Christmas has come to our coffee cups in recent years, with gingerbread, cinnamon or orange flavoured festive hot drinks flooding the market. However, you may want to reassess your love of the seasonal latte, and not swallow down dollops of nutmeg infused whipped cream as these December drinks contain a lot of sugar, a new study has revealed.
Action on Sugar has released findings that show that many high street coffee chains are not reducing the high sugar count in their festive drinks, with some actually increasing the amount of sweetness since 2016.
The charity have also revealed that alternatives to traditional cow’s milk, including coconut or oat milk are contributing to customers consuming an excessive amount of sugar because of the widely pedalled idea that veganism is healthy and also due to a lack of labels.
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The study was of the sugar and calorie content of 124 hot chocolates and 79 seasonal lattes made with different types of milk. It discovered that festive hot drinks can contain enough sugar to fill three cans of coke.
It also revealed, in comparison with a similar study made in 2016, 27% of drinks had increased their sugar content. For instance a regular vanilla latte from KFC had 19g of sugar in 2016 but now contains 26g, however, Costa has managed to half the amount of sugar in some of its drinks since the first study.
Nutritionist Holly Gabriel of Action on Sugar said: “It is shocking that so many high street coffee chains are wilfully putting their customers’ health at risk despite Public Health England (PHE) setting sugar reduction targets for sugary milk drinks in 2018.
"Responsible coffee shops have shown reformulation is possible within this category.
“For example, Costa have made some significant reductions in sugar since 2016 and some now offer smaller sizes as standard for seasonal drinks. 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.”
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The highest sugar content of all the drinks tested was Starbucks’ Signature Caramel Hot Chocolate with whipped cream, in a venti size and made with oat milk. It contained a whopping 23 teaspoons and 758 calories.
Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director at Action on Sugar, wants coffee shops to label their drinks for customers to read before they buy them. She said: “You can always add sugar in, but you can’t take it out.
“Customers looking for dairy alternatives could be shocked to learn that many coffee shops and cafes use pre-sweetened alternative milks as the nutrition information is often very difficult to find – with information only available on websites or not at all.”
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