Mornings, meetings, hangouts and serious writing are what coffeehouses are all about. Walking in, you are embraced by the robust smell of coffee in the air, dim lighting and familiar hipster décor.
You walk up to the counter to place your order ... only to be confronted with an enormous number of options beyond a standard cup of coffee or tea. How’s the average Joe supposed to decide what roast of Joe to order, or whether to opt for the mocha-coca-frap-a-looloo?
First Things First
Decide what your personal health goals are before you walk in the door. The barista isn’t there to help you make healthy choices. Their job is to make whatever you order to the best of their abilities, and quite honestly, if you spend too much time trying to order, there are 10 uncaffeinated humans behind you plotting your demise.
Best Advice: Keep It Simple!
This gem applies to life as a whole, but it’ll also steer you towards a healthy choice at the coffee shop. Coffee and tea are as simple as it gets. In their plane-Jane forms they actually bring health benefits to the table.
The key is to ALWAYS add your own fixings to your beverage. A packet of sugar is generally 1 teaspoon. A “pump” of syrup is 1 tablespoon of sugar, which is 3 teaspoons.
This is across the board, for both local and corporate coffee stores, and all syrup brands. It’s an industry standard. Throwing eight packets of sugar in your coffee seems ridiculous. Asking for two pumps of vanilla seems like no big deal.
Additionally, those delicious syrups aren’t flavored with love and sparkles. They’re generally chemically flavored and stabilized. Many syrups also contain artificial food dyes.
It’s The Little Things
Opt for a 12-ounce beverage the majority of the time. For the occasional splurge, order a 16-ounce drink, but pull the reins in at that point.
For reference, a standard coffee cup at home is 10 to 12 ounces in size. If you choose a latté, a 12-ounce cup will help keep the calories in check. A coffee house is a treat, not a given. The point is to savor each sip, not chug as much as you can.
Keep a Lid on Your Caffeine
Decaf coffee isn’t 100 percent caffeine-free, and the amount of caffeine will actually depend on how the beans were decaffeinated, how they were ground, and how much coffee the barista put in the filter.
It’s best to stop at one cup of coffee and then switch to water or a caffeine-free herbal tea for your next beverage.
Excessive caffeine consumption can decrease iron absorption, contributing toward iron deficiency anemia. Additionally, it can cause fertility issues for women in their childbearing years.
Avoid Blended Drinks Altogether
Blended drinks tend to have the most additives in them, used to keep them creamy as long as possible. Additionally, if you have food sensitivities or allergies, blended beverages can hide a potential hazard.
Generally, coffee huts rinse blenders between uses, but don’t completely wash them. While that’s actually proper food safety, it doesn’t prevent cross contamination. That means you could be potentially exposed to an allergen that was in the blender before your beverage.
Blended beverages tend to pack the most excess calories. If you want to treat yourself to a creamy beverage, do so at an authentic ice cream shop with a real milkshake. Don’t go to a coffee house for the synthetic version.
Pack Your Snacks or Go Splitsville
Coffee houses big and small are getting more and more into carrying food. However, they’re not full-service restaurants, and often what they offer is prepackaged, calorie-laden, and full of hidden ingredients. It’s nice to have a snack with your drink, however not if it’s a 500 calorie snack.
Bring some magnesium-rich pumpkin seeds to get healthy while you have your meeting. Or if you do want to venture into the pastry case delights, remember that sharing is caring, and split it with your company. Cuts your calories in half, and makes you look like a kind person: win-win.
Caffeine Content for Coffee and More. Mayo Clinic. Accessed September 10, 2015.
Iron Deficiency Anemia: Nutritional Consideration. NutritionMD.org. Accessed September 11, 2015.
Reviewed September 14, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith