How to Reduce Calories in Coffee Drinks
If you go to your local Starbucks in the morning or hit the brew button on your home coffeemaker you are not alone. This is a regular ritual for many people. But, your coffee may impact your health in a negative way if the calorie count is too high. To reduce the calories in your coffee drinks replace the sugary and fatty ingredients with healthy substitutes. Try to change your drinking habits by incorporating tea, black coffee, or more water into your routine. Recognizing the real health benefits of making these changes will keep you motivated.
Making Healthy Ingredient Choices
Use a low calorie sweetener.Replace teaspoons of sugar added directly into your coffee with a low calorie or no-calorie sweetener, such as Splenda. Follow the directions on the package regarding serving size and resist the urge to add extra. You can also request this substitution when ordering at a coffee shop.
- It is best to choose sweeteners that do not list “aspartame” as one of the ingredients. Aspartame has been the subject of concern as a potential contributor to cancer. It can also cause headaches in some people when consumed in products that contain it, such as Equal.
- You can also cut down on calories by gradually reducing your use of sweetener until you eliminate it altogether. Do this by adding just a little bit less to your coffee each day.
Substitute skim milk.Using whole milk adds flavor but it also packs on the calories. Instead, go “skinny” and opt for skim milk or low-fat milk instead. Be aware that if you order in some coffee shops this swap may not be a possibility as they use premixed packages for certain drinks, especially seasonal ones.
- Drink milk substitutes, such as soy or coconut milk, only in moderate amounts as they can contain high levels of sugars.
- It’s not necessary to remove milk products entirely from your coffee. In fact, milk has been shown to offset the calcium that coffee pulls out from your system.However, the amount of calcium coffee pulls from your system is very small, so just 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk is enough to offset it.
Stir in a healthy creamer.Read the labels on your store bought creamers paying particular attention to the calories, fats, and sugar content. Buy a creamer that is made with artificial sweeteners. It may also help to move away from creamers that use a half-and-half type substance as their base.
- Especially watch the ‘holiday flavored’ creamers as they are often loaded down with sugars and highly processed ingredients resulting in a higher calorie count.
- If you want a more healthy option, make your own creamer at home. Stir skim milk, cinnamon, and artificial sweetener in a saucepan until it simmers. Let it cool and refrigerate between uses.
Request extra foam.Light, foamy drinks are less calorically dense. The foam takes up the space in the cup where more liquid could be. Turn your attention toward a cappuccino with extra foam instead of your traditional latte. You could cut 40 calories just by making this exchange.
Avoid syrupy shots.If you are out at a coffeehouse, request that the barista put one less shot or pump of flavoring or syrup into your cup. Keep lowering this number each time you visit until most of the extra shot calories are removed. You can save right around 70 calories a shot with this request.
Skip the whipped cream.If you make coffee at home, simply stop buying whipped cream at the store. If you are at a restaurant, request that they “hold the whipped cream” when they make your drink. Whipped cream is a staple with most specialty coffees but it can add between 80-120 calories per cup.
- You might also ask your barista if whipped cream is mixed in to the drink itself. If this is the case, make sure they know to not do that for your drink.
Choose your toppings carefully.A ‘pretty’ cup of coffee is always wonderful to look at, but it can pack o the calories. Ask your barista to skip the syrupy or chocolatey topping. Or, you can ask them to just use half the typical amount. One tablespoon of a chocolate drizzle syrup can contain up to 50 calories.
- If you are at home, experiment with some healthy toppings. For example, lightly sprinkle cinnamon or nutmeg on your drink instead of a heavier syrup. You will get an extra flavor kick without the calorie consequences.
Changing Your Drinking Patterns
Order a small size.This is single best way to cut calories. Gradually downsize from your standard size order to a smaller one. If you are at home, start making your drink with smaller mugs and put away the oversized ones. If you are out, look at the menu or ask your barista about the smallest drink size available.
- Some places offer more conservative serving sizes upon request. For example, at Starbucks you can order a Short, which is smaller than a Tall and totals 8 ounces. This switch can save you 50 calories off your standard latte order.
Go for a single-shot coffee.Instead of a larger beverage, go for a tiny action-packed coffee instead. Espresso, for example, logs in at only 6 calories. It won’t take you long to drink but it will provide an energy boost. You will also appreciate the flavor as it is the foundation of many coffee-house beverages.
Measure out your add-ons when at home.Take the extra time to measure the amounts of creamer, sweetener, or milk before putting them in your coffee cup. Keep a teaspoon, tablespoon, and small measuring cup on your counter for convenience. Consult the serving sizes on the packages to determine how much to add.
- This practice is also helpful in that it makes you more aware of what you are consuming. You have choices in your beverages and can lower the amounts of add-ons if you want even more benefits.
Drink your coffee black.For some people the best option is to move away from the specialty drinks and choose straight black coffee instead. It is easy to make and cheaper to buy. You will get the energy benefits and still be able to participate in the ‘ritual’ of visiting the local coffeehouse.
- If the taste is simply too bold for your liking you can try cold brew iced coffee. You will receive the same health benefits with a sweeter taste. These drinks are also notably low in calories. For example, a Grande cold brew iced coffee at Starbucks comes it at 5 calories.
Exchange one cup of coffee for water.Hydration can keep you from overeating and it can also prevent you from downing too many calorically-dense beverages. At one point in the day when you typically go for a coffee refill head to the water cooler instead. Try different times for this switch to see what will work the best for you.
- The standard coffee-drinker consumes 3 cups a day leaving plenty of room to eliminate one refill.
Try tea-based beverages.If you are looking for a flavorful replacement, you might want to experiment with teas. They are available to order right alongside coffees at most restaurants. They take about as long to make if you are at home. And, they can closely imitate the flavor of coffee. For example, test out a green tea with steamed milk as a low calorie alternative.
Avoid all eggnog drinks.The message here is to be wary of the seasonal coffees. They have a tendency to include more syrups, flavorings, etc. Eggnog is high in both fat and sugar content, making it a dangerous add-on to a more traditional drink. Instead, choose a drink spiced with nutmeg or cinnamon.
Arming Yourself with Nutritional Information
Read the nutritional displays.Look for the information posted in the store usually by the register. Pay attention to the columns noting calories, fat, and sugars. Depending on your diet, staying under 100 calories for a coffee drink is a good idea. You can also find nutritional information online for most major chains.
- With a nod to the health conscious, Starbucks and other stores have started to post online listings of their low calorie drink options.
Talk to your barista.Tell your server that you are trying to reduce your calories and ask what they recommend. They may have off-the-menu secrets that they can pass along to help you slim up your drink. This is especially a good idea if you are prone to ordering coffee drinks without knowing what goes in them, as most of us do.
- When ordering you might say, “Hi, I’m really trying to watch my calories but I love the flavor of the caramel macchiato. What do you suggest I order?”
Understand the health effects of extra calories.You are more likely to watch your drink calories if you know what is at stake. Do some research online regarding caloric intake and its connection to your health. You will find that reducing calories can protect you from heart disease and stroke.It will also reduce your odds of obesity or better equip you to fight weight gain.
- When you begin to watch your drink calories you will see that some beverages contain enough calories (300+) to substitute for a small meal.
- Don’t be hesitant to make extra requests when ordering at a coffee shop. The baristas expect customized orders and don’t mind the change.
- Let your friends know what you are doing so that they can keep you accountable when you visit the coffee shop together.
- There are many great apps available for tracking calories now. Search online “calorie counting apps.” These will help you to keep watch on your liquid calories.
- Don’t forget to splurge on occasion. Every few weeks treat yourself to your favorite drink with all of the toppings that you desire.
Video: Starbucks Zero Calorie "Secret" Drink
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