How to Make or Order Healthier Coffee Drinks
7 Ways to Make Healthier Coffee
Updated on June 6, 2022
Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. In the United States, 62% of people drink coffee every day; among those coffee drinkers, the average consumption is over 3 cups per day. People drink coffee for a variety of reasons: for the taste, to warm up or cool down (depending on whether it’s hot or iced coffee), to get a caffeine boost, and/or for potential health benefits. Some of these health benefits include reducing risk for heart failure, stroke, colon cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
A cup of brewed black coffee contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine, phytonutrients (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.
People with diabetes may have concerns about not only the sugar but the caffeine in coffee affecting their blood sugar levels as well. However, research shows that in the long-term, caffeinated coffee may actually help with blood sugar control by increasing your body’s insulin response. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, so it’s important that your body is responding to it the right way.
Thus 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 does not mean you have to sacrifice flavor. It is possible to have both healthy and delicious coffee drinks!
Here are 7 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—the list goes on. The truth is that teaspoon for teaspoon, all these sugars contain about 15-20 calories, 5 grams of carbohydrate, 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 Original, Stevia, or Monk Fruit. These sweeteners have no impact on blood sugar 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. A nutrition shake like Splenda Diabetes Care 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 this same recipe with a chocolate-flavored shake to make a Creamy 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 any extra calories. Some 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). Therefore, use cinnamon for flavor but not to treat your diabetes.
#4: Add unsweetened cocoa
Cocoa contains an array of antioxidants that have been shown to help reduce risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other inflammatory conditions. It’s better to add unsweetened cocoa over chocolate to your coffee drinks to avoid the added sugars and fats in chocolate. If you do choose to 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 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 Splenda Coffee Creamer over a sugar-sweetened coffee 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 drinking out.
Try making a frozen coffee drink like a Frozen Almond Cappuccino made with Splenda Granulated Sweetener or a Frozen Mocha Latte made with a Splenda Milk Chocolate Diabetes Care Shake. You’ll get your sweet fix and a balanced meal or snack in this 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) of added sugars per day. Keep in mind that cutting back your intake of added sugars in your coffee also helps with cutting calories!
Summary: Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world for many reasons. You can enjoy the amazing benefits of coffee without sacrificing your health by trying out these 7 ideas for boosting nutrition and flavor!
Written by Holly Moran, MS, RDN, LD, CDCES and member of the Splenda Healthcare Team.