How many times a day do you grab coffee or tea? How many times a day do you add creamer, sugar, and other flavorings to those drinks? Data collected from over 13,000 coffee drinkers and 6,200 tea drinkers revealed that consumers are adding calorie-heavy additions to their daily drinks. The problem? They’re not noticing just how many “incidental” calories they’re adding to their daily tally. Are you doing that too?
According to current data, more than 160 million Americans enjoy a cup of joe or a tea beverage daily — and most people have more than just one serving. Every time you grab that drink, you likely add additional calories in the form of:
When you add these to calorie-free drinks, you’re not just boosting the flavor profile of your beverage — you’re also adding a fair amount of additional calories, especially if your daily habit includes several servings. Of course, if you’re adding fortified milk (dairy, soy, or other options) then yes, you may be getting a dose of calcium and vitamin D, BUT, you have to tabulate those extra calories in your total daily tally or you’ll end up with insidious weight gain thanks to these extra calories. The study did note that coffee drinkers tend to add more calorie-dense ingredients to their drink, compared to tea drinkers.
The study specifically found that:
- Coffee and tea are among the most popular daily drinks that Americans consume
- Many people drink these beverages with “caloric add-ins”
- The add-ins converted the calorie-free beverages into more energy dense drinks
Many of the readily available “calorie additions” are high in added sugar or saturated fat, which doesn’t benefit your health or your waistline. On average, the researchers found that regular tea drinkers added about 43 extra calories (total) to dally calorie totals. Coffee drinkers added about 29 calories to each drink, so if they consumed four coffee drinks a day, they accumulated an extra 120 calories daily.
You likely consume other incidental calories because of some other behaviors. If you’re the cook in the household you may not realize how many tastes you take as you prepare daily meals. Just stop and think about how often you take tastes when you cook. It’s one thing to eat a few apple skins as you prepare a dish. It’s another thing to chew chopped nuts, or take several tastes of a creamy dish, or taste desserts during preparation. These behaviors add up to lots of extra calories that you don’t count.
Other actions that fuel incidental calories:
- Tasting ingredients when you put out breakfast for your kids
- Tasting ingredients as you pack your kids’ lunches
- Eating off plates when you clean the table after a meal
- Tasting foods at supermarkets when vendors offer samples
- Grazing from candy bowls at work
- Nibbling on the bread basket (with olive oil dips) at a restaurant
- Drinking higher calorie “healthy” beverages like energy drinks, sweetened electrolyte drinks
The keys to a healthy weight include being mindful of all calorie sources, and being aware of situations that offer hidden sources of extra calories. You then need solutions that help you to avoid these extra doses of calories. Some tips to limit consumption of less obvious calories:
- Opt for calorie-free spices that can add flavor to a coffee or tea beverage
- Use a measuring utensil when you add ingredients like milk to your coffee
- Choose “lighter” creamers like fat free milk, lower fat soymilk, and nut milks in coffee
- Brew or buy zero calorie flavored coffee or flavored tea
- Be aware of tasting temptations when you prepare and cook food, and monitor those tastings
- Chew gum or nurse calorie-free beverages at work or in social situations to limit mindless eating
- Flavor water, club soda, or unsweetened tea with a spritz of lemon or lime
- Ask the restaurant to hold the bread (and chips) or swap out for crudités or grilled vegetables as your first course
- Remember that wine and liquor have calories
- Make water your primary beverage before, during, and after exercise. There are also electrolyte replacement beverages that are also calorie-free
Coffee and tea are incredibly healthy beverages. Coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the average American diet. Coffee can help to lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, liver cancer, and cirrhosis. It may also help to control the tremors typically associated with Parkinson’s disease. Drinking coffee may offer moderate protection against heart failure. Drinking unsweetened tea, especially green tea, offers the benefits of catechins and epicatechins — polyphenols that are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant in nature.
Your new motto should be_ – “Drink the real deal and limit the add-ins!”_
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Amy Hendel, also known as The HealthGal, is a Physician Assistant, nutritionist and fitness expert. As a health media personality, she’s been reporting and blogging on lifestyle issues and health news for over 20 years. Author of The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, her website offers daily health reports, links to her blogs, and a library of lifestyle video segments.