If you’ve ever thought about improving your health or losing weight by breaking a coffee shop habit, the winter season is a hard time to do it. There’s something about holiday shopping with a latte in hand, or sitting by the fireplace at your favorite coffee stop with a great book. How can you stay in your calorie budget and still enjoy a warm beverage?
There are certain things to look for and avoid, and then there are other things that can be modified. I will be honest and say that if you are used to full-sugar, full-fat beverages, the lighter versions likely won’t taste the same. At least not at first. Taste buds adjust, so be patient and soon, the regular versions will taste too heavy. If you have these drinks daily, or even weekly, it’s worth cutting the calories back a bit.
Where do the calories hide? Here’s what to consider:
>> Whole milk has 150 calories per 8-ounce cup, compared to skim or nonfat milk, which has 80 to 90 calories per cup. The extra calories are purely from the fat that is absent in skim milk.
>> Large drinks can double your calories, so don’t forget to control portion sizes for your beverages, not just your meals! A venti (large) skim hot chocolate at Starbucks has 350 calories versus a tall (small) with 210. Still sounds like a lot, you say? Consider the syrup.
>> Regular syrups contain20 or more calories per pump versus zero in sugar-free versions. If you can’t take the taste of sugar-free syrup, try minimizing the number of pumps of syrup you choose.
>> A chai latte sounds innocent, but many tea drinks are made with pre-made mixes, full of sugar and lots of extra ingredients. Kind of defeats the health benefits of tea! If you do have a tea-based latte, choose nonfat milk and a smaller size.
>> Choose unsweetened teas, natural fruit-infused waters, espresso-based drinks made with water, black coffee or coffee with steamed milk and natural sweeteners such as truvia.
Some of my own personal tricks:
>> Have a few packets of a natural sweetener in the car. I like Truvia, but any brand of stevia or erythritol are natural options that work great to sweeten without the aftertaste. Most coffee stops only offer Equal, Sweet and Low, and my second favorite — Splenda.
>> Try an Americano instead of a latte, and ask for a bit of steamed milk on the top. You can get the foamy goodness of a latte without all of the calories. When I’m doing a splash, I treat myself to 2 percent milk instead of nonfat, because it froths a little thicker.
>> My favorite drink? Americano with one or two pumps of whatever syrup sounds best. If it’s not sweet enough, add a packet of truvia. With a bit of steamed milk on top, it’s the perfect winter drink. Just make sure to order half caff if it’s after noon!
>> Skip the frozen drinks, unless you are having a balanced smoothie and considering the calories. Choose a nutrient-dense smoothie that contains real fruit, dairy and protein to act as a meal replacement. Most people know, but it is worth reminding that frozen coffee drinks such as frappucinos often contain over 500 calories, without much nutritional value.
>> Visit a coffee shop for a treat, but limit those daily stops. It becomes less exciting when visits are too frequent.
Try a homemade version of chai tea mix with this great recipe. It makes about 40 servings, so keep in a sealed container for cold afternoons. Use a heaping tablespoon per 8 ounces of almost-boiling water for about 50 calories.
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups unsweetened instant tea or decaffeinated instant tea
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups nonfat dry milk powder (=1 small pouch)
1 cup fat free powdered nondairy creamer
1 cup fat free French vanilla-flavored powdered nondairy creamer
Combine spices and tea in a food processor or blender. Blend 1 minute or until mixture becomes a fine powder. Pour into a large bowl. Add sugar to food processor or blender (without cleaning it), and process until superfine, about 30 seconds. Add sugar to bowl of spices. Stir in milk powder and creamers; blend well.