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How to choose hot drinks

It’s very easy to reach for a hot cuppa during your (working) day. Nutritionist Brigid Chunn looks at the wide variety of hot drinks on offer.

Colder weather (especially) lends itself to warming drinks. There are a large variety of products on the market — from the old favourites like Milo to Marshmallow Melt drinking chocolate, a chai latté to mochaccino — something to satisfy every taste.

Some products include powdered milk and sugar (or sweetener) and you just add hot water. These tend to be low in energy (kJ). Others such as hot chocolates need milk and/or water added.

Milk is a nutritious addition to drinks. It contains protein, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and, of course, readily absorbable calcium.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the required amounts of milk in these hot drinks take them to the level of a snack food. Using half water and half milk counts as half a dairy serve and this reduces the overall kilojoules if needed.

Always check the nutrition information panel as, while many hot drinks are low in saturated fat, some are not. The saturated fat may come from full-fat milk solids or from a vegetable oil (this could be palm oil).

Choose drinks with 3g or less saturated fat per serve of powder. Better still: look for 1g or less.

One teaspoon of sugar is around 4g, so 16g sugar is about four- teaspoons worth. Hot chocolate drinks are likely to have more sugar than coffee blends as cocoa needs sweetening to make it drinkable. For example, Avalanche Marshmallow Melt Drinking Chocolate has 9g per serve whereas Nescafé Latté Skim 99% fat free has only 4.3g per serve. However, it does pay to check the nutrition information panel as some of the coffee blends may have more sugar than you think. Choose hot drinks with 10g or less sugars per serve of the powder Better still: 5g or less sugars.

Believe it or not, some sweetened hot drinks contain salt therefore sodium. Our daily sodium intake may be higher than we think, especially if we are consuming a variety of processed foods. Ideally, choose hot drinks that have 90mg or less sodium per serve of powder.

It’s important to be aware of how much energy we drink each day. It’s easy for the kilojoules to add up without us realising. This is fine if you are active during the day but for those of us who may be more sedentary, choosing a low-kJ drink may be a better option. Otherwise use the high-energy drink as your snack.

First published: Sep 2013



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