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Cappuccino or Macchiato

By Pam Helminger, RD LDN


Unless you are a true coffee fiend like me, you may not know the difference between a Cappuccino and a Macchiato. After all, who the heck wants to look like an idiot asking questions in the middle of a stampeding horde of early morning coffee drinkers?


Well, the truth is that they both contain espresso, milk and foam. But the difference comes in the amounts in each and how they are made.


But whether you prefer to buy a cappuccino or macchiato from a coffee shop or enjoy plain coffee at home, it isn’t important how it’s made. What should matter to any weight-conscious person is what ingredients are added to each coffee and how many calories are consumed.


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. Black coffee is a calorie-free beverage that can be enjoyed while dieting and contains antioxidants which can fight free radicals in your body that may threaten your health. Coffee is available in different flavored roasts and strengths so it would be worth exploring the taste of plain coffee in light, medium, and bolder varieties.


If you cannot forego the added substances that make coffee more palatable, then you will want to make some informed decisions, such as a low-calorie milk substitute. While skim milk has significantly less calories than whole or 2% milk, it still adds an additional 80 calories per cup, and depending on the size mug or cup you choose at the coffee shop, 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 a caffe Americano which has only 10 calories. Consider a shot of sugar-free syrup for flavoring or a packet of calorie-free sweetener, if necessary. You can also sweeten your coffee naturally by sprinkling some cinnamon on top- this is a healthy alternative to the whipped cream which adds 60-100 calories and up to 11 grams of fat. 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).


The menu at your local coffee shop can seem overwhelming to say the least, especially if you are watching your waistline. Choice 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 drink, so you are in control of what goes into your body. One of the most common diet sabotages is drinking sugary beverages, whether it is for a caffeine fix or something hot or simply because one is tired of drinking plain water. If you are having trouble losing weight, even while following a strenuous meal plan and exercise regimen, your daily coffee consumption or liquid calories could be the culprit.


In Europe, coffee is essentially espresso – which, in America, isn’t very much coffee. To create a café Americano – a coffee that satisfies the American preference for more sips in every cup – Europeans simply add hot water to their espresso. While the Americano is similar in strength and taste to American-style brewed coffee, there are subtle differences achieved by pulling a fresh shot of espresso for the beverage base. The best way to discover these nuances, of course, is to try a cup yourself.


While most coffee shops will accommodate your needs and preferences, you can control what goes into your cup of Joe by preparing it at home. One suggestion that works very well for those trying to lose weight is to combine their morning coffee and a serving of protein powder for a protein shake in place of breakfast. It tastes great, whether served warm (Tip: It will not dissolve in temperatures >130 degrees because it can denature the protein and clump) or as an iced latte. Gourmet sugar-free syrups such as Torani or DaVinci are sold retail or online and come in a wide variety of flavors from Hazelnut to S’mores to Peppermint if you enjoy a variety. Unsweetened vanilla almond milk is a low-calorie option that can be used in place of milk or creamer. Many nondairy creamers or coffee mixes contain trans fats, which is another reason besides calories to avoid using them. So, ask yourself whether your coffee is a more like a dessert and really needs to remain a daily habit or if you can enjoy the taste of coffee with minimal to no additives and limit to one to two cups per day. At the very least, hopefully some of these suggestions can help you to find a healthier way to flavor your coffee without all of the 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!