Coffee boasts a slew of health benefits, including the possibility of reducing the risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. Of course, you might not even consider the advantages of consuming caffeine if you simply drink coffee out of habit, to gain energy, or just like taste. Wherever you stand, it might be helpful to consider that while coffee can be good for you at best, it can also have atrocious effects at worst.
From fancy beverages and flavored syrups full of sugar to generally bigger available sizes for cuppas all around, your morning order of coffee runs the risk of being terrible for your health. Think more calories, more sugar, more carbs, more sodium, more fat — more, more, more. Not to scare you or anything, but I urge you to consider your coffee choices and how they could be affecting your diet. Read on, dear friend and fellow coffee lover.
Try customized lattes
If you love lattes for their caffeine fix and creamy taste, there’s no reason you can’t have it as long as you customize your order to avoid the unhealthy pitfalls. With simple changes, you can turn a caloric nightmare of a latte into an morning drink that’s as delicious as it is guilt-free. If you’re trying to lose weight, start with a regular unsweetened latte and season it to taste using a calorie-free sugar substitute or sugar-free syrup. Opt for a skim or reduced fat milk or soy if you like the taste. You can even treat yourself with the flavorings you love — think one pump of vanilla syrup instead of two or three.
If you want to make a latte at home, do it! Here, the lovely folks at The Kitchn show you how.
Order diet-friendly Americanos
An Americano is great choice for starting the morning without doing damage to your whole day’s diet. Made with two shots of espresso and filled with hot water the rest of the way, this drink hardly makes a dent in your health routine. Keep the calories low by adding no more than a touch of dairy and a dash of your sweetener of choice. Doing so allows you enjoy the taste of good espresso without sacrificing your waistline.
Here’s one chef who knows how to make an Americano just right.
Get sophisticated with cappuccinos
A cappuccino is a popular option for good reason. A well-made one provides the drinker with a perfect balance of espresso, dairy, and airy foam. With less milk than a latte, this is a naturally lighter coffee alternative. Since it is low in calories to begin with, owing to the beautiful foaminess, you have more leeway to add a pump of flavoring if you like. Want to reduce even more calories? Opt for skim or reduced fat milk. Either way, a cappuccino is a delightful treat for any hour of the day.
Need some tips for making your own cappuccino? Take a look here for some guidance.
Opt for modified tea lattes
Tea lattes like chai or matcha can be just as high in calories and sugar content as their coffee counterparts. If you enjoy the taste of tea lattes, be sure you opt to customize yours. Instead of the overly-sweet, cloying mix often used in coffee chain stores, ask the barista to brew your cup of tea using a regular tea bag, then add a pump of your flavoring of choice, steamed milk, and foam. Voila!
Check out this way of making a tea latte. Cool.
Go for light versions of blended coffee drinks
Blended coffee drinks like the frappuccinos available at Starbucks are so darn tempting because they are indeed delicious. However, these coffee beverages are also loaded with saturated fat, calories, and sugar. Luckily for all of us, many of these popular coffee joints offer lighter versions of their regular blended drinks. The calories for these versions often amount to about a third or a quarter of the standard ones. Hallelujah!
Try your hand at a blended coffee drink with this recipe from the blender peeps at Oster.
Skip McDonald’s McCafe Mocha
The appeal of hitting up the McDonald’s drive-in on the way to work in the morning is undeniable. Quick, convenient, and often times serving caffeine-laden menu items way cheaper than other coffee shop chains, this ubiquitous fast food giant offers up some of the most unhealthy coffee beverages out there. One such product is none other than the McCafe Mocha. A medium version contains 410 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 60 grams of carbs. Of the carb content, 53 grams are solely sugar!
The chocolate is the real culprit of the mocha drink at McDonald’s. If you think of mochas in general as nothing more than hot chocolate with espresso, you can understand how these drinks aren’t so much ideal for giving you energy in the morning. Instead, these drinkable desserts get you hyped up on sugar as they set you up for the inevitable mid-morning slump. My advice? Skip the mocha at McDonald’s and opt for a skim cappuccino, which is espresso and mostly foam from steamed milk. Doing so lets you have your energy kick without the pre-8 a.m. caloric overload.
Say hell no to Dunkin’ Donuts’ Frozen Dunkaccino
A medium frozen "dunkaccino" from Dunkin’ Donuts has 610 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 107 grams of sugar — all of which is way too much too soon when we’re talking about mornings (er, anytime). This shocking nutrition data is basically the equivalent of eating 3 to 4 moderate sized desserts. As the weather gets warmer, icy drinks such as these may become harder to resist, but you don’t have to deprive yourself of enjoying refreshing beverages just because you don’t want to fall into a sugar coma first thing in the morning.
To get your cooling coffee fix, try ordering Dunkin Donuts’ coffee "coolatta" with skim milk instead of whole. Doing so effectively cuts the number calories nearly in half. Say no to the counter person’s offer of whipped cream and maybe even go for a small instead of a medium. With just a few small tweaks to your regular order, you can feel better about getting your morning caffeine fix. Your body will thank you.
Avoid Cold Stone Creamery’s Caramel Frappe
You effectively destroy your diet when you order Cold Stone Creamery’s caramel frappe in a cheekily named "Love It" size. FYI, the company redirects consumers a few times before landing on the nutritional info, which naturally makes me incredibly suspicious. Anyhoo! This cold blended coffee drink is topped with copious amounts of whipped cream and excessive swirls of caramel. While it doesn’t take much to realize this beverage is a killer, you might still be shocked by the numbers. With 660 calories, 270 milligrams of sodium, and 105 grams of fat, you could sit down to an entire nutritious meal. Sure, Cold Stone calls it a frappe to imply this is a coffee drink, but let’s get real. This is a coffee flavored milk shake.
If you must order something vaguely caffeinated at Cold Stone, go for the "Like It" sized caramel frappe without whipped cream. Still consider a dessert, albeit one with many fewer calories and less fat.
Say NO to Rockstar Original Energy Drink
While the Rockstar Original energy drink is not exactly a coffee drink, it belongs in the group of increasingly popular caffeinated energy drinks many people opt for instead of coffee. As such, let’s discuss. First, I couldn’t access nutritional information on Rockstar’s website. Hmm. However, here is that info from an outside source. Completely devoid of any nutrients that are of value to the human body, the drink contains 295 calories, 650 milligrams of sodium, and 68 grams of sugar.
My suggestion? Do yourself a favor and skip sugary energy drinks altogether and grab a regular cup of coffee.
As a busy New Yorker, I practically run on coffee like I’m sure many of you do. Let’s keep our energy levels up without having to loosen our belts by keeping our eyes open when we go to order our cuppas.