Is Your Coffee Expanding Your Waistline?
Are you getting more calories, fat and sugar than you bargained for in your morning cup of coffee?

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Is Your Coffee Expanding Your Waistline?

Every morning, Sarah picks up a large vanilla latte on her way to work. Since she considers this her breakfast, she forgoes the "lite" version in favor of the regular.

Charles makes his way to the office break room two or three times a day to fill up his large coffee mug. He thinks nothing of adding three creamers and two sugars each time.

Sound familiar? Americans do love their coffee. More than 75 percent of adults say they drink coffee and nearly 60 percent say they drink coffee daily.

Coffee by itself is virtually calorie-free, with only 2 calories in an 8-ounce cup. It's fat-free and sugar-free, but it's more common than not to add some form of milk and/or sweetener. If you're not careful, you could be getting more calories, fat and sugar than you bargained for. Some drinks climb to more than 500 calories and 20 grams of fat.

Dessert in a mug?
You know what "souped up" coffee is. It may contain the likes of ice cream, whipped cream, caramel and other sugary flavorings. And depending on the size - up to 24 ounces - it may be equivalent to sipping a quarter-pound cheeseburger or 2 chocolate donuts through a straw!

Remember Charles? He was drinking brewed coffee, but the cream and sugar he was adding to his coffee added up to an extra 260 calories each day.

Here are the caloric facts about common coffee extras:


Calories (per Tablespoon)





Whole milk




Plain or flavored nondairy creamer (powder)


Plain or flavored light nondairy creamer (powder)


Plain or flavored nondairy creamer (liquid)


Plain or flavored light nondairy creamer (liquid)


Lightening up at home and work
What you add to your coffee has an impact on your overall calorie, fat and sugar intake for the day. Here are some ways to keep the calories and fat to a minimum:

  • Keep fat-free or 1 percent milk in the office break room fridge. If your workplace only carries liquid or powdered creamers, it's likely you're not only one who would be grateful for something less processed to pour into your brew.
  • Make a compromise. If you love flavored creamers, use just a splash of flavored light creamer and then add extra plain low-fat or fat-free milk.
  • Stick to smaller amounts of sugar. One teaspoon has 16 calories. If you find your spoon is visiting the sugar bowl more than once, you are adding too much. Cut back a little at a time and you will soon get used to the taste of less sugar.
  • Mind your sugar substitutes. A small amount of sugar substitute is fine, but don't use it as an excuse to then eat a donut with your low-calorie coffee.

At the coffee shop
You don't have to give up your favorite coffee drink altogether, or drink it black. Most any shop offering coffee drinks will have plenty of healthy alternatives, too. Here are some tips to make a wiser choice:

  • Go fat-free. A 16-ounce cappuccino made with fat-free milk has only 80 to 100 calories and zero grams of fat. Add one packet of sugar for a little sweetness and you're only adding 16 calories and 4 grams of sugar.
  • Skip the whipped cream. It can add about 120 calories and between 7 and 12 grams of fat.
  • Limit the sugar. If you order a sweetened drink, ask for just one pump of sugar-free syrup. If you order an unsweetened drink, sprinkle cinnamon or vanilla flavoring on for some extra flavor.

Finally, don't make the mistake of using your morning mug of coffee as a breakfast substitute. High-calorie coffee drinks contribute nothing but excess sugar and saturated fat. And low-calorie versions are no match for a well-rounded meal.

By Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Contributing Writer
Created on 11/27/2006
Updated on 01/28/2013
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nutrition for everyone. Healthy weight: Rethink your drink.
  • United States Department of Agriculture. National nutrient database for standard reference.
  • United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2010.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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