A close-up of a cup of eggnog.

Holiday celebrations call for a celebratory drink, and nothing fits the bill quite like a cup of rich, creamy eggnog with or without a splash of bourbon, brandy, or rum. It's a seasonal favorite, with Americans consuming about 60 million quarts of the stuff a year, according to estimates from the Department of Agriculture.

But as with many holiday treats, eggnog—traditionally made with eggs, cream, milk, and sugar—is loaded with calories, fat, and added sugars. And there's an additional health concern with eggnog—if it's made with raw eggs, it can be a food poisoning risk. 

Does that mean you should take a pass on this holiday cup of cheer? Not necessarily. “You should just remember to indulge in moderation,” says Amy Keating, R.D., a CR nutritionist. And check out these nutrition and safety facts before you raise your glass.

A Serving Is Smaller Than You Think

The numbers for calories, fat, and sugars you see on cartons of eggnog at the supermarket are for just a ½-cup serving. If you drink more than that, remember to double (or triple) those figures.

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The nutritional content of different brands varies, but a serving of eggnog generally has 180 calories, 9 grams of fat, and about 20 grams of sugars. (Some of the sugars are found naturally in the milk and cream, but the rest are added sugars. For comparison, ½ cup of whole milk has 6 grams of natural sugars.) And that's without alcohol.

For homemade eggnog, those counts can be even higher. Using a traditional eggnog recipe spiked with bourbon or rum, Keating calculates that a ½-cup serving contains 265 calories, 17 grams of fat, and 18 grams of sugars.


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You Can Find Lightened-Up Eggnog

When you’re scanning the selections of premade eggnog at the store, you’ll see several takes on the traditional recipe. Those labeled “low fat” or “light” typically contain about 140 calories and less than 3 grams of fat per ½-cup serving. But the sugar content is similar to or only slightly lower than regular eggnog.

If you’re making your own and want to lighten it up a bit, Keating suggests substituting half and half for heavy cream and using about half the sugar called for in the recipe.

There Are Vegan Versions of Eggnog

Holiday eggnog made from nut or soy milk will give you the flavor of the season, and it tends to be lower in calories and fat because it doesn't contain cream, eggs, or milk. A half-cup of nut-milk or soy-milk eggnog has about 50 to 80 calories, about 1 gram of fat, and around 11 grams of sugars. (A majority of it is added, because soy and nut milks contain very little natural sugars, if any.)

It Doesn't Take Much to Make Eggnog Safer

Classic eggnog recipes call for raw eggs. “Eggnog made with raw, unpasteurized eggs can contain salmonella, a leading cause of food poisoning,” says James E. Rodgers, Ph.D., director of food safety, research, and testing for Consumer Reports. The bacteria can make anyone sick, but young children, older adults, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system are particularly vulnerable.

You can ensure that you and your guests are sipping safely, though, says Rodgers. Almost all of the eggnog sold in stores is pasteurized, which kills bacteria, but he says to be sure to check that the carton or bottle is clearly labeled as such.

If you make your own, use pasteurized liquid eggs, which are sold in a carton. Or heat raw eggs (mix them with milk and stir constantly) to 160° F to kill any salmonella bacteria that may be present before adding them to your recipe. “Don’t count on alcohol to kill the bacteria,” Rodgers says. “The concentration isn’t high enough to reduce the risk of illness.”