I’m really not trying to be a Scrooge, but I have food safety education issues with eggnog.
Traditionally eggnog is made by combining raw eggs with milk or cream, sugar, flavorings and perhaps alcohol. What could be wrong with that? Let me name a few issues.
Raw eggs—potential food-borne illness related to salmonella. This is especially risky for people with weaker immune systems such as children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses.
Fat Calories—there are lots of calories in most eggnogs. Just ½ cup (yes, I’m talking just 4 ounces) of regular-store bought eggnog can have 180 calories with 80 of them from fat. Much of this fat is saturated and hits 25% of the % Daily Value for saturated fats real fast. Even the so-called “light” eggnogs can provide in the neighborhood of 110 calories for ½ cup.
Sugar Calories—on top of the fat calories there is lots of sugar in most store-bought eggnogs. They can have 4-5 teaspoons of sugar in that half a cup of eggnog.
A quick note: adding alcohol to eggnog cannot be relied upon to kill bacterial growth, which may be present in raw eggs. Also, if you’re thinking calories, just 1.5 ounces of rum (that’s one small shot glass) adds 97 more calories.
So, what’s a safer and more healthful alternative if you want to serve eggnog this year? There are several options:
#1 Buy commercially prepared eggnog in the dairy section of your grocery store. Most are, but make sure it has been made with pasteurized milk and eggs. This will reduce any food safety concerns. Just keep it refrigerated. Look for the lower fat and lower sugar versions in your store—they aren’t “no calorie” or even “low calorie” —but at least a little less.
#2 Use a recipe for cooked eggnog that makes a custard-like base that is made ahead and chilled. This will reduce the risk from the raw eggs. Your favorite spices and liqueurs can be added before serving.
#3 If you want to use a favorite family recipe that calls for uncooked eggs, substitute a pasteurized egg product. There are several pasteurized egg products on the market now; they can be whole eggs out-of-the shell or low-cholesterol egg white products. These items are all available pasteurized, meaning they have been heated thoroughly to kill any potential bacteria. Pasteurized egg products can usually be found in the dairy or freezer sections in the grocery store. (For more on pasteurized egg products check out https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/dont-lick-the-beaters/).
#4 Another option is to use pasteurized shell eggs. These are eggs that have been heated and pasteurized (but not cooked) while still in the shell. These eggs can be found along with regular eggs in the grocery store, but are usually more expensive. But the cost will be worth it if you prevent a food-borne illness of a family member or friend during the holidays.
#5 If you’re making your own eggnog, try using non-fat or low-fat milk or half-and-half (for more on half-and-half check out https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/half-of-what/) instead of the heavy cream. Artificial sugars will work great in an unheated beverage such as this, perhaps give them a try.
#6 Limit the amount you drink.
I know a cup of eggnog is a must for some families and special gatherings and I’m not recommending that you skip this tradition— I’m just suggesting you re-think what you’ve always done.
That doesn’t make me a Scrooge does it?
Disclaimer: although we have pictured Trader Joe’s Eggnog products here, we are not receiving any compensation. There are many other brands of both regular and “light” products available.
Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University
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