How to Choose Healthier Coffee House Drinks

Three Parts:Ordering a Healthier Coffee DrinkPicking a Healthier Coffee DrinkMaking Healthier Coffee Drinks at Home

There's nothing better than enjoying a nice hot or iced coffee in the morning to help wake you up. If you're a coffee fan, than you're lucky that in most towns and cities, theres a coffee shop on every block where you can pick up your favorite cup of joe. Many coffee shops offer a large variety of beverages - anything from plain coffee, to flavored coffees, and coffee type milk shakes. Although all the mixed and flavored coffee drinks are tasty, many are high in calories, sugar and fat from all the added sweeteners.[1] Some drinks can even get up to 400 or 600 calories per drink (and these don't even include the coffee milkshakes).[2] Instead of drinking up a 1/3 of your daily calories in a sweetened coffee drink, try choosing a healthier coffee drink instead.

Part 1
Ordering a Healthier Coffee Drink

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    Order a small. One of the easiest ways to cut down on the total calorie, fat and sugar content is by choosing a better size. Although you may feel like you need a larger dose of caffeine, stick to small sizes to manage the calorie side of your coffee drinks.[3]
    • Most coffee shops will have at least three sizes of coffees - small, medium and large. The calorie differences between the sizes can range from just a few calories to over 100 calories.[4]
    • Stick to a small or medium coffee drink for the lowest calorie, fat and sugar amounts. If you don't want to order a drink with lower fat milk or sugar free flavorings, definitely stick to a smaller size.
    • However, if you're only ordering a plain coffee there's no reason to order a small as calories won't change in plain coffee.
    • In addition, some coffee shops have a size that's smaller than their small - it may be labeled as a kids drink or child's size, but is a great option if you want to indulge in a higher calorie treat.
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    Choose the best type of milk. If you're choosing a mixed coffee drink, they will generally be mixed with some milk or milk substitute. This can be a great source of added nutrients, but also a source of more calories and fat.
    • Many coffee shops will offer you skim, 2% milk, whole milk, almond milk and even coconut milk.[5]
    • The lowest calorie milk option is skim milk. It will add 130 calories for a small drink. However, if you go with almond milk, it'll cost you 210 calories (so you're not saving any calories by ordering soy milk).[6]
    • Although coffee drinks made with milk are slightly higher in calories, they are also higher in some nutrients. The milk provides you with a good source of calcium, protein and Vitamin D.[7]
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    Go for sugar-free flavorings. Add in spices instead of syrups. In addition to the milk, one of the biggest sources of extra calories and sugar in coffee drinks is the flavorings. They may be from syrups, mixes or just plain sugar. Try ordering coffee drinks with minimal added sugars for a better drink.
    • Since sticking to a lower calorie diet or a low carb diet is popular, most coffee shops will offer the option to have sugar-free syrups, mixes or coffees. Order the sugar-free flavorings whenever possible.[8]
    • Look for coffee drinks labeled as sugar-free or "skinny" as these typically indicate that the flavorings are sugar-free and the overall drink is lower in calories compared to the regular version.
    • If you do go for the sugar-free versions, note that these will contain artificial sweeteners. If you want to avoid these types of sweeteners choose a small or kid's sized beverage with the regular syrups.
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    Skip the whipped cream. Some coffee drinks have the option of having whipped cream added on top. If you want to drink a healthier coffee, go without the whipped cream.
    • If you get the whipped cream on your drink, you're adding about 80 calories to your total for that beverage.[9]
    • Even if you order a small or kid's sized beverage, the amount of whipped cream will be about the same amount, so you're not saving calories that way.
    • Be careful when ordering mixed coffee drinks. Many items automatically come with whipped cream unless you specify. So make sure to always say "without whipped cream." Or, order a sugar-free or "skinny" version as these do not come with whipped cream.
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    Be wary of how much sugar you add. You may think you're making a better choice by ordering a plain coffee and doctoring it up yourself. Be careful with what you add to your coffee so you stick to the best coffee drink.
    • If you just stick to a plain cup of coffee without anything in it, you're pretty much going with a calorie-free beverage.
    • If you want to add a little sweetener to your drink you can either go with regular sugar or sugar in the raw or any of the artificial sweeteners provided.
    • If you choose artificial sweeteners, you'll stick with a calorie-free beverage as they do not contain any calories. If you go with regular sugar or sugar in the raw, it'll only add a 11 calories per sugar packet.[10]
    • Choose wisely about the type of sugar you add to your own drinks. Adding one packet of regular sugar isn't going to add that many calories. However, if you add more than one or drink several cups of coffee per day, that can add up to many more calories and grams of sugar than you'd think. Consider limiting how many cups or how much sugar you add to cut down on overall calories.

