How to Make or Order Healthier Coffee Drinks
Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. In the United States, 62% of people drink coffee every day1, and among those coffee drinkers, the average consumption is over 3 cups per day1. While there are potential health benefits associated with coffee2, there can be concerns about unhealthy additions to this popular drink.
A cup of brewed black coffee contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine, phytonutrients3 (healthy compounds produced by plants) and zero calories. Adding cream, sugar, syrups or other flavorings changes the nutritional content of coffee, for better or for worse. In fact, coffee is one of the top sources of added sugars in the United States because of sugary flavorings.4
People with diabetes may have concerns about not only the sugar but also the caffeine affecting their blood sugar levels. However, research shows that in the long term, caffeinated coffee may actually help with blood sugar control by increasing your body’s insulin response.5 Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, so it’s important that your body is responding to it the right way.
So far, we’ve learned that coffee has great benefits, but we don’t want to cancel out those benefits by loading our coffee drinks up with sugar. Making or ordering healthier coffee drinks doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor.
Here are some ideas for pumping up the nutrition and flavor of your coffee drinks:
1. Use low- and no-calorie sweeteners instead of sugar
Sugar takes on a lot of different names and forms: white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, honey, agave nectar – and the list goes on. All these sugars contain about 15-20 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrate per teaspoon and will affect your blood sugar the same way. (And most people use more than a teaspoon in their coffee.) Instead of sweetening your coffee with sugar, use a low- or no-calorie sweetener like Splenda’s Original, Stevia or Monk Fruit varieties. These sweeteners have no impact on blood sugar6 but taste just like sugar.
2. Combine with a nutrition shake
Turn your coffee into a complete breakfast or snack by combining it with a nutrition shake, such as Splenda Diabetes Care Shakes. These shakes contain the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats to help manage blood sugar and keep you feeling full. Simply pour a vanilla-flavored shake into a glass, then add ice and strong-brewed coffee to make a creamy iced vanilla latte. If you’re a chocolate lover, try the same recipe with a chocolate-flavored shake to make an iced mocha instead.
3. Add cinnamon
Adding a sweet spice like cinnamon to your coffee drink is a great way to add flavor without adding extra calories. Research has shown that cinnamon could reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, but it has no significant effect on hemoglobin A1C (your 3-month blood sugar average).7
4. Add unsweetened cocoa
Cocoa contains an array of antioxidants that have been shown to help reduce the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other inflammatory conditions.8 It’s better to add unsweetened cocoa than chocolate to your coffee drinks (to avoid the added sugars and fats in chocolate). If you do add chocolate, choose a dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao (the raw version of cocoa) or a stevia-sweetened chocolate to avoid excessive added sugars.
5. Use no-sugar-added coffee creamers
Many flavored coffee creamers contain sugar and corn syrup. If you like having more than a tablespoon of creamer in your cup of coffee, or you typically have multiple cups per day, all that sugar can add up. Splenda Coffee Creamers contain no sugar and no corn syrup – they’re sweetened with zero-calorie Splenda Sweetener. You’ll save yourself 20 calories per tablespoon by using a Splenda Coffee Creamer instead of a sugar-sweetened creamer.
6. Make a coffee recipe at home
If you like “fancy” coffee drinks like mochas and frappes, try making your own at home. Coffeehouses rarely have healthy syrups and chocolate sauces, so it can be difficult to avoid those excess calories and sugars when ordering out. Try making a frozen coffee drink like an almond cappuccino, blending Splenda Granulated Sweetener with instant espresso powder, milk, almond extract and ice. Or make a frozen mocha latte, blending a Splenda Milk Chocolate Diabetes Care Shake with coffee, sweetener and stevia-sweetened chocolate sauce. You’ll get your sweet fix and a balanced meal or snack all in one drink.
7. Check the label
Before purchasing a ready-to-drink coffee or coffee flavoring, check the nutrition label. When managing blood sugars, it’s important to look at the grams of added sugars under Total Carbohydrates. According to the American Heart Association, men should aim for no more than 36 grams (9 teaspoons) of added sugars per day, and women should aim for no more than 24 grams (6 teaspoons) per day.9 Keep in mind that cutting back your intake of added sugars in your coffee also helps with cutting calories.
Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world for many reasons. You can enjoy the benefits of coffee without sacrificing your health by trying these ideas for boosting nutrition and flavor. Explore more from The Kroger Wellness Festival.
1. National Coffee Association USA. (2020, March 26). NCA releases Atlas of American Coffee. https://www.ncausa.org/Newsroom/NCA-releases-Atlas-of-AmericanCoffee#:~:text=Overall%20coffee%20consumption%20is%20UP,over%203%20cups%20per%20day.
2. Poole, R., Kennedy, O. J., Roderick, P., Fallowfield, J. A., Hayes, P. C., & Parkes, J. (2017). Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 359, j5024. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j5024
3. Produce for Better Health Foundation. (n.d.). What are phytonutrients? https://fruitsandveggies.org/stories/what-are-phytochemicals/
4. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.
5. Reis, C., Dórea, JG, & da Costa, T (2018). Effects of coffee consumption on glucose metabolism: A systematic review of clinical trials. Journal of traditional and complementary medicine, 9(3), 184–191.
6. Refers to one serving of Splenda® Zero Calorie Sweeteners when used in place of sugar. Johnston CA, Stevens B, & Foreyt JP. (2013). The Role of Low-calorie Sweeteners in Diabetes. Eur Endocrinology 9(2); 96-98.
7. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2020, May). Cinnamon. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cinnamon
8. Katz, D. L., Doughty, K., & Ali, A. (2011). Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxidants & redox signaling, 15(10), 2779–2811.
9. American Heart Association Editorial Staff. (2019, February 21). By Any Other Name It’s Still Sweetener. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/byany-other-name-its-still-sweetener