Coffee can sometimes get a bad rep for being "unhealthy" but coffee actually has a ton of health benefits like it's ability to help us concentrate and its antioxidant capabilities. (as well as keeping me alive 😉🤣)
While coffee itself does have many health benefits, the way it is prepared can make it an "unhealthy" drink. So when you are concerned with having your cup of joe, how can you make it a healthier experience?
In this post I want to share a few ways to change up the way you drink coffee so that you can have an overall healthier drink. I want to make sure that I explain why it would make it healthier since "HeAlthY" can have MANY MANY MANY definitions.
Everyone has their own personal health goals and so what works for one person, may not work for someone else. Taste is also a HUGE factor in coffee related decisions so I want to make sure that you have the right information to have CONTROL over your coffee drinking experience.
1. Drink it black
The best way to gain the benefits of coffee without any added consequences is to have it plain and simple. Don't add anything and you don't have to worry about what you add. This does take some getting used to since coffee is a pretty strong drink but technically,.. its just a bean tea. You can also choose to only add sweetener OR cream OR flavor to your drink. This would cut out SOME of the things to worry about.
2. Choose decaf
A huge concern for coffee enthusiasts is the caffeine intake. Caffeine doesn't have to be a bad thing but many people are concerned about staying within healthy limits. Choosing decaf is an easy option to work on that concern. Of Course you can just have LESS coffee throughout the day, but who am i kidding???
Learn about whether caffeine is bad for you here.
3. Use REAL milks (Dairy or non-dairy) or creams rather than creamers
Most creamers in the market are not dairy based and while this may be a good thing for the lactose-intolerant, these same creamers do tend to have a lot of oil-based fats, artificial flavors, and corn syrups like HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup). This doesn't have to be a bad thing but for those of you that are seeking to increase the quality of your food intake or go "natural", real milk or non-dairy alternatives like almond milk or coconut milk can be a good option. Depending on the type of milk/cream that you choose, you still need to pay attention to the amount of fat and the amount of carbs/sugar that these milks provide.
Newer creamers are coming out that appeal to those who want natural alternatives. Some examples include almond-milk and coconut based creamers or "Natural" creamers. It is still important to read the ingredient list with these because they may still require added oils or added sugars to keep the flavor and texture creamer-like. Some milks have added sugars and flavorings and some may even have worst macros than the creamers. I personally love using 2 tbsps of half-and-half with my coffee because it adds a creaminess that can't be achieved with a small amount of creamer and I prefer not to have to use too many creamers in my coffee.
Simple milk and sugar is always my mom's and my grandma's choice. :)
4. Use alternative natural or low-calorie sweeteners
A huge part of coffee is the sweetness. While some people can handle black coffee...not everyone can and some people mostly like the drink because of its sweetness. That creates an issue for those looking to cut down on their sugar intake. There are two things to consider here:
If you're seeking to gain more health benefits but don't care about the caloric effect of your drink then switching to alternative sweeteners like honey or agave can offer added (but incredibly minute) health benefits and even flavor enhancement. Just make sure that you watch the amount because these sweeteners are more concentrated and can have a higher caloric load in order to get the same sweetness.
If you're seeking to cut down on calories then switching to lower-calorie sweeteners can help you have a sweet drink without having to worry about calories. There are many types and they each carry their own considerations.
Learn more about using low-calorie sweeteners and how to choose between natural and artificial ones here.
5. Use coconut oil/butter
The main appeal of creamer is the creaminess is adds to coffee, where does that creaminess come from? FAT. So if you want the texture without worrying about he ingredients, you can choose your fat.
I recommend coconut oil because it has other health benefits (also pretty minute) such as decreasing inflammation and it also has a better flavor. Some people do sell products with these fats as being much healthier than regular coffee but you do have think about how that plays into your daily meal plan. Fat has a lot of calories and saturated fats can increase your chances of developing CVD ( cardiovascular disease) so you have to weigh the benefits. But using your own fat has the added benefit of fitting directly into your meal plan. If you know you need to have a serving of fat with breakfast and you can't get it in, your coffee is a great place.
p.s. i recommend using a milk frother or a blender to really blend in the fat into the coffee!
6. Use protein/fiber powder
For many people the reason coffee is an issue is because it doesn't fit their daily macronutrient goals. While most protein snacks and meal contain a good balance of nutrients, sometimes they can't make their coffee fit. So having coffee that has the right macronutrient balance can help.
Coffee usually contains fats and carbs but no protein and no fiber so having it alone has an effect on your blood sugar and will not help with curbing your hunger or speeding up your metabolism. Adding protein powder and fiber can help with making it its own snack that's perfectly balanced and can even take the role of a protein bar.
There are creamers out there that do contain protein and fiber and have a great taste (I use Krogers CupStart Creamer) but you can also just mix your own! A good vanilla protein shake works wonders and again, i recommend using a milk frother or a blender to make sure you don't have any lumps!
p.s. Beachbody makes a great coffee flavored shake that tastes like a frappuccino!
7. Use extracts in brewing
If you want more flavor without using more syrups, brew those flavors right into your coffee! You can use extracts or even add herbs to your coffee beans. This is a simple solution because you only need a little bit and it adds a TON of flavor. And your whole house will smell for days! This is a good option because it doesn't add any calories and you can even gain those small benefits that come from herbs and extracts.
8. Find diet/sugar-free/low-fat options
This isn't the "healthiest" options, (at least not to health-nut online experts) but it's a legitimate option for many people. Diet doesn't have to be a bad word and it actually has many many definitions depending on the product.
If you can't have sugar, then sugar-free is an option when you know you're going to have it one way or the other. I always say that while not having anything is a better health option, diet is better for some people than the regular version.
This is true for people on specific diets for weight-loss or diseases like diabetes. Just make sure that you have a very clear understanding of what and why you should or shouldn't have sugar or fat. Some diets like KETO, require very low carbohydrate intake and ignoring that can completely change the way your body processes the rest of the day's food.
So always check with your dietician or doctor FIRST!!!
9. Order "skinny" or alternative versions
So if you are going through a drive-through....you're probably not thinking of making your own versions or buyings special creamers. That is ok, just tell your barista and they can do it for you. You can order the "skinny" version which usually includes a sugar-free syrup and no whipped cream. You can also ask for low-fat or alternative milks. It can't be done for EVERY drink but for most coffees. You won't have complete control here but it can give you some peace of mind when you know you're getting one no matter what.
p.s. you can ask for protein powder at Starbucks!
10. Choose a smaller serving size or less portions
Another simple but often overlooked option is to choose a smaller serving. When in doubt, a 12 oz cup has less of everything than a 16 oz or a 20 oz. I use a Keurig and so choosing a smaller cup of coffee gives me the same amount of caffeine but requires less creamer to taste good. I also choose to have only 1 serving of half-and-half and 1 serving of creamer, and 1 teaspoon of sweetener. I could add a whole lot more but I know I shouldn't. So if you are worried about the healthiness of your coffee, add a little less of the things that worry you!
At the end of the day, you're in control of this. You get to make the decision over what you consume. For me, having 1-2 cups of coffee a day helps me stay motivated and helps me with my adherence to my personal health plan. I choose the things that help me with my health and I hope that this helps you make the decisions that are best for YOUR health!
Let me know what you do with your coffee! :)
Want to learn how to make your own personalized plan for your health? Click here.