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How to make healthier eggnog — and use the leftovers for breakfast the next day

Yes, you can make better-for-you eggnog and coquito — or you can just buy it at the supermarket.
Spiced Christmas eggnog
You can easily take a traditional recipe and make some quick substitutions. You can easily take a traditional recipe and make some quick substitutions. jenifoto / Getty Images

Eggnog — it’s a holiday staple that’s as ingrained as trimming the tree or watching Hallmark movies. While its origins go back centuries to medieval England, the rich, boozy drink has become part of the American Christmas tradition and is one that seems here to stay.

As its name suggests, eggnog is traditionally made with raw eggs, as well as heavy cream, sugar, whole milk, nutmeg and up to a trio of spirits: dark rum, bourbon and cognac. Some versions use crème de cacao or Frangelico. The egg whites get whipped and folded in at the end, creating a frothy, creamy texture. And as you can imagine, this quaff has quite a few calories, clocking in at 235 calories, 8g of fat (4.5g saturated) and 20g of sugar per half cup. And speaking of serving size — 4 ounces or half a cup is the standard serving for nog. It fits perfectly into the punchbowl cups your grandma passed down to you.

How to make better-for-you eggnog

If you want to make homemade eggnog, but you’re concerned about the safety of raw eggs, which can cause salmonella, you can always use pasteurized eggs in the recipe. If you’re looking to lighten up eggnog, make sure you don’t veer too far into sweetness. The beauty of nog is the balance between rich creaminess and subtle sweetness. When you start to remove the fat, the sweet notes can become overpowering.

You can easily take a traditional recipe and make some quick substitutions. For example, instead of the heavy cream, opt for whole milk or coconut milk. And then for the whole milk, you can try 2 percent milk or almond milk. And if a recipe calls for 1 cup or ¾ cup of sugar, try using ¼ cup less. And definitely taste when it comes to adding the nutmeg, which is a very singular flavor. Just enough is heavenly. Too much is gross.

The best store-bought eggnogs

There are several ready-to-drink nogs that you’ll find at the grocery store. Some will be in the refrigerated section, next to the juices, while other options are shelf-stable, and you’ll find those next to the boxed almond milk. Either way, you’ll want to grab a couple of them because eggnog is a limited-edition product. One of the better tasting dairy-based ones we’ve tried this year is the Bolthouse Farms Holiday Nog. It’s made with low-fat milk, pasteurized egg yolks, nutmeg, vanilla and a surprising ingredient — carrot juice. A 4-ounce (1/2 cup) serving has a slim 90 calories, 1.5g total fat (1g saturated) and 9g of added sugar, leaving plenty of room for some dark rum or bourbon. A new plant-based option we like is Elmhurst’s Oat Nog, which blends oats with cashews, sugar and natural flavors for a simple and very creamy option that is lovely on its own or in recipes. A 4-ounce serving clocks in at 100 calories, 2g fat (0 saturated) and 8g of added sugars.

Another traditional nog: coquito

I recently heard of coquito, which is a coconut milk-based holiday drink that is traditionally enjoyed in Puerto Rico. In addition to the coconut milk, coquito also contains cream of coconut, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, nutmeg, cinnamon and of course — rum. Coquito is generally made in the blender and served icy cold. It’s nutritionally similar to eggnog but has more added sugars thanks to the sweetened condensed milk.

You might wonder whether this recipe can be lightened up. The answer is yes! But it’s a little tricky. You can replace the evaporated milk with plain or vanilla kefir, which provides the body and creaminess you’re looking for. The sweetened condensed milk is harder to replace as it contributes thickness to coquito, as well as sweetness. You can experiment with creamier, sweetened plant milks like vanilla oat or cashew milk.

How to use up leftover eggnog

Maybe you made a super-sized batch of eggnog, or perhaps not all your guests showed up. As long as you’ve kept the nog cold, you should keep it to use in recipes the next day. Our favorite usage is probably Eggnog French Toast, which has all the holiday feels rolled into a delicious breakfast. Or add a little holiday cheer to pancakes or waffles by simply swapping out the regular milk with the same amount of eggnog. It’s a good thing maple pairs so well with the flavors of eggnog! If you just want to keep it simple, use up some of that eggnog by swapping it for your usual coffee creamer. And I think a vegan nog would be amazing in a smoothie on Christmas morning. Just saying.