Espresso Yourself, Within Reason
Espresso Yourself, Within Reason
If you're among the 167 million Americans who drink coffee every day, then chances are that you're also mixing in a little cream or sugar or both, or picking up a latte or mocha at the local drive-thru. Tasty, yes, but this is where empty calories can really pile up.
Sixty-five percent of all coffee drinkers add milk or a milk substitute to their coffee; 48 percent add some kind of sweetener, according to a 2010 survey by the National Coffee Association. Since coffee drinkers consume, on average, 3.1 cups per day, that's a lot of milk and sugar being added. Even if you're not counting calories, reducing white sugar and unnecessary fat from your diet is a healthy habit to have. Using low- or fat-free milk and measuring the pour can shave more than you think off your caloric intake. Keep in mind that two tablespoons of one percent milk is 26 calories, while the same amount of whole milk is 37.
Sweetening your coffee may be a preference but it's not beneficial. Sugar is a high-calorie carbohydrate - one tablespoon is 45 calories - with little nutritional value. (The jury is still out on the long-term affects of artificial sweeteners but, in my opinion, they're best avoided.) If you must sweeten your coffee, minimize how much you add and try a natural sweetener, such as honey, brown rice syrup or coconut sugar, which are also high in calories, but at least have some health benefits.
Hold the Whipped Cream
Perhaps of more concern is our infatuation with specialty coffee drinks: espresso-based concoctions such as lattes, mochas and those dessert-like, blended concoctions flavored with any assortment of toppings, syrups, spices and extracts. Whipped cream alone pumps a 12-ounce, 230-calorie Peet's mocha (espresso, cocoa, and two percent steamed milk) to a weighty 348 calories, mostly just added fat.
Blended beverages, such as a Vanilla Frappuccino (coffee with vanilla bean powder, blended with milk and ice and topped with sweetened whipped cream) start around 300 calories - and that's just for the small, 12-ounce size. More common are the 16-ounce versions, which, if made with two-percent milk and whipped cream, are easily 400 calories and more. Flavored syrups, such as caramel and vanilla, come at a cost of 20 calories a pump. If you're drinking these frothy treats, be prepared to pay the price, from your wallet - they run about $4 a pop - as well as your waistline.
If you're eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, a splurge once in a while won't hurt; when you do, choose a small, low-fat version of your favorite coffee drink: non- or low-fat milk, small amounts of a natural sweetener or sugar-free flavoring. Better yet, try replacing the sugar with a few sprinkles of sweet spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice (recipe follows).
It's a good idea to limit your coffee intake. Caffeinated drinks have a diuretic effect and cause fluid loss. If you drink coffee, follow it with a glass of water to stay in balance. Or, replace a coffee break with a tea break. Try an herbal or decaffeinated green tea, which has been shown to lower blood pressure and boost metabolism.
Green tea is exposed to high temperatures immediately after harvesting, preserving the green pigment, which prevents the key antioxidant compounds, epigallocatechin (EGC) and epi gallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), from being oxidized. Thanks to these flavonoids and other substances, green tea actually boosts metabolism. That's right - a study of EGCG in green tea drinkers found that people who drank three or four cups of green tea daily burned an additional 80 calories per day!
Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 Tablespoon cloves
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
Mix together and store in an airtight jar or zip-top bag. (Add a half-teaspoon of this delicious blend to your hot cereal, yogurt or smoothie as well.)
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