How to ... Make healthier drinks

Simple, flavorful and colorful drinks are the perfect way to toast the holidays. (Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT)

Many people put on a few pounds between now and New Year's -- and it's not just food that's to blame. Popular cold-weather beverages also can be packed with calories, fat and sugar. "They can really add up and do a number on your waistline," says Gloria Tsang, a Washington-based registered dietitian. Here are tips from Tsang and other nutrition experts to make drinks healthier:

--Substitute ingredients. Hot chocolate and eggnog still taste great with low-fat or skim milk instead of whole. You can also use egg substitutes in eggnog and keep it liquor-free.

--Take advantage of antioxidants. Look for hot chocolate mixes with dark chocolate as the first ingredient; they have more flavonoids, compounds that can reduce inflammation linked to heart disease. Add some cinnamon to hot apple cider to help improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels. And drink a glass of red wine for antioxidants that may protect against heart disease and eye problems.

--Stick to small sizes. Think of treats such as eggnog lattes and mochas as desserts, not drinks.

--Beware of mulled wine. Adding sugar and spices to wine boosts the calorie count: a 5 oz. glass of mulled wine has about 175 calories, compared to about 125 in a glass of red wine. Have one small glass of mulled wine and then stick to plain -- or water.

--Hold the toppings. Cutting whipped cream from a drink such as peppermint mocha can save 60 to 70 calories and six to seven grams of fat, Tsang says. Apple cider without added caramel has about 25 fewer calories a cup.

--Mix in zero-calorie drinks. After enjoying one sweet drink and maybe a glass of wine, stick with water or diet soda.