It’s safe to say the Pacific Northwest is coffee obsessed. In the Seattle area, it’s hard to turn a corner without running into a coffee shop or two…or three.
And while drinking coffee can be a healthy way to perk up in the morning, not all coffee is created equal. If you’re ordering a specialty drink—versus a drip coffee, Americano or latte—stopping in to see your favorite barista can also easily turn into a sugary, syrupy path to excess calories.
Want to know how to keep sipping your favorite roast without it negatively affecting your health or waistline? Here, Anne Linge, R.D.N., C.D., C.D.E., a dietitian at the Nutrition Clinic at University of Washington Medical Center-Roosevelt, shares some simple tips to make your morning coffee run a little healthier, without sacrificing enjoyment.
Find your perfect roast
One way to cut back on sugar and cream in your coffee is to drink something you actually like the taste of. The flavor of a coffee depends on a lot of things, including the level of roast and where it was grown. For example, dark roasts generally have a bolder flavor than light roasts, but some people perceive them as bitter. Experiment!
Watch out for additives in non-dairy milks
Whether you’re looking to cut back on calories or your body can’t tolerate dairy, plant-based options, like soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk and hemp milk, can be good substitutes. But read the labels if you can. Many dairy alternatives contain sugar that can up the calories and other additives that may be associated with health concerns.
Avoid temptations at the checkout counter
We’ve all been there: You go to a coffee shop for a tall drip and walk away with a caramel macchiato and a pain au chocolat instead. Treat yo' self from time to time, but be careful if it turns from a sometimes to a most-of-the-time habit.
Brew your own
The surest bet for controlling portions—and saving tons of money—is to make like a barista and brew your own coffee at home. Try making it fun by playing around with different brewing methods, like pour over, French press or cold brew.
Consider a new drink
Do you crave a warm beverage in the morning or turn to coffee for a caffeine fix? If you find that you need lots of sugar, cream and syrups to enjoy your coffee even after exploring different roasts and blends, it might be time to try a new morning beverage. Many teas contain spices that give them a sweet and fragrant taste—without the need for sugar.
The amount of caffeine varies based on tea type and how long you steep it. In general, one cup of black tea contains about 47 milligrams of caffeine, compared to 29 milligrams per cup of green tea and 95 milligrams per cup of coffee.
Size down or swap ingredients
Even simple changes, like ordering one size smaller than you normally do or ordering a slightly less rich milk, can help you avoid excess calories and sugar. Switching from a grande caffe latte to a tall cuts out 50 calories, while a tall latte with 2-percent milk instead of whole milk will cut 30 calories. Sprinkling on cinnamon in place of flavored syrup can cut out a soda-sized serving of sugar. And saying “no thanks” to whipped cream can slash 100 calories.
It may not seem like much, but making simple shifts over time can add up in the long run.