5 Healthy Ideas to Flavor Your Coffee

Tried and True: Better Ways to Flavor Your Brew | YES! Nutrition, LLC

There's not much better than crossing a bunch of ideas off your to-do list before the sun comes up while sipping on a cup of coffee.  And I do love how it gives me an extra boost to run a little faster and lift a little harder.  Plus, it's just so warm and cozy on a rainy morning. 

Turns out, 3-5 cups are the proposed daily recommendation for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.  In fact, you may benefit from the sips thanks to coffee's association with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even Parkinson's disease. Heck yeah! 

 BUT, as a dietitian I get concerned with a few things. 

  1. For some people, five -- even three -- cups a day might be too much.
  2. If someone is consistently turning to caffeine for a stimulant boost and not real energy (i.e. food) or sleep, that's an issue.
  3. Besides coffee, there are other sources of caffeine that may be in someone's diet, like soda, tea, energy drinks, and even chocolate.
  4. What's being used to flavor our coffee (from cream to sugar and everything in between) may detract from better health.
Healthy Dessert Worthy Coffee | YES! Nutrition, LLC | Tori Holthaus, MS, RDN, LD

I recently talked to Fitness magazine about how coffee creamer can be a deceiving inhibitor of weight loss - and how sometimes it can be full of partially hydrogenated oils (i.e. trans fats)...yuck!  But it's not just the creamer that can contribute some wacky ingredients in our coffee drinks...there's the possible overabundance of sugar, syrup, whipped cream, artificial flavor, and artificial sweeteners.  While these additions may taste good - they're likely going to mitigate any of the positive effects we get from drinking the cup of joe.

In March of 2015, I learned that KFC, in an effort to promote sustainability, would soon be launching edible coffee cups in the UK made with a wafer lined with white chocolate and wrapped in sugar paper.  And then I heard a mention of a "heat-resistant ingredient."  Coffee does not and should not equal a cookie, and what the heck is a "heat-resistant ingredient?" #HealthHallofShame.  [Update 4/2017: The coffee creamer conundrum still plays out with additional coffee items continually being added to the Health Hall of Shame.]

So, how can you sip your brew healthfully and not compromise on taste?  

Here are 5 ways to indulge in your coffee like it is dessert - without added sugars and wacky ingredients.  


1. Add a dash of cinnamon + a splash of milk to your coffee.  

It sounds so simple, yet it tastes so good!  Cinnamon may play a role in glycemic control by improving insulin sensitivity, so adding it alongside your coffee is a flavorful - and healthier - alternative to added sugar.  Plus, a splash of milk - dairy or nondairy like unsweetened almond, hemp, or coconut - lends a special creaminess that you'll love.

2. Drizzle in a hint of your own extract to your coffee. 

Instead of "flavored syrup" (which is likely refined-sugar based and artificially flavored), drizzle in a hint of your own extract.  Vanilla, hazelnut, almond, or peppermint: just a tiny drop of pure organic extract and the flavor profile changes dramatically. 

3. Brew cacao for choco-coffee.

Need I say more than "choco" to get your attention?  Sprinkle some cocoa powder into your coffee for a decadent drink.  Or, nix the coffee completely and swap it for one cup of Choffy or Crio Bru (roasted and brewed cacao!)...yum! 

4. Indulge with a healthier coffee creamer.

No one should have trans fats in their coffee creamer, yet unfortunately many creamers in the dairy section of your grocery still do - OMG!  Luckily, Natural Bliss, Organic Valley, and So Delicious offer trans-fat free creamers.  They're also free of artificial flavors and sweeteners.  But watch the amount you use in a day - it can quickly add up if you're having more than one cup. 

If you don't do dairy - for reasons like allergies, sensitivities, or avoidance - you can create your coffee deliciously with Laird Superfood Coconut Creamers. Enter code "Ashley20" at checkout for 20% off your order.

5. Skip the cookie cup...go eco-friendly with your coffee instead.

You don't need an edible coffee cup for better brew flavor.  But, if you would like to keep your container environmentally friendly, awesome! It's great if you can use your own reusable thermos instead of a paper cup at your local coffee shop.  Or if you're hanging out at the coffee house for a while, ask for coffee served in a mug.  Sustainability is now becoming easier at home, too.  Look for eco-cups like One Coffee and Marley Coffee for use in your Keurig!


Dessert-Worthy Healthy Coffee | 5 Ways to Flavor Your Brew | YES! Nutrition, LLC

Let's chat:

What is your favorite healthier, dessert-worthy, cozy coffee creation?  I like mine with a splash of almond milk and a dash of pumpkin spice or cinnamon. Comment with what you love, below!

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[Originally published March 2015. Updated April 2017.]