Coffee 101: Lighten Up Your Latte

Sometimes, the coffee shop is all about that much-needed dose of caffeine to help jumpstart the day. Other times, it’s the reward of a warm treat on a chilly day. Regardless of the reason, coffee is an integral part of many Americans’ lives. However, many of the drinks on the menu can quickly skyrocket into sugar and calorie-filled coffee bombs. Here are a few tricks for ordering smart at the coffee shop.


Keep Your Coffee Simple

The best way to keep your calorie consumption low at the coffee shop is to order basic drip coffee or plain tea. Try a few different coffee roasts to see which one you like best — if you can find one that you enjoy drinking without adding milk or sugar, great. Drip coffee without any additives has no sugar or fat, and less than 5 calories per 8 ounces.

Of course, we realize that black coffee is an acquired taste. For those looking for a little something extra …

Pick a Non-Fat or Low-Fat Milk for Your Coffee


  • Nonfat milk is the best choice for coffee drinks. If you still crave a richer taste, ask your barista to mix 2% and nonfat together.
  • Whole milk is high in saturated fat. At 3.25% milk fat, it has only slightly more fat than 2% milk. If you’re a whole milk drinker, and you want to healthify your favorite coffee beverage, try a gradual adjustment to allow your taste buds to adjust: Start with 2% milk, then move to a blend of 2% and nonfat milk.
  • Non-dairy milks like soy and almond are popping up in many major coffee shops. Both are good choices because they’re lower in saturated fat than whole or 2% milk. Most coffee shops use the sweetened varieties of non-dairy milk, so be aware of how much sugar you’re adding to your latte. With non-dairy milk, you may be able to skip added sugar completely.

For drip coffee, add a splash of 2% or nonfat milk in place of half and half. A splash of the latter has 2.5 grams of saturated fat, which is more than 10% of the daily recommended intake.

Sweeten Your Coffee Wisely

Coffee shops have a huge variety of syrups and sweeteners available. The holidays bring with them seasonal varieties such as pumpkin spice and gingerbread lattes.

Some coffee shops add up to 5 pumps of sweetener in each drink. Go lighter on the sugar by asking for one pump. An average pump of sweetener adds 5 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to 1 1/4 teaspoons of white table sugar.

That said, the extra pumps add up quickly. For example, a 20-ounce 5-pump hazelnut latte has 320 calories and 44 grams of sugar. Just to give you an idea: It would take 34 minutes of running to burn off the calories in this drink. You can cut out 80 calories and 5 teaspoons of sugar just by asking for 1 pump of syrup.

Sugar-free sweeteners remain controversial because their long-term health effects are mostly unknown. If you’re used to drinking an extra sweet latte, switching to sugar-free syrups will cut calories. However, it’s generally better to consume less of the real stuff than to switch to artificial substitutes.

Skip the Whip on Your Coffee

Two teaspoons of whipped cream can add 100 calories, 10 grams of total fat and 3.5 grams of saturated fat to your latte. Skip the whipped cream for a quick and easy way to lighten up your drink.

Watch Your Portion Sizes with Coffee

Many coffee beverages have the nutritional profile of desserts, so it’s best to think of them as treats. Order a small size to get your caffeine and flavor kick without breaking the calorie bank.

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