How to choose hot drinks
There aren’t many things better than wrapping your hands around a steaming mug on a cold winter’s day. Here’s how to get your hot drink fix with less sugar, salt and saturated fat.
There’s a huge variety if you’re on the lookout for a hot drink. With many teas and coffees the nutrition depends on what you choose to add: milk, cream or sugar.
Adding milk to your hot drink gives you a calcium and vitamin boost. But think about the type and how much you’re using. Light or trim milk will reduce the energy and saturated fat you get from your drink, and making hot chocolate or coffee with half hot water, half milk will reduce those even further than having a full-milk drink.
Some coffee, coffee substitutes, teas and hot chocolates, with new indulgent flavours, have added sugar, salt and saturated fat, but there are also reduced-fat or reduced-sugar options.
Watch out, though, as we found some hot drinks are closer in energy to snacks than drinks. If you’re not very active or have a desk job, you may not want to choose a high-energy hot drink every day, unless it’s replacing a snack.
The saturated fat in hot drink mixes comes from milk solids, palm oil or coconut oil. Oil can be added for a creamy texture and taste. While some hot drinks are low in sat fat, others are not.
We recommend choosing hot drinks that contain less than 1g saturated fat per serve. But if this is too restrictive, choose less than 3g saturated fat per serve.
Hot chocolate and the more indulgent flavours of coffee pre-mixes can be high in sugar. We also found lots of sugar in chai tea and coffee substitutes. Be careful with some of the sugar-free drinks, as many use sweeteners that may cause symptoms if you’ve got a polyol (FODMAP) intolerance, or diarrhoea if you drink too many in a day.
We recommend choosing hot drinks that contain 5g or less sugar per serve. If this is too restrictive, choose 10g or less sugar per serve.
It may seem strange that we’re talking about sodium in hot, sweet drinks, but we found some drinks can be higher in sodium than we thought. Flavoured hot chocolate, chai latte and malted drinks were generally higher in sodium.
We recommend choosing hot drinks that contain 90mg or less sodium per serve.
How to choose
Use these criteria to compare hot cereals.
Some of the different hot drinks we found
Any product examples given here were correct at time of publication. However, remember to check the ingredients and nutrition information every so often, as these can change over time.
Cost $5.99 per 200g packet
Per serve: 33kJ, 0.1g saturated fat, 0g sugar, 16mg sodium, $0.37
Natural mint flavour
Cost $6.95 per 150g jar
Per serve: 40kJ, <0.1g saturated fat, 0.1g sugar, 2mg sodium, $0.12
Great caffeine-free choice
Cost $10.50 per 250g packet
Per serve: 177kJ, 0.4g saturated fat, 7.5g sugar, 3mg sodium, $0.53
A strong and chocolatey drink
Cost $3.99 per 200g packet
Per serve: 277kJ, 0.4g saturated fat, 9.2g sugar, 28mg sodium, $0.30
Rich but not too sweet – a real treat
Cost $14.99 per 500ml bottle
Per serve: 167kJ, <0.1g saturated fat, 9.2g sugar, 7mg sodium, $1.00
Nice and warming
Cost $4.49 per 10x15g sachets
Per serve: 280kJ, 2.3g saturated fat, 4.8g sugar, 35mg sodium, $0.45
Delicious. Tastes like a proper latte
Cost $5.99 per 10x15g sachets
Per serve: 252kJ, 1.8g saturated fat, 6.6g sugar, 37mg sodium, $0.60
Cost $6.99 per 7x18g sachets
Per serve: 381kJ, 3.9g saturated fat, 2.4g sugar, 6mg sodium, $1.00
Coffee with a bit of a kick