipe it could have more.
Still, you can lighten up a recipe by substituting half and half for heavy cream and using about half the sugar called for.
Another advantage to making your own is that you can avoid processed ingredients, such as artificial and natural flavors, artificial colors, and thickeners such as gums or carrageenan. (“Natural flavors” must come from a natural source but can be highly processed with chemicals and include many ingredients that don’t have to be disclosed.)
All of the eggnogs CR evaluated had more than one of these, except for Elmhurst Oat Nog, which only has natural flavors.
It’s Easy to Make Eggnog Safer
Classic eggnog recipes call for raw eggs. Eggnog made with raw, unpasteurized eggs can contain salmonella, a leading cause of food poisoning. The bacteria can make anyone sick, but young children, older adults, pregnant people, and anyone with a weakened immune system are particularly vulnerable.
You can ensure that you and your guests are sipping safely, though. Almost all of the eggnog sold in stores is pasteurized, which kills bacteria, but be sure to check that the carton or bottle is clearly labeled as such.
If you make your own, use pasteurized liquid eggs, which are sold as such. Or heat raw eggs (mix them with milk and stir constantly) to 160° F to kill any salmonella bacteria that may be present before adding them to your recipe. Don’t count on alcohol to kill the bacteria, for those little critters might even enjoy it.
So there you have it; I hope I haven’t “egghausted” your holiday cheer too much!