healthy eating Oct 01, 2020

This one beverage is the center of many days.  It's from a bean that grows in nature so it must be good for us right?  Well, that depend what you put in your coffee.  A gingerbread latte is a far cry from a black cup of coffee.    

How do you take your coffee?


There are as many ways to make coffee as there are ways to drink it.  Black, with cream and sugar or a fancier version like the latte or cappuccino.  Espresso machine, french press, pour over, good ole drip coffee, there are many ways to make coffee.  Some swear grinding the beans right before you brew makes all the difference.  However you come by your morning cup let's look at what's hiding in your coffee so you can decide whether a change for better health is in order. 


  • Milk of any percentage will contain sugar and dairy calories of course.  Fat free milk for example has about 3 grams of sugar per 2 ounce and roughly 25 calories. If you're a 16 ounce cup of coffee person that likes a light brown coffee to drink that's an extra 50 calories and 6 grams of sugar.  The numbers for sugar and calories increase as the fat content of the milk gets higher.
  • Half and Half is a popular coffee creamer.  It's half milk and half cream.  Half and half contains less fat than cream and make sure there aren't any other additives like corn syrup in the one you choose.  With 1 gram of sugar per 2 tablespoons and 40 calories it can add up quick when you pour without thinking.  An extra 160 calories could easily fall into your 16 ounce cup. 
  • Powered non-dairy creamers have what looks like a bunch of zeros when you look at the nutrition label.  No sugar, 10 calories per 2 grams but there is not a single natural ingredient listed.  When you can't pronounce the ingredients you shouldn't put it in your body. 
  • Flavored creamers like CoffeeMate make seasonal flavors that can be hard to pass up.  They make your coffee taste good!  But have you looked at what's in them?  Coffee Mate Original is mostly made up of corn syrup solids (sugar), hydrogenated vegetable oil (hello raised cholesterol), and sodium caseinate (what?).  One tablespoon of creamer has 1 gram of sugar, 20 calories and 1 gram of fat.  When you start getting into the flavored creamers like French Vanilla, one tablespoon goes up to 5 grams of sugar.       

Sugar Free

When you see the sugar free varieties it's not better!  These products tend to be more highly processed and packed with artificial additives.  If you're going sugar, have the real thing (in moderation).  Your body knows what to do with real sugar better than sugar made in a lab. 

Healthier alternatives

Almond milk or coconut milk- Non-dairy milks are a good alternative for lactose intolerant individuals or those having other food sensitivities/allergies. 

Honey - a go-to natural sweetener which compliments coffee nicely 

Don't forget the spices! 

Spices - cinnamon, cardamon, vanilla extract, unsweetened cocoa powder are all healthy ways to give your coffee a kick!  Use as liberally as you wish. 

To sum it up

What does all of this mean?  Drink your coffee black.  Well not everyone is willing to do that so here are the guidelines:

If you're diabetic, pre-diabetic, watching your sugar intake or want to give your pancreas a break pick the no to low sugar options.  Almond milk or half and half are good choices. 

If you have high LDL levels (bad cholesterol) watch the fat content.   Almond milk, non fat milk  or spices are good alternatives to add to your coffee. 

If you want to loose weight watch the calories.  All the creamer options have calories so use sparingly or better yet use only spices.  

Look at the big picture of what you put in your body in a day.  If you already consume lots of sugar, fats, or calories throughout the day, your coffee is an easy place to cut back.  Try one of the alternatives listed and see if you still like the taste of your morning cup.

Starbucks menu deep dive

Americans love Starbucks!  Some days it's easier to swing by Starbucks for a nice cup of joe.  Beware of what's hiding in your favorite drink.

Most popular drink ordered

We are moving into fall and the Pumpkin Spiced Latte is a popular item on the Starbucks menu.  A grande has 2 shots of espresso, 4 pumps flavoring, and 2%milk.  This means 380 calories, 14 grams of fat and a whopping 50 grams of sugar.  That's a lot of fat to drink and more sugar than in a can of soda.    

Highest sugar content

The drink with the highest sugar content is the Salted Caramel Mocha Coffee Frappuccino.  A grande has 4 pumps of flavoring, sugary toppings and whole milk.  This means 420 calories, 15 grams of fat and wait for it, 63 grams of sugar.  That's over twice the amount of sugar recommended for the entire day in one drink!  

Most calories

This honor goes to the Cinnamon Roll Frappuccino.  With 510 calories and 85 grams of sugar (gulp) it has the highest sugar content too but isn't always on the menu.  In a 2,000 calorie a day diet, I don't want 1/4 of that gone with one drink.  How about you? This is the unhealthiest item on the menu.   

Size differences

Tall = 12 ounces, Grande = 16 ounces, Venti = 20 ounces  Who really NEEDS a Venti? 

Healthy Hacks

Starbucks has the most customize-able menu of anywhere so use it to your advantage.  Try ordering your favorite drink with less pumps of flavoring.  I promise you will not miss one less pump and eventually cut the 4 pumps down to 1.  If you're watching fat intake or would rather eat real food with your fat for the day, cut the whole milk to 2% or go non-dairy.  Attempt less caffeine in your drink.  Ask for 1 shot instead of 2 or go from your regular Venti to a Grande.  Another easy tip is extra ice.  The ice takes up space so you're drinking less caffeine and calories overall.  Skip the toppings.  Put a hold on the whipped cream, chocolate or caramel drizzle.      

Here's the bottom line.  Don't drink your calories, fat and sugar for the day.  If this is the start-of-your-day-drink, leave room for the rest of the day's calorie, fat and sugar consumption.  We know caffeine should be drunk in moderation and if you like an iced coffee or tea later in the day reducing your morning cup is smart.  Be kind to your body. 

Until next time

Be fit, Be strong, be smart about what you drink,


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