Coffee—it’s so much more than a beverage. It’s a morning ritual, it’s an afternoon pick-me-up, and for many of us it’s a necessity. And I have great news for you: When consumed in moderation, coffee is good for you! Of course, it’s easy (and tempting) to modify your coffee so that it’s sweet and delicious but no longer such a healthy choice. Adding sugar, syrup, whole milk, or whipped cream can turn your innocuous cup of java into a full-fledged, high-calorie, high-fat dessert. And while it’s okay to enjoy a frothy coffee-based treat now and then, you should think of your venti white chocolate mocha with extra whip as, essentially, a milkshake. Make it a delicious indulgence for a special occasion, rather than something you drink every day. The healthiest choice for your everyday coffee habit is good old black coffee with some simple modification options. I’ll walk you through some of my favorite ways to make your mug of plain black coffee a little tastier and more interesting without adding tons of calories.
- The Benefits of Coffee
- Black Coffee: Make It Taste Great
- The Best Natural Sweeteners and Plant Milks
- Enjoy Your Coffee!
The Benefits of Coffee
Many people affectionately refer to coffee as “magic bean water” for its many benefits. A cup of coffee increases your alertness and productivity, improves your mood, and can help curb your appetite. It’s rich in antioxidants, which help your body fight off serious illnesses like type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and various cancers. There are minimal or even zero calories in a standard cup of coffee with no sugar or milk added. So if you enjoy a cup or two each day, you’re doing something good for your body and mind. Go ahead and drink up!
Now, I’ve had more than one client ask, “Is caffeine bad for you?” The answer is different for each person, but in general, caffeine is fine in moderation. Of course, if you find that it makes you feel depressed, anxious, or jittery, you should try cutting back on your total consumption. The same is true if you have trouble falling asleep at night or if you notice you frequently suffer from heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux disease. (You can try decaf or a coffee alternative like chicory root or Four Sigmatic Mushroom Elixir for your morning beverage.) Additionally, if you’re pregnant, it’s best to consult with your doctor about the decision to consume caffeine, though one cup a day is usually considered okay.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about whether you should drink coffee or how much is appropriate for you. If one or two cups a day help you to stay alert and on your game and aren’t causing you any health problems, sip away.
Black Coffee: Make It Taste Great
Some people love their coffee black and won’t have it any other way. Others are convinced that it’s the worst possible way to drink their morning cup of joe. If you’re in the latter group, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to talk you into switching to plain coffee with zero additions. And that’s okay, because there are a number of ways to make your black coffee taste good without adding tons of calories to it.
Pour It Over Ice
Get started with the easiest coffee modification in the book: Brew it cold and drink it over ice. You may prefer it to hot black coffee, and it’s a simple process.
Hit Up Your Spice Rack
When you’re tempted to reach for the sugar bowl, try sprinkling something less caloric into your cup instead. Cinnamon powder (not cinnamon sugar!) contains very few calories and may help lower your blood sugar and cholesterol. Unsweetened cocoa powder packs only twelve calories per tablespoon and can add a chocolatey note to your drink. And vanilla or almond extract will enhance the flavor of your coffee without the hundreds of calories in traditional flavored syrups.
Try a Sugar-Free Syrup
Speaking of syrups, you don’t have to forgo them entirely to keep your coffee on the lighter side. Check out the many sugar-free syrups available from companies like Skinny Mixes and Torani. With coffee-shop favorites like raspberry, hazelnut, and salted caramel, you’ll never miss the sugar and calories. Note that many popular coffee chains carry sugar-free syrups, making it entirely possible to enjoy healthy hot drinks at Starbucks or Dunkin’. Sweet (literally!).
Buy Flavored Coffee Beans
If what you’re craving is rich flavor rather than sweetness, flavored coffee beans are a great choice for you. You can find many tasty options at your supermarket or local coffee shop, or you can try flavoring the beans yourself. Coffee bean flavoring oils typically do not add calories to your beverage.
The Best Natural Sweeteners and Plant Milks
If you’ve experimented with all these ideas and still don’t like the way your coffee tastes, you can try using a low-calorie natural sweetener in place of sugar. Here are some of my favorites for coffee drinks:
- Stevia: plant-based and contains zero calories
- Monk fruit: all-natural and contains zero calories
- Xylitol: plant extract with 40% fewer calories than table sugar
- Erythritol: found in nature and considered a no-calorie or lower-calorie food
You also may discover that you simply don’t enjoy coffee that hasn’t been diluted with milk. Keep your drink on the lighter side by swapping your full-fat, half-and-half, or whole milk with one of these healthy plant milks:
- Almond milk
- Coconut milk
- Rice milk
- Soy milk
- Oat milk
If traditional dairy is what you crave, reach for nonfat or 1% milk instead of the heavier varieties.
Enjoy Your Coffee!
Ultimately, only you can decide what makes coffee taste great, and your daily cup (or two) should be a source of joy. I certainly don’t want to suck all the fun out of it—I just want to help you keep it on the healthier side. Have you found other lower-calorie, lower-fat ways to enjoy your coffee? I’d love to hear about them and share them with readers. Let me know about them in the comments section!