Dietitians Give the Skinny on Your Coffee Break


With lots of sweet temptations at your favorite place to take a work break, take some advice from Renown’s registered dietitians on how to make that trip to the coffee merchant better for your health.

Editor’s Note: Put Your Best Fork Forward! March is National Nutrition Month, and every week this month BestMedicine will feature the advice of Renown’s registered dietitians for good nutrition and how it ties to good health.

Remember those bygone days when your work break was at the water cooler? These days, it’s the coffeehouse that’s capturing those precious moments away from the desk or the field. But, here’s the quandary: With premium drinks also loaded with calories, saturated fat and sugar, how do you also keep up good nutritional habits while taking a breather from the workday?

The registered dietitians at Renown Health have some quick and easy fixes to remember when it comes to your coffeehouse stop, so that your coffee break is less of a break from  your healthy eating regimen.

Creating a Healthier Coffee Break

A Few Less Extras

Syrups. Whipped cream. That little extra-size upgrade. All of these things can lead to a coffee that begins to tilt the calorie or daily-sugar metrics a little too far.

Renown Registered Dietitian Nanette McCall believes that the blended coffee drinks with all those extras can be lessened a bit without sacrificing taste. “You can just have a coffee with a lower-fat creamer, and most places have ‘skinny’ syrups, if you like them.”

The fact that McCall punctuated that with a laugh tells you something, though: Not everything that’s slimmed-down from it’s full-octane relative tastes all that great. But, there are some other simple fixes the dietitians recommended, including using lowfat or nonfat milk or almond milk (which has a lower sugar count than soymilk). You can also ask the barista to halve the amount of syrup pumped into your drink.

The “shakers” provided at many coffee shops can be a good accent as well — adding a hint of chocolate, vanilla or cinnamon to give your drink more flavor or a sweeter taste without adding calories.

Something to Nosh on

Coffeehouses also tend to have a ton of food options these days. More temptation for that break! As with all good rules-of-thumb for nutrition, just think before you buy.

“I’ve seen veggie plates with hummus, or they have packages with boiled eggs or nuts for protein,” says Becky Ryerse, a registered dietitian with Renown. She and the other dietitians we spoke to talked about yogurt, fruit cups and oatmeal as good choices.


As far as sweets go, Renown Registered Dietitian Alexa Bowman said it’s another type of food to choose wisely. “I would shy away from most of the baked goods,” Bowman says. “If you do want something sweet, cake pops are a lot smaller than something like a whole blueberry muffin. It’s a smaller portion but you can still get a little treat.”

Too much coffee anyway?

In a word, no. All of the dietitians agreed that coffee is fine to drink, and in fact a moderate amount of coffee every day has health benefits, including antioxidants.

“I think when you get into trouble is when you add the milk, cream and sugar,” says Nicole Bustamante, manager of Clinical Nutrition at Renown.

“Some people may have a sensitivity to caffeine, and if that’s the case I would suggest they cut back at 2 p.m. so they can sleep at night,” McCall says. “But coffee in general is OK to drink.”

If you don’t have a taste for coffee, though, and still need something for that break, there are other options at most coffeehouses, including teas. Beware, though.

“A lot of teas still add sugar, so you can get one that’s unsweetened and then just add an alternative sweetener, like a skinnier syrup or Splenda,” Fishback says.

To get an assessment on your specific dietary needs, schedule a consultation with one of Renown’s registered dietitians at Renown Health Improvement Programs. Call 775-982-5073.