Part 2
Picking a Healthier Coffee Drink

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    Try a caffe americana. One of the lowest calorie drinks you can order at a coffee shop is the caffe americana. It's a low calorie drink that's fairly simple and is a better choice than many.
    • A caffe Americana is a shot of espresso topped off with some hot water. There is no milk, added sugars or flavorings in this beverage.[11]
    • Compared to other coffee drinks, this is probably one of the lowest in calories. A small typically only has about 11 calories per drink.[12]
    • Since this drink doesn't have added sugars or milk, you may consider adding some yourself. Choose wisely between regular sugar or sugar substitutes. If you want to maintain the lower calorie, sugar-free nature of the drink, go with a sugar substitute.
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    Order a plain cappuccino or a latte. A caffe americana may be a little bland for some people. If you want to have something with a little creaminess, try ordering a plain cappuccino or latte instead.
    • A plain cappuccino is a shot of espresso mixed with a little steamed milk and foam. A latte is espresso mixed with much more milk with little to no foam.[13]
    • When ordering a plain version of these drinks, you're foregoing the flavorings which can rack up added calories and sugar. A small version of these drinks typically range from 90-150 calories per drink.[14]
    • Again, since these drinks do not come with added sugar, be you may want to add some sweetness. Choose between artificial sweeteners or regular sugar depending on what your overall calorie goal is.
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    Try a small chai tea latte. Another popular type of coffee house drink is the chai tea latte. You get the best of both worlds - a caffeine jolt from the tea and a flavorful drink from the spicy flavor of chai.
    • Most chai tea lattes are made from hot steamed milk mixed with a chai tea concentrate.[15]
    • The chai tea concentrate, although very tasty, does contain added sugars so calories can get on the higher level if you're ordering a large size or ordering with whole milk.[16]
    • Stick with a small chai tea latte made with skim milk for the best bet. It typically only has about 100 calories per drink.[17]
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    Order a small peppermint mocha. Another favorite coffee shop beverage is the peppermint mocha. A sweet hint of chocolate mixed with refreshing peppermint. Order wisely when indulging in this chocolate coffee drink.
    • A peppermint mocha is traditionally made from combining a shot of espresso with steamed milk, peppermint syrup and a squeeze of chocolate syrup.[18]
    • When you order a small made with skim milk and no whipped cream, this fancy drink will only cost you about 150 calories.[19]

Part 3
Making Healthier Coffee Drinks at Home

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    Purchase a coffee maker. Although stopping by a coffee shop each morning may be part of your routine, if your favorite coffee is affecting your waistline (or wallet), consider making your own drinks at home.[20]
    • To start making healthier versions at home, you'll need to purchase a coffee maker. You can either purchase a traditional multi-cup coffee maker or an espresso machine. Most coffee shop drinks are made with espresso, so you might choose this instead.
    • You may want to purchase a machine that allows you to make a single shot of espresso. These generally require you to buy individual pods of espresso so you can make one individual shot.
    • You can also go with a more traditional espresso machine where you buy the coffee drinks, pack it into the machine and brew your espresso. These are a little more time intensive, but give you great espresso.[21]
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    Brew your coffee. The main ingredient in coffee house drinks is the coffee. You'll need to start by brewing up coffee or espresso to make your own homemade coffee house drink.
    • Espresso machines, even the small individual brewers, can get expensive. However, you can brew regular coffee, but make it really strong for a similar flavor to espresso.
    • For cappuccinos, you need to make at least 1/3 of your total drink volume coffee. Fill up your coffee mug or travel cup about 1/3 of the way up. The same goes for lattes and the other popular coffee house drinks.
    • If you make a large quantity of espresso or strong coffee, consider keeping it the refrigerator so you can have it ready to go for the next day.
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    Measure out your milk. The next most important ingredient in your coffee house drink is the milk. Depending on what type of drink you're making, the amount and temperature of the milk will vary.
    • For hot coffee drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, you'll need to heat your milk. Lattes are made with 1/3 coffee and 2/3 milk. Heating your milk over the stove or in the microwave will work.
    • However, cappuccinos are 1/3 coffee, 1/3 milk and 1/3 foam. The only way to get foam is by using a milk frother or putting your warmed milk in a blender. Pour in the milk followed by your desired amount of foam.
    • If you want an iced or cold drink, skip the heating process and just measure out the same amount of milk. Choose skim milk or unsweetened almond milk for the lowest calorie option.[22]
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    Add in flavorings. Lastly, you'll need to add any of your favorite flavorings to your coffee drink. To truly mimic those coffee house beverages (especially around the holidays), you'll need to add a few of those signature syrups or spices.
    • Many of the traditional coffee drinks use flavored syrups. These are actually easy to find in many stores (from grocery stores to gourmet stores) and online. Plus, they are available in larger and smaller sizes and come in sugar-free for your convenience.
    • If you're going to use a syrup, you'll need to add the appropriate amount of syrup to your drink. This will be completely up to you and how sweet you like your drinks. Start with one or two "squirts" and taste to see if you need to add more.
    • Some coffee house drinks also use some spices - whether it's a sprinkle of cinnamon or vanilla sugar. Stick with a sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg or even pumpkin pie spice for a calorie-free flavor booster.


  • Although coffee does have some health benefits, make sure you still moderate your intake of coffee each day.
  • Choose coffees without added sugars to keep a cap on the total calorie value.

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Categories: Coffee