Seasonal Coffee Drinks Nutritional Comparison

When there’s a nip in the air, there isn’t much that’s as comforting as a steamy drink. Coffee is a go-to for many because not only does it warm you, it can give you a little extra get-up-and-go when you need it. Plus, these days you don’t need to settle for simply black or cream/sugar. You can choose from countless flavors and toppings. Plus, throughout the year offerings include a variety of unique seasonal flavors. But how do these drinks fit into a healthy eating plan?

The most troublesome issues with seasonal, flavored coffee drinks are the calories, saturated fat, and sugar. Some have more calories than a slice of stuffed crust, meat lover’s pizza, the saturated fat equivalent of nearly two Big Macs, and/or the sugar equivalent of two or more Milky Way bars. Keep in mind these are drinks, not meals—they don’t offer the same sense of fullness food does, therefore you’ll most likely end up eating the same amount of food you would if you’d not just consumed 300 or more calories. That’s not to say you need to eliminate them completely, just change things up a bit. The simplest change to make is limiting your portion. If you really like the fancy syrups and toppings, try to quench your cravings with the smallest size. Choosing a small instead of a large can be a difference of nearly 11 teaspoons of sugar and 300 calories but it tastes exactly the same.

Helpful Hints. Keep these additional tips in mind the next time you want to warm up with some seasonal yumminess.

  • Skip the syrup. To get flavor without extra sugar, start with coffee made from flavored beans instead of plain beans with several squirts of sugary flavored syrup. At the very least you can usually find hazelnut and French vanilla flavored, and often many more.
  • Go topless. You can cut the fat by as much as the equivalent of a half tablespoon of butter by simply leaving off the whipped cream. If you like the creaminess, choose a drink made with steamed low-fat milk.
  • Have a treat. Consider having basic coffee for your daily jolt of joe and save these types of drinks for a treat or dessert.

—Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD

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