Cutting the sugar out of coffee | Health and Fitness

Coffee can be an occasional treat or a daily crutch. No matter your form of this vice, there are both healthy and unhealthy options to be had. The recent price hike at a popular coffee chain — and a new study linking the consumption of sugary beverages to some 184,000 deaths worldwide per year — presents a great opportunity for habitual coffee/espresso drinkers to cut back or rethink their beverage choices.

  • Friday, August 21, 2015 4:35pm
  • Life

Coconut oil latte.

The following is written by Chelsey Lindahl, RD, CD:

Coffee can be an occasional treat or a daily crutch. No matter your form of this vice, there are both healthy and unhealthy options to be had.

The recent price hike at a popular coffee chain — and a new study linking the consumption of sugary beverages to some 184,000 deaths worldwide per year — presents a great opportunity for habitual coffee/espresso drinkers to cut back or rethink their beverage choices.

Caffeine is the first thing we think about when we talk about coffee, but what about sugar? Most people are familiar with the amount of sugar found in soda or juice, but we don’t always think about what’s in our coffee.

Consider these popular drinks and their sugar content. For comparison, a can of Coca-Cola contains 39 grams of sugar, or about 10 teaspoons.

• Grande Vanilla Latte: 35g

• Grande Caramel Macchiato: 32g

• Grande Mocha: 35g

• Grande White Chocolate Mocha: 59g

• Grande Mocha Frappuccino: 61g

Drink these types of beverages daily? You may want to shield your eyes. One Grande Vanilla Latte every day for a year is equivalent to 26.5 pounds of sugar and 12,776 calories from sugar alone.

Now that we know how much sugar is in these delicious drinks, let’s talk about tips for cutting back, plus alternatives.

Ease into it

Modifying coffee habits is no easy feat. You may do best to ease into it.

If you currently order a flavored latte, consider ordering it “half sweet.” This will save you about 4 teaspoons of sugar and give your palate a chance to adjust to the new level of sweetness and the bitterness of coffee (which most grow to love!).

You can also order “one-pump” lattes to add just a hint of sweetness (and only about 1 teaspoon of sugar). As you’re able, work yourself down to ordering just a plain latte, preferably with nonfat milk (or a nondairy alternative). To sweeten the deal (pun intended), plain lattes are usually $0.50 to $1.00 less expensive than their flavored counterparts.

Try an Americano

A secret many coffee aficionados and baristas know to order is an Americano, a drink of espresso shots and hot water. Americanos, both hot and iced, are generally about $1.00 less than lattes.

You can add a dash of nonfat milk, soy milk or coconut milk to an Americano if desired. If you like your coffee a touch sweet, consider adding stevia, honey or even a “pump” of your favorite flavor.

Americanos are a great choice because you have much more control over the sugar, and depending on the creamer you choose, the fat content.

Drink drip to regain control

Last but not least we have the die-hard coffee-lover favorite, drip coffee. Anyone who drinks drip knows the cost savings over flavored drinks. Even with their increase in cost at Starbucks, they’re still less expensive than a latte, mocha or Frappucino.

Drip coffee can also be ordered as a hot or iced drink. As with an Americano, you can choose to add nonfat, soy or coconut milk and a touch of sweetener if you’d like. This gives you much more control over the amount of sugar and fat in your coffee.

Unfortunately, no matter how we slice it, coffee from coffee shops is expensive. It’s worthwhile to consider preparing your coffee at home. You can most certainly use a cup- or pod-based system if that is easy for you. In my house, we opt for the old-fashioned coffee maker.

Tips for brewing at home

When making coffee at home, avoid coffee creamers, which have long lists of ingredients that are hard to pronounce. Instead, add nonfat, 1% or a nondairy milk of your choice, and stevia or honey to sweeten.

My favorite way to sweeten coffee is by adding a dash of cinnamon. Vanilla, Grade B maple syrup or unsweetened vanilla-flavored nondairy milk (such as almond or coconut) are also great choices.

Trending around the nation is a new, and still somewhat unknown, phenomenon of making a coconut-oil “latte” at home. After years of being a coffee drinker (and admitted coffee snob), this is by far my favorite way to enjoy coffee!

Coconut oil has received accolades and recognition in the past few years for its health and beauty benefits. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are easily broken down in the body to be used as energy. It has been shown to be beneficial for heart health, metabolism, immune support and more. Coconut oil is an excellent oil to cook with, and as it turns out, delicious in coffee as well.

Coconut oil latte


1 cup brewed coffee

1 tsp coconut oil

Dash of cinnamon, maple syrup, vanilla or honey (optional)

Nonfat or nondairy milk (optional)

Combine coffee, coconut oil (which you can find in the baking aisle or health food section of the grocery store) and other ingredients as desired in a blender, then blend for 30 seconds or until frothy.

Voila! You have a frothy, creamy, delicious and slightly sweet treat. If you’d like, you can also add a dash of cinnamon, nonfat or nondairy milk, maple syrup, vanilla or honey for a little extra boost. I drink mine with a splash of almond milk and a dash of cinnamon.

Don’t own a blender? Shake it up in a Mason jar instead.

What is your favorite way to enjoy a low-sugar or sugar-free coffee?

Chelsey Lindahl, RD, CD, is a wellness dietitian at the MultiCare Center for Healthy Living, which helps educate children and families in Pierce County about healthy lifestyle choices through programs such as “Ready, Set, Go! 5210.”


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