With the rise in popularity of coffee shops and coffee houses, and most people grabbing a brew on their way to work, one of the questions which commonly arises now is just how many calories are there in that cup of coffee?
While most people know about the effect of caffeine on our health, the understanding of calories within coffee and the impact that might have on your diet is much less understood. With the rise in specialty coffees filled with flavored syrups and creams, it’s important to ask the question.
The good news is that pure black coffee on its own, is extremely low in calories, containing only one or two per small cup. So, if you like black coffee, with nothing added, then it’s not going to affect your diet particularly.
Drinking small black coffees, such as Americanos or Espressos, means you will only be consuming very low-calorie drinks, so they are unlikely to have an impact if you are trying to lose weight. The problem doesn’t come from coffee, but from what we add to our coffee drinks.
What Are Calories?
Calories are units of energy, so if we eat food with lots of calories, we take on board all that energy. The problem arises when we eat more calories than we use up. That energy, when not used up, gets turned into fat within our bodies.
Calories that we do use up, help to keep our bodies functioning, including breathing, and moving. Caffeine does help to speed up your metabolism, burning off more of those calories, so from that perspective coffee could help you in your quest to lose weight.
However, your body does get used to caffeine and becomes resistant to it over time, so it’s unlikely to have a big impact or long-term impact on your weight loss, but, if it’s in its pure form it won’t harm your diet either.
What Makes Coffee High in Calories?
The difference between a 1 calorie cup of coffee and one that is 500 calories, is what you add to it before you drink it, in terms of milk, cream, sugar, syrup, and anything else that you might want to add to your daily caffeine brew.
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Most people add milk to their coffee and while milk alone wouldn’t add a huge number of calories to your coffee, particularly if you use skimmed or semi-skimmed, the other factor is to consider how big the cup of coffee is that you are drinking. A small cup of milky coffee at home will have far fewer calories than a large size from a coffee house.
You can keep the calories from milk in your coffee down by using some dairy alternatives such as soy or almond milk if you don’t mind the way they taste.
Sugar is the second thing that many people add to their coffee to make it sweeter, and this can vary from granulated sugar to sugar cubes, or from sweeteners to syrups. Syrup flavors added to coffee are extremely popular in coffee shops, but they are full of sugar and will send the calorie level way up.
A standard size pump of sugar syrup contains around 20 calories, while a vanilla flavor one adds 30 calories, so you might want to think twice before adding these sugary flavors into your coffee if you are trying to lose weight.
It can still be confusing, with so many different coffee options available on the board of every coffee house, so here is a quick guide to how many calories could be in each common type of coffee that you might order:
This is generally a black coffee made with espresso and hot water so on its own would contain very few calories, around 10. If you were to add one packet of sugar, that’s around 30 calories added, while a portion of milk would add around another 30 calories. So, a white, sweet Americano is more like 70 calories.
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This coffee uses espresso and steamed milk, rather than hot water, so it is already going to be far more calorie-loaded than the Americano. If you had a standard small coffee size, made with whole milk you are looking at around 140 calories and if you add sugar to it, that’s around 160 calories. Making it with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk will lower the levels but it’s still going to be more calorific than an Americano.
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This is made with far less milk than a latte but does still contain quite a lot of milk, so a whole milk flat white would be around 100 calories, and with one sugar added, brings it up to around 130 calories. Making it with skimmed or semi-skimmed will bring that rate down.
If you like to treat yourself to a specialty coffee in a coffee shop, which features flavored syrups and creams, it’s worth knowing that some of these coffees can be hugely calorific, with upwards of 500 calories per drink.
If you are drinking one or two of those a day, you will soon be piling on the pounds so if you want to make your coffee less calorie-loaded, just cut out all the additional ingredients and only have one of the all-singing all-dancing flavored coffees as a very occasional treat.
Here are some key tips for reducing the number of calories in your coffee:
- Switch to black coffee if you can as it’s the most calorie-friendly.
- Always ask for skimmed milk – most coffee shops will use whole milk by default.
- Try lactose-free milk or dairy-free alternatives to milk to cut down the sugar content.
- Ask for sugar-free flavors or syrups upfront.
- Avoid cold coffee drinks made with ice cream, go for those made over ice cubes instead.
- Adding a small amount of cream to a regular coffee can be less calorific than buying a milk-based coffee like a latte.