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What to Sip and Which to Skip

January 6, 2015 by Adrienne Ngai, Registered Dietitian

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Healthier coffee shop drink choices

During the winter months I treat myself to seasonal drinks while catching up with friends at our favourite coffee shops. My friends often ask me what specialty drinks are best to sip and which to skip. They want to enjoy a treat with friends, but still make healthy choices that are lower in sugar and fat.

Here are some tips on what hot or cold specialty coffee or tea to order:

  • Treat these drinks like an indulgence - have them only once in a while. Choose plain black coffee or black, green or herbal tea most of the time and add low-fat or non-fat milk instead of cream.
  • Order drinks with non-fat or low-fat milk. Try specialty cappuccinos and lattes with non-fat or low-fat milk. These drinks are milk and milk alternative-based and add to your daily Milk and Alternatives Servings and calcium and vitamin D intakes. Check out Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide to learn more about the recommended number of Food Guide Servings to have per day.
  • If ordering a sweetened drink, ask for half (or less) of the sweetener or go for sugar-free syrup. Drinks are often overly sweet - half sweet can be just right. Look for drinks with no added sugar.
  • Order the smaller size - your wallet will also thank you for it.Did you know? A small specialty coffee can have as many as 10 cubes of sugar. A large specialty coffee can have as much as 20 cubes of sugar. Health Canada recommends limiting added sugar to no more than 25 tsp or 30 cubes of sugar per day, based on a 2000 calorie diet.
  • Skip the whip. Ask for no whipped cream and toppings with your drink, or ask for half the amount.
  • Order extra ice with your specialty cold beverages. Ice reduces the amount of sugary drink and also melts so that you have a less sweet, cooler and refreshing beverage.
  • Look for the Informed Dining logo on the café menu board or menu and check the nutrition information where you order your specialty drink.
  • Visit the coffee shop’s website to review the nutritional information of the drinks offered.

Bottom line: Specialty drinks are an enjoyable a treat, but choosing ones that are less sweet, use lower fat milk and have less whipped cream can be the difference between a ‘sipper’ and a ‘skipper’.

When I order a specialty drink, I always order a small size that is less sweet, uses low fat milk and has half the whipped cream. What’s your typical order and how do you make it a healthier choice?

Recommended Resources

HealthyFamilies BC: Sugary Drink Sense
HealthyFamilies BC: Sugary Drinks
Informed Dining

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