Make Your Coffee Healthier: Best Sweeteners, Milks, Spices

5 healthy ways to enjoy your java

Make Your Coffee Healthier: Best Sweeteners, Milks, Spices

Ah, drinking coffee. Truly one of life’s simple pleasures. But I have some big questions to ask you: Do you add cream or sweetener or do you take it black?

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Some milks and sweeteners add unnecessary fat and calories that aren’t helping your waistline. If you do like to dress your coffee up, here are five ways to make it healthier:

1. If you like your coffee sweet

If you use regular sugar but want to avoid unnecessary calories, try switching to a small amount of honey, agave or even Stevia™. Stevia comes from a leaf and is a slightly more natural source than a typical artificial sweetener.

If you prefer artificial sweeteners, slowly transition to using very small amounts. I recommend this because, over time, research shows that they can train your brain to want very sweet things. These include sucralose (Splenda®) saccharin (Sweet’N Low®) and aspartame (Equal®, NutraSweet®).

2. If you like to ‘spice up’ your coffee

Spices are not just a great way to add flavor to coffee, but they can provide surprising health benefits:

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  • Cinnamon stabilizes blood sugar, helps improve LDL (bad) cholesterol and is a good source of vitamin K and iron.
  • Nutmeg is a very good source of manganese.
  • Cocoa powder is a good source of protein, potassium and zinc, and is also a very good source of dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese. However, it’s also high in saturated fat, so use it sparingly. And go for the unsweetened kind.
  • Cardamom is a good source of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc, and it is also a very good source of dietary fiber, iron and manganese.

3. If you like your coffee creamy

You might ask if it’s really a big deal to use whole milk in your coffee if it’s only a few tablespoons? But even if you are only using two tablespoons, multiply that by 7 days a week/52 weeks a year. Those are empty, unnecessary calories that add up. That’s why I don’t recommend whole milk. Nor can I endorse coconut milk, which is very high in saturated fat.

If you want a healthy cow’s milk, I suggest using 1 percent or non-fat milk. You can also go with low-fat soy, almond or rice milk, which are all good alternatives but are lower in protein than cow’s milk.

4. If you’re at the coffee shop

Coffee drinks are often notorious for empty calories. If you enjoy coffee drinks, the safest way to go is to ask for sugar-free syrups and no whip, non-fat milk.

5. If you’re choosing between espresso and coffee

Espresso is just a method of preparation and not a kind of coffee. There is no special type of bean used to make it.  The process makes a syrupy beverage and forces the oil from the coffee beans. While 16 ounces of coffee has five calories, one ounce of espresso has five calories (1 shot).

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Explore your love of coffee

Another way to really appreciate your coffee is to  learn more about it. You could join a coffee club and find out where it comes from and different ways to prepare it.  Learn about the body, texture,  aroma and caffeine content of different beans. It all can make each hot, flavorful sip more enjoyable.

There are 5 calories in a sixteen-once cup of coffee.


Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD

Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and Outpatient Nutrition Manager in the Center for Human Nutrition.