5 Ways to Make a Healthier Cup of Coffee

A plain cup of brewed coffee only has 1-2 calories, but when you start pouring in the creamer and sugar, it can quickly become an unnatural, high calorie beverage.

Most commercial creamers are packed with additives, artificial flavors, trans fats, and added sugars – most in the form of corn sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup.

Then there are commercial coffee house drinks. A grande Caramel Chocolate Frappuccino with whipped cream packs a whopping 590 calories with 19 teaspoons of sugar (74g) and 19g of saturated fat.

How to make a healthier cup of coffee

It’s easy and relatively inexpensive to make your own delicious concoctions to sweeten up your cup of coffee. And the best reasons to do it are you control what it tastes like and how healthy it is.

Below are easy additions or recipes you can use in your coffee. As you learn what you like, experiment with different proportions and flavors.

1. Old-school dairy from the cow. If you haven’t tried it in a while, give actual milk a chance

Whole milk, half-and-half, creams, even evaporated milk from a small tin can may provide the flavor you need without any additives, preservatives, added sugars, or trans fats.

Real milk has a little saturated fat, but chances are you won’t be using enough to matter. Calories? Half-and-half and commercial liquid creamers both have about 20 calories per tablespoon. If you need it a little sweeter, add a teaspoon or two of your own sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Brown sugar is good too. If you’re avoiding sugar, add stevia.

2. DIY maple vanilla dairy creamer

This flavored creamer recipe is one you can make ahead of time so it’s at the ready every morning when you make your coffee. It lasts about 10 days in the refrigerator. One tablespoon of this has 25 calories and 2g carbohydrates (sugar), compared with 35-45 calories and 5-7g carbohydrates (sugar) for most commercial French vanilla creamers.

  • Recipe: Maple Vanilla Dairy Creamer Servings: 16 1-tablespoon servings
  • Ingredients 1/2 cup heavy cream 1/2 cup whole milk 1/8 cup pure maple syrup 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Directions 1. Combine cream, milk, and maple syrup in a small pot and put it over medium heat. 2. Stir constantly until it’s very warm, but not boiling (tiny bubbles will start forming around the edges of the pot). Remove the pot from the heat and blend in the vanilla extract. 3. Put the creamer in a closed container and refrigerate it.
  • Nutritional Information (Per serving) Calories – 25 Total fat – 2g Saturated fat – 1g Cholesterol – 6mg Sodium – 5mg Carbohydrate – 2g

3. Creamer without the dairy

Splash in almond, cashew, coconut, soy, or any other plant-based “milk.” You can also add coconut oil to coffee to make it richer without any milk.

If you want a fancier drink, whip up this non-dairy coconut latte recipe (it has less than 100 calories).

  • Recipe: Coconut Coffee Latte Servings: 1
  • Ingredients 1 cup fresh brewed coffee 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil (substitute coconut cream or coconut milk if desired) 1/4 teaspoon vanilla 1-2 teaspoons honey (optional) Ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)
  • Directions 1. Combine coffee, coconut oil, honey, and vanilla in a blender or food processor and mix it on a high speed until it gets foamy (about 20 seconds). 2. Pour it into a mug and top it with a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg if desired.
  • Nutritional Information (Per serving) Calories - 86 Total fat - 7g Saturated fat - 5g Cholesterol - 0mg Sodium - 5mg Carbohydrates - 17g (This only applies if you choose to add in the optional 2 teaspoons of honey)

4. Dry creamer

If you like dry creamer for its lasting power and easy portability, you'll have to give this a try. It’s close to or a little higher in calories than the plain commercial products. But it doesn't have trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, or chemical additives.

  • Recipe: Basic Homemade Powdered Coffee Creamer Servings: 36 1-tablespoon servings
  • Ingredients 2 cups powdered whole milk 1/4 –1/2 cup powdered sugar 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • Directions 1. Place all of the powered whole milk and sugar in a medium bowl and mix well. 2. Drizzle the coconut oil over the dry ingredients and mix it until it’s well blended – there shouldn't be any lumps. You can use a blender for a finer texture. When you’re finished, store it in a tightly closed container. 3. Add 1 tablespoon (more or less to taste) to your coffee.
  • Nutritional Information (Per serving) Calories - 49 Total fat - 3g Saturated fat - 2g Cholesterol - 7mg Sodium - 26mg Carbohydrate - 4g

5. Flavored coffee

If you like the taste of flavored coffee and don’t care for the cream, add fresh herbs like mint or dry spices in with the ground coffee in your French press or other drip coffeemaker. You can add cinnamon bark, cloves, cardamom pods, cocoa nibs, or fennel seeds to your ground coffee.

Meet the Author

Heather Klug, MEd RD is a registered dietitian and cardiac educator at the Karen Yontz Women's Cardiac Awareness Center inside Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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