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Ways to Reduce Added Calories in Your Cup of Coffee

By Pam Helminger, RD LDN


If you can’t imagine a morning without a cup of coffee, just remember this: coffee is a treat, not breakfast. But I realize most people want a cup of coffee when they wake up. So have one if you like. Just be aware that your favorite breakfast beverage can be worse for you than a big slice of cake. Believe it or not, there are ways to enjoy your coffee and have some good nutrition too.


Making good choices is a large part of any healthy lifestyle, particularly when it comes to managing your weight. Remember, you are in control of what goes into your coffee, and therefore what goes into your body. One of the most common diet sabotages I hear from patients is drinking sugary beverages, whether it is for a caffeine fix or simply to quench your thirst. If you are having trouble losing weight, even while following a strenuous meal plan and exercise regimen, your daily coffee consumption could be the culprit.


While coffee itself has very minimal calories, usually less than 5 calories/serving, the reality is that most people would go without coffee if they had to drink it black. Coffee is a near calorie-free beverage, containing antioxidants, which can be enjoyed while dieting. Try different flavored roasts and strengths to explore the taste of plain coffee in light, medium, and bolder varieties.  


If you cannot forego the extras that make coffee more palatable, then you will want to make some informed substitutions, such as these:


1. While skim milk has significantly less calories than whole or 2% milk, it still adds an additional 80 calories per cup, and that can add up quickly on a reduced-calorie meal plan. If you choose an espresso drink such as a tall latte, you are already adding 100 calories to your daily intake versus an American coffee which has only 10 calories. 


2. Consider a shot of sugar-free syrup for flavoring or a packet of calorie-free sweetener. Better yet, sweeten your coffee naturally by sprinkling some cinnamon on top- this is a healthy alternative to the whipped cream which in and of itself adds 60-100 calories and up to 11 grams of fat.


3. In order to limit your portion size, you may also find that a smaller sized cup is offered than that advertised on the menu (a “short” is only 8 ounces while a “tall” may appear to be the smallest option on the board).


4. One suggestion that works well for those trying to lose weight is to combine that morning coffee with a serving of protein powder in place of breakfast. Tip: It will not dissolve in temperatures >130 degrees as it can denature the protein. It tastes great, whether served warm or as an iced latte.


5. Gourmet sugar-free syrups are available in a wide variety of flavors from Caramel to Coconut to Peppermint. Unsweetened vanilla almond milk is a low-calorie option that can be used in place of milk or creamer. Many non-dairy creamers or coffee mixes contain trans-fats, which is another reason, besides calories, to avoid using them. 


So, ask yourself whether your coffee is more like a dessert and if there is room in your everyday calorie allotment for this sweet indulgence, or if you can enjoy the taste of coffee with minimal to no additives and limit your intake. Hopefully some of these suggestions can help you find a healthier way to flavor your coffee without adding unnecessary calories. Ultimately, maintaining weight loss for the long-term means lifestyle changes, accounting for what you consume, and choosing the foods and beverages you really enjoy in moderation!