If you're running waking up early and running around with the kiddos all day, nothing can be as welcome as a good cup of coffee. And Boston no doubt has an abundance of Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and independent coffee shops at every corner to help you get your fix. But sometimes you might wonder – can coffee fit into a healthy meal plan? Of course it can – if you’re making smart choices!
The first thing people tend to ask me about is caffeine. Moderate doses of caffeine in the amount of 200 to 300 mg per day aren’t harmful for most healthy adults. This is equal to about 2 to 4 cups of brewed coffee. If you have any health problems, particularly heart problems, you may need to check with your doctor to see if it’s okay for you to drink moderate amounts of caffeine. Along the same lines, pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake. And keep in mind that there’s caffeine in other products (like sodas) and that many coffee drinks you buy may also have added expresso or come in sizes larger than a cup – so keep an eye on how much you take in and be sure it is in moderation.
The bigger concern for many people – in my opinion – is purchasing those coffee drinks or blended beverages that contain tons of additional ingredients and sugar. These can be poor choices for your diet, as they provide lots of added sugar without many beneficial nutrients. Take a look at some common choices here, and better selections that could be made at each location.
Poor choice: Venti Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha – 690 calories, 23 grams of fat, 101 grams of sugar
That’s over half a cup of sugar in this drink! Not to mention, more calories than most of us should eat in a meal, let alone as a snack or drink.
Don’t want to give it up? Switch to the tall version, get it made with non-fat milk instead of 2%, and skip the whip cream – you’ll end up with 270 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 50 grams of sugar.
Make a better choice: A grande iced coffee made with nonfat milk. An unsweetened one is just 25 calories and 3 grams of sugar, while a sweetened one has 110 calories and 24 grams of sugar.
Poor choice: Large Coffee Coolata made with cream – 800 calories, 46 grams of fat, 87 grams of sugar
Talk about a diet disaster – this one beverage could end up being almost half of your daily calorie needs! It’s got 46 grams of fat, which is as much fat as about 5 tablespoons of mayonnaise or half a stick of butter!
Don’t want to give it up? Go for the small and switch from cream to skim milk. This drink now only contains 210 calories, but still packs 49 grams of sugar.
Make a better choice: If you're craving something cold, try a medium Iced Latte Light. It’s got 120 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 15 grams of sugar.
Poor choice: Large McCafe Mocha – 400 calories, 14 grams of fat, 49 grams of sugar
It may not be as bad as some of the options listed above, but 49 grams of sugar is still over 12 teaspoons - more than a can of soda.
Don’t want to give it up? Switch to a small, use nonfat milk rather than the traditionally used whole milk, and ditch the whip cream. You’ll be down to 190 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 32 grams of sugar.
Make a better choice: Large McCafe Cappuchino made with nonfat milk – 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, 13 grams of sugar
Of course, the best coffee choice at any of these locations or at home is a simple cup of coffee with lowfat or nonfat milk! A cup of plain coffee itself only has between 2 and 5 calories. Adding nonfat milk can be great because it boosts your calcium intake for the day and also acts as a sweetener. Each additional teaspoon of sugar you add (the amount in a small packet) contains 15 calories and 4 grams of sugar. Stick with 1 or 2 packets to prevent getting too many calories from added sugar.
Money-saving move and wellness booster: Make your own coffee at home. Not only can creating your own coffee drinks help your health by controlling the added ingredients, but it can save you money too. Even a regular coffee at certain establishments now runs about $2. If you get one of these 5 days a week, that’s over $500 a year that you are spending on coffee out! And if you’re going for the larger or fancier drinks, it’s even more. Think about how that additional money could be spent on healthy local food, a new gym membership, or even a relaxing vacation to reduce stress.
Share with us – are you crazy for coffee?