Recreation Center

Coffee Options that Won't Derail Your Diet

mug of coffee - photo by Nathan Dumlao

If you're like many of us, we can't "officially" start our morning until we've had that daily cup o' joe. There are A LOT of coffee drinks out there to choose from, but as with many beverages, you may inadvertantly be sabotaging your diet and nutrition. The options may seem endless with coffee drinks that feature your choice of dairy (or non-dairy), sugar and sweeteners, flavored syrups and mix-ins, but all of that can add up to a BIG calorie bomb.

To really drive the point home, consider this: a tall Caffé Latté from Starbucks (with no special requests) comes with 9g of fat (5g of which are saturated fat) and 14g of sugar, and rings in around 180 calories. A venti of the same drink packs in 15g of fat (9g saturated fat) and 23g of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25g/day of sugar for women, and 38g/day for men (based on a 2,000-calorie diet). So, just one latte can nearly push you to capacity for you daily sugar intake!

While it's ok to indulge in your favorite latte or frozen -chino from time-to-time, we're put together some ideas and suggestions you can try in your every-day mug of java-juice that are still tasty and much better for you to enjoy on the regular. 

spilled coffee beans - photo by Jo Lanta

Coffee options that won't derail your diet or nutrition goals:

  • Add some spices to your coffee grounds before brewing. Cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie and apple pie spice blends, or cardamom can all add delicious and unique flavor to your coffee.
  • Add a dash of your favorite baking extract, like vanilla, maple, almond, or your favorite fruit extract make your coffee really aromatic.
  • If you like a creamier coffee, skip the cream and whole milk and opt for a lower-fat option, like 1% or 2% milk, fat-free evaporated milk, almond or cashew milk, or reduced-fat half-and-half.
  • If you enjoy your go-juice on the sweeter side, try natural sweeteners that won't spike your blood sugar, like stevia and monk fruit (these are also good options for those with diabetes). Contrary to popular marketing, agave nectar and honey - while still natural - are not really better than table sugar when it came to raising blood sugar levels.* 
    • Artificial sweeteners and sugar-derivatives are highly processed, and while they'll bring up the sweetness, they often have unappetizing after-tastes and potential long-term impacts to your health. So, it's probably best to use them sparingly or ween yourself off them altogether. The same can be said of regular sugar, too. If you can gradually reduce the amount of refined sugar you use - ween yourself off it altogether - all the better!

iced coffee with cream swirls - photo by Demi Deherrera

  • If you enjoy a yummy store-bought flavored creamer, a few tips to consider:
    • Check the ingredients and nutrition label, and opt for one that uses all real ingredients as much as possible. 
    • You can't control the sugar in a store-bought creamer, and they tend to be much sweeter than most people need. Consider making your own coffee creamer using the creamer options above so you can control everything that goes into it. (Just Google it - there are TONS of recipes out there.)
    • Opt for lower-fat and reduced-sugar options when available. But be careful, often lower-fat options contain more high-fructose corn syrup and chemical additives to help "enhance" flavor. 
  • If it's the acidity and/or bitterness of coffee that your trying to cover with dairy and sugar, try a 16-24 hour cold brew! Brewing coffee with cold water very slowly brings out the delicious natural flavors of the coffee beans without the acidity that hot water pulls out. What you're left with is a smoother, more flavorful brew that needs far less add-ins to enjoy (if any at all!). 

It's the small changes that can often have a big impact, so remember that every little improvement you make adds up! Give these simple suggestions a try and see which ones you like best!


*Source: Diabetes Strong. "The Best Sweeteners for People with Diabetes"