The Best Time Of Day To Drink That Sugary, Holiday-Themed Latte

Nutritionists explain how your body reacts to peppermint mochas and gingerbread lattes at different times of day.
Drinking your peppermint mocha before a workout is actually a good idea, according to nutritionists.
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Drinking your peppermint mocha before a workout is actually a good idea, according to nutritionists.

Move over, pumpkin spice latte: ’Tis officially the season for peppermint mochas, gingerbread and eggnog lattes, and steaming mugs of hot chocolate. While we’re all for splurging on these beverages when the occasion calls for it ― which, in our opinion, should happen for the entirety of the holiday season ― the sugar crash that comes with these drinks isn’t exactly fun.

Because we don’t want to deprive you of these sweet sips, we talked with nutritionists to find out when to time your holiday-themed latte and hot chocolate consumption so you feel good all day long. Here’s everything you need to know.

Stick to mornings, but eat breakfast first.

Because these beverages are both sweet and caffeinated for the most part, you’ll want to try to consume them before noon, according to registered dietitian Eleana Kaidanian. “Many of these festive drinks, in addition to the excessive sugar content, also contain caffeine and that duo is not a recipe for sleep,” she said. “Avoid having them later in the day unless they are caffeine-free and unsweetened.”

That being said, it’s not a good idea to drink them on an empty stomach, according to Mary Wirtz, registered dietitian and nutritional consultant at Mom Loves Best.

“Sugar-laden beverages, such as a holiday-themed latte, are best consumed with or just after a meal,” she explained. “The protein and fiber consumed at that meal will help to slow digestion of the sugars in the beverage and therefore leave an individual with more stable blood sugar and energy levels.”

More stable blood sugar in the morning means you’re less likely to crave sugary, unhealthy foods throughout the day — and the protein and fiber in your breakfast could also influence your holiday-themed drink order. For example, Wirtz says, you may be less likely to order a large beverage, or you may just not drink as much of it.

Consider having your latte before or after exercising.

Don’t think of a peppermint mocha as pre-workout fuel? It may be time to reconsider. Wirtz noted that you can actually view your sugary, caffeinated drink as pre-workout fuel. “It is best to have concentrated sugar sources, such as a holiday-themed latte, just before exercise, as glucose (sugar) is needed to fuel activities such as cardiovascular exercise or weightlifting,” she said, noting that there’s also strong research that shows that caffeine can help fuel workout performance.

And if you can’t quite get the timing to work, sipping on a sugary latte after a workout is fine, too. “The holiday-themed latte can also be enjoyed post-workout, combined with a protein source, to help speed up the muscle recovery process,” Wirtz said.

The same is true of non-caffeinated drinks, like hot chocolate: The sugar in hot chocolate can help fuel a hard workout and help you recover from it.

And of course, you always have the option to lighten up your beverage.

If you want to avoid the possibility of a sugar crash altogether — or at least reduce it — you’d be hard-pressed to find a dietitian who isn’t ready with hacks to make this happen.

“You can skip the whipped cream, request half the sweetener, ask for a calorie-free sweetener, or flavor your beverage with cinnamon,” Wirtz said. “You can also order a black coffee or Americano with one pump or half a serving of holiday-themed flavoring.”

You can also get the thrill of a holiday-themed beverage with very minimal sugar, according to Kaidanian. “You can enjoy an unsweetened pumpkin chai latte that is packed with flavor, not sugar, from pumpkin and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla,” she said. “You should also consider choosing nonfat milk, low-fat cow’s milk or unsweetened plant-based milk when possible. Ask for unsweetened beverages, or take control by specifically asking for how much flavoring you want to be used by the barista.”

While nutritionists aren’t crazy about the sugary caffeinated beverages that tend to be consumed around the holiday season, there are ways to time your consumption so it’s less detrimental to your energy levels and overall health. So order those eggnog lattes while you still can!

Want to just make your own cold brew at home so you don’t have to wait in line? These are baristas’ favorite products.

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The Ovalware RJ3 cold brew maker
"The Ovalware RJ3 cold brew maker is my favorite gadget to make my cold brew with! Due to its airtight seal, it makes cold brew taste fresh and delicious for days on end. It also has a stainless steel filter within the carafe, making it not only reusable, but it also allows for the best brew of coffee where even fine sediments of coffee cannot pass through!" — Dania Abou-Jabal of Cafe Dania

The Ovalware RJ3 cold brew maker makes four cups of coffee with a verticle brewing container that goes inside the carafe. Fill the brewing container with ground beans, pour cold water into the vessel, let it brew for hours and then enjoy.
Doppelgänger Goods's reusable cold brew bags
"My favorite cold brew is simply a bag made by Doppelgänger Goods. You just fill it with coffee and toss it in a pitcher with water for 24 hours at room temp and you’ve got cold brew! It’s basically the Toddy method, which is what most cafes, including Starbucks, use to make their cold brew." — Dan McLaughlin owner of Golden Triangle Coffee

This single reusable cold brew bag from Doppelgänger Goods is made from extra-fine mesh with a nylon drawstring that's easy to use when wet. Other baristas recommended organic cotton reusable coffee bags with the same technique.
OXO Good Grips cold brew coffee maker
"I really enjoy this way of brewing cold brew because of the perforated rainmaker pouring feature at the top. This ensures all the grounds are saturated evenly, causing the flavor to be very smooth, rich and full-bodied." — Stephanie Zullo, Chicago-based barista

The OXO Good Grips set includes the cold brew maker and a 32-ounce beaker. Simply put your ground beans into the brewing container, pour cold water over the perforated top and steep for 12-24 hours. When your cold brew is ready, pop the container onto the stand and use the easy press-down spigot to dispense fresh cold brew.
A normal French press
"All you need to do is add your coffee grounds to the French press and pour in room temperature water. Then you add the lid on without pressing the mesh filter press down. Let it steep for 12-18 hours, and then you can press and serve! Cold brew is so simple and accessible and that’s what makes it amazing!" — Tanner Colson, owner of Colson Coffee

This eye-catching French press from Couplet Coffee can be used to make both fresh hot coffee and/or overnight cold brew.
A giant Mason jar and Chemex filters
"I just weigh out maybe 50 grams of coarse ground coffee into a Chemex filter and tie it with a string, creating a kind of tea bag. Then I’ll place the bag in a Mason jar with water. I weigh the water in the jar to make sure it’s five times the amount of coffee. Let the coffee tea bag steep in the Mason jar overnight on the counter for about 8 hours. Weight is important and keeping it on the counter instead of the fridge is also a pro move." — Hugh Morretta, co-owner of Rowhome Coffee in Philadelphia and Coffee Quality Manager at Peet’s Coffee

This set includes a half-gallon Mason jar and 100 Chemex one-use filters. Other baristas suggested using cheesecloth, disposable cold brew bags and even traditional coffee filters with rubber bands for a similar result.
A Bodum Bean French press specifically for cold brew
"This is great if I can remember the day before to set it up. It produces a smooth, tasty cold brew. It’s easy, dishwasher-safe and can be used without paper filters." — Anne Marie Amisola of The Rookie Barista

The Bodum Bean cold brew coffee maker works similarly to a French press, but is specifically for cold brew, so you shouldn't pour boiling water into it. It holds 51 fluid ounces and comes with a flat lid for overnight brewing and a press/spout lid for pouring. Cover your measured beans with room temperature water, attach the flat lid and leave the maker to brew in the fridge overnight. When you're ready for fresh cold brew, give it a stir, then switch to the press/spout lid to press down on the beans.

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