How to Make a Healthy Coffee Order

Around Team A Sweat Life, we pretty much function like this:

Healthy coffee order

Jeana’s go-to order is an Americano over ice, but not all of us can be so restrained in our coffee orders. For those mornings or afternoons when you just need that frothy blend of caffeine and okay, a little sugar, here’s how to make your coffee order healthy.

Go As Plain As Possible

Of course, the easiest way to make a healthy coffee order is to order black coffee, which comes in at about 5 calories for 12 ounces. However, black coffee is an acquired taste. I have not acquired this taste. So in that case…

Choose Milk Wisely

Many coffee establishments (including Starbucks) will automatically use 2% milk for your drinks, even whole milk sometimes. Speak up and ask for a splash of nonfat milk instead to save about 50 calories. It may seem like a small amount, but if you drink a few cups of coffee a day, it adds up.

Starbucks does offer soy milk (a proprietary blend that a customer service rep told me was “Organic Vanilla Flavored Enriched Soymilk”), and Dunkin Donuts offers Almond Breeze vanilla-flavored almond milk. Ordering a splash of these milks does double-duty: sweetening your drink a little while slashing a few extra calories (provided that you can refrain from adding in extra sweeteners).

My personal trick? Ask for steamed soy or almond milk on top of your hot coffee (or add soy/almond milk to your iced coffee). A tall iced coffee with nonfat milk is 20 calories, and a tall iced coffee with soy milk is only 25 calories (both unsweetened). This basically transforms your iced coffee into a cheaper, lower calorie iced vanilla latte, and with the flavored milk, you don’t need the extra sweeteners you might normally add.

On the topic of mix-ins, syrup in your coffee is not conducive to a low-calorie coffee order. If you really need it, order sugar-free syrup, but mixing in cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg or a low-calorie artificial sweetener is a much safer choice. Oh, and whipped cream? Save that for your ice cream, not your coffee.

Bottom line? When in doubt, order your coffee as plain as possible and fix it up yourself at the milk and mix-ins bar.

Ask for the “Skinny” Version

When in doubt, just ask your friendly barista if there’s a way to make your favorite drink lower in calories (of course, assuming this isn’t at 8:55 a.m. on a Monday morning in the Loop). With a few of the simple tweaks mentioned above, almost any drink can be made slightly healthier- your barista will know what to do.

Keep It Small

(Or tall. You know what I mean)

Size matters in your coffee drinks. You may think that every Monday morning you absolutely need those 20 ounces of pure caffeinated goodness, but some large sizes of flavored coffee and lattes can run you 400 calories or more. Stick to the smallest size available (typically 12 ounces, and Starbucks will also give you a “Short” size that’s eight ounces if you ask for it).

Convinced you need an extra jolt? Ask for a “Red Eye”- they’ll add an extra shot of espresso to your coffee.

Do Your Homework

Coffee shop menus are overwhelming. I remember when I first started drinking coffee regularly, I was baffled by all the different sizes and options available to me, and I’m pretty sure I hated the first three or so drinks I ordered because I had no idea what I was doing. Don’t be like me.

Instead, do your research before you even step foot in a coffee shop. Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts both have their menu’s nutritional information available online; if your favorite hipster indie coffee shop doesn’t have their menu nutrition online, use these chains as a general guide. Starbucks also has a “Delicious Drinks Under 200 Calories” page that’s helpful, and Dunkin Donuts has a tab available for their “DDSMART” menu items (items that either have 25 percent few calories, sugar, fat or sodium than comparable products or contain ingredients that are “nutritionally beneficial”).


Your daily calories should come from your healthy diet, not your high-sugar coffee drinks. At the same time, we kind of don’t want to see you guys without your daily java. Have the best of both worlds by ordering a healthy coffee that’ll satisfy your cravings for caffeine without adding sneaky calories to your diet.

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About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.