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Welcome to the Health Defence Blog - a blog about health, wellness and a healthier you. Brought to you by the Health Defence team at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, you'll find up-to-date information on a range of topics from what's in your food to the latest advice on e-cigarettes!


Megan - Health Promotion Specialist

September 10, 2017

If you’re like me, coffee is an enjoyable part of your work day. Walking past the coffee-shop on the way to work, the smell of freshly brewed coffee is so tempting. But what about the impact of a caramel-flavoured coffee on your health? Diet friend or foe?

Delicious as they may be, some of your favourite brews can be laden with unnecessary calories, more saturated fat than we need in an entire day and double the recommended amount of sugar! These calorie-laden frappes, super-sized cappuccinos and chai flavoured lattes can lead to an incredible amount of weight gain each year – in fact just downsizing from a large to small size coffee (with full-fat milk) can save you gaining 11 pounds* of weight a year!

The infographic below is an example of just how many calories can be hiding in a full-fat coffee – the large size (16oz or 470ml) provides a huge 15% of the daily calorie requirement for women and 12% for men (a cup of instant coffee with milk provides only 1-2%).

So, how do you still get your caffeine-fix but keep your waistline healthy at the same time? Tips for cutting back on the calories, fat and added sugar:

  • Find out exactly what is in your favourite drink – nutritional information is usually available in store, or most high-street chains have this information online. Read our full-guide to food labels here

“An 8oz coffee, despite looking smaller than the other cups, is actually the same size as a typical cup at home”

  • Milk is a great source of calcium and protein, essential for healthy teeth and bones. But full-fat milk is high in calories and fat, especially saturated fat. Swap your milk to semi-skimmed or skimmed. Making the change from a large full-fat coffee to a large skimmed-milk coffee could save you 10 pounds* a year!
  • Ask for no added cream and save up to 100 calories per drink (equivalent to 23 minutes of cycling).
  • Try a black coffee (long-black or Americano) with a side of skimmed-milk.
  • Experiment with other hot drinks – try a delicious green tea, herbal tea (peppermint or chamomile) or fruit tea.
  • Downsize your drink to a small or regular and save on calories! Did you know that an 8oz cup, despite looking considerably smaller, is actually the same size as a typical cup at home.
  • Flavourings and syrups: delicious as they may be, flavourings can quickly add extra calories and unnecessary sugar. Choose un-flavoured coffees or ask for less syrup. This applies to added sugar too – each teaspoon contributes about 16 calories (equivalent to 6 minutes of washing dishes).
  • Frappe – a popular option on a hot day, frappes contain a lot of ice (aka water), so that’s a good option. But, try to stay clear of any added cream or syrups (which are often high in sugar).

“Just downsizing your coffee from a large to a small size coffee could save you gaining 11 pounds of weight a year!”

  • Chai latte: opt for a chai tea, which has less milk and the flavouring comes from the tea leaves rather than sweet chai syrup.
  • Save your pennies (and calories) and opt for an instant coffee with skimmed- or semi-skimmed milk.

So, next time you’re ordering your morning coffee, think twice about the size, and hidden fat and sugar in your drink. I’m off for a small skinny flat white (hold the sugar)!

*Estimate only. Based on 5-day working week. Calorie calculations and weight gain are estimates only and values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs, other oral intake and energy expenditure.

***Disclaimer: always seek medical advice before starting a new diet, exercise regime or medication. The information in these articles is not a substitute for professional advice from a GP, registered dietitian or other health practitioner.

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