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How to Make Your Coffee Shop Order Healthier

Navigating the Seasonal Sensory Overload at the Coffee Shop

With so many seasonal beverage choices filling your local coffee shop’s menu, ordering a pumpkin spice latte or a green tea smoothie has never been more tempting – or easy. Equally easy is learning some nutritional facts about these enticing beverages, so that the next time you’re in line, you can make an educated order.

Coffee Drink or Dessert in a Cup?

Lattes, smoothies and other blended drinks are the most dessert-like of coffee shop drinks. These beverages are loaded with flavor – and fat, sugar and calories. When you aren’t keeping track of your drink’s contents, you can be consuming more than 400 additional calories a day – in just one pumpkin spice latte. Those green tea smoothies can contain 65 grams of sugar. And some blended concoctions are giving you more fat than you need for two days and more saturated fat than is healthy for an entire week. And that’s just in one drink.

Consider these substitutions to make your beverage order healthier:

  • Size. Most coffee shops offer a small, medium or large size for your drink option – some even offer an extra-large. More than 50 percent of people enjoy coffee beverages on a daily basis. If you’re committed to ordering a flavored latte or blended drink, consider at least switching to a smaller size. You can easily reduce the amount of calories, sugar and fat by simply switching to a smaller cup.
  • Dairy. Many of these milky drinks are made with a condensed milk (usually sweetened) or a whole milk, and may also add a topper of whipped cream. Consider asking for a low-fat dairy (skim milk) option with no whip, or substitute almond or soy milk. Be careful though: many soy milk and other dairy substitutes are also sweetened, so be sure to ask for an unsweetened variety.
  • Sugar and flavored sweeteners. A flavored drink at the coffee shop can increase your sugar count to as much as 48 grams, if not more, for a large beverage (a salted caramel mocha has 56 grams of sugar!). If you’re interested in sweetening your drink, consider Stevia or a bit of natural honey or agave to lessen your sugar intake.
  • Added flavor. Faux flavored creamers are made with corn syrup solids and hydrogenated oils (trans fats), making them unhealthy additions to your beverage. If you want to add creamer to your coffee, add a bit of natural cream; the real thing is far healthier than the fake variety. If you want another healthy, tasty addition to your morning pick-me-up, consider cinnamon. Cinnamon has many proven health benefits, including lowering blood glucose levels and providing antioxidants.

If it’s coffee you’re after, consider just that. Skip the lattes and blended drinks (which don’t contain much actual coffee) and simply order a cup of java. Then go ahead and add a splash of cream or a dairy substitute, such as almond or soy milk, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. This cup of coffee is a delicious (and healthier) beverage and you don’t have to feel guilty about drinking it. In fact, some studies suggest it’s possible that coffee may even be good for you.

Homemade IS Better

Everyone enjoys a trip to the coffee shop, but if you’re looking for the best control over ingredients, portions and your money, make your own.

A simple coffee maker, grinder, blender and an inexpensive frother can turn your beverages into flavorful, award-worthy drinks. Here are some tips for your own café:

  • Buy quality coffee beans and grind them at home with your own grinder. You can add cinnamon directly to the grounds for a flavorful cup – and add a dash on top once your cup is ready.
  • Use a low (or non) fat milk or dairy substitute (soy or almond milk) and use a frother to make your own foam.
  • If you want to use a sweetener, consider honey or agave. Stevia is also a popular low-calorie sweetener, which is made from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana plant.

So the next time you crave a pumpkin spice latte, you may only need to make a trip to your kitchen. With the addition of a bit of cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg (the ingredients of pumpkin spice), your coffee and frothed milk just became a healthier version you don’t have to feel guilty about drinking. And if you just can’t get enough pumpkin spice, consider another delicious alternative – a pumpkin spice smoothie.

There are many ways to enjoy drinks that are healthy and flavorful. And while home is always your healthiest option, just remember you’re still in control of your order the next time you meet a friend for lattes.