People have certain staples when it comes to their favourite holiday foods and/or beverages. For some, it’s the savoury (i.e. the turkey, gravy and Brussels sprouts), while others like to indulge in the sweets (such as chocolate and gingerbread cookies.) While these can be hard foods to avoid and say “no” to over the holiday season, there’s another holiday staple that is also quite common during this time of year that people often don’t think twice about when it comes to how it can impact their health (and their waistline), and that’s eggnog.

While eggs themselves are considered healthy (they’re a good source of protein as well as a rich source of vitamins B2, B6, B12, zinc, iron and copper), there are other ingredients in eggnog that, if you consume too much of, could not only contribute to weight gain but also have other harmful effects on your health. Of course eggnog would have to be something you drink regularly in order for it to be detrimental to your health, but it’s still important to be aware — and, if possible, try to find some healthier holiday beverage alternatives.

Aside from eggs, some of the other main ingredients used in eggnog consist of whole milk, heavy cream, and sugar. Whole milk and heavy cream are much higher in fat. In fact, much of the fat that is found in cream comes from saturated fat, which has been closely linked to an increased risk of developing high cholesterol (in addition to weight gain.) When you have high cholesterol, this means that certain levels of bad fats or lipids are too high in the blood, and the most common cause of high cholesterol is due to the foods we eat. The best way you can prevent and treat high cholesterol is by making heart-healthy lifestyle changes, such as improving your diet as well as removing other bad habits from your lifestyle (i.e. quitting smoking), while you should also focus on getting regular exercise. Combined, all of these things can significantly reduce your cholesterol back down to a healthy level.

Because eggnog is made with raw eggs, there’s also the concern for food poisoning. When you drink eggnog, whether it’s homemade or store bought, there is the chance that it could contain salmonella, which is one of the leading causes of food poisoning. To prevent this, it’s important to remember that eggnog doesn’t last as long compared to other dairy products. Eggnog that is store-bought typically has an estimated shelf life of approximately 3 to 5 days, while homemade eggnog usually only lasts around 2 to 3 days — therefore you should avoid drinking eggnog beyond these timeframes. Signs of salmonella poisoning include things like nausea and vomiting, as well as stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloody stools, headache, muscle pains, chills, and fever. If you’re concerned about salmonella and think you may have come into contact with the bacteria, you should see your physician as soon as possible. While symptoms of salmonella poisoning will often go away without treatment after a week or so, your doctor may prescribe antimotility drugs to help stop diarrhea and reduce cramping. If the bacteria has entered your bloodstream, you may also require antibiotics. Because vomiting is also commonly associated with salmonella, there’s also the risk that you can become dehydrated, so you should also make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluid (i.e. water.)

When buying eggnog, the nutritional content tends to vary from brand to brand, but one serving of eggnog typically has around 180 calories, 20 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of fat. If you add in alcohol like rum or bourbon, those numbers also increase; while those numbers for homemade eggnog increase by almost double the amount. If you’re wanting to watch your caloric, sugar and fat intake, many brands offer low-fat or “light” versions of eggnog, some of which can contain as many as 140 calories less than regular eggnog, though the sugar content doesn’t usually differ by much. If you want to make your own light version of eggnog, replace heavy cream with half and half, and use half the amount of sugar your recipe calls for. Remember, it’s not a crime to indulge in some of the sweet treats the holidays have to offer — as long as you do it in moderation.

Originally published at on December 24, 2019.

Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.