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Sneaky Coffee Habits Causing You to Gain Weight, Warn Dietitians

Your coffee may have unwanted side effects without you even realizing it.

Sometimes one of the hardest parts about gaining weight is the frustration of not knowing where the weight gain is coming from. You may be exercising regularly, eating healthy, and getting good sleep, and yet still struggling to meet those weight loss goals.

If you're experiencing this at all, it may be helpful to take a look at other areas of your daily life that you might have missed. For example, sometimes it's not what you are eating but the habits you've developed around food that can lead to weight gain.

Another possible culprit is your coffee-drinking routine. Maybe you're adding tons of sugar or fat to your day or replacing meals with cups of coffee without even realizing it.

To learn more, we talked with a few expert dietitians about some of the sneaky coffee habits that might be causing you to gain weight. Then, for more healthy eating tips, make sure to sign up for the Eat This, Not That! newsletter.

Choosing sugary coffee drinks


One of the most common coffee habits (and sometimes hardest to quit) is unknowingly adding large amounts of sugar to your morning beverage with syrups and sweeteners.

"Vanilla lattes, mochas, and other flavored coffee drinks are high in added sugar," says Diana Gariglio-Clelland RD, BSc. "Added sugar contributes 'empty' calories that can lead to weight gain, as well as disrupting blood sugar balance that can lead to sugar cravings."

According to Laura Burak, MS, RD, author of Slimdown with Smoothies and member of our medical expert board, adding sugar to your coffee is one of the sneakiest habits that leads to unexpected weight gain.

"Many people prefer a sweet taste over the bitterness of coffee, so they add sugar, sometimes to the point of turning an innocent cup of coffee into a sugar bomb," says Burak. "So when you multiply that by many cups a day for some people, this coffee habit can add significant amounts of sugar and calories to their diet."

The #1 Best Coffee To Drink, According to Dietitians

Not paying attention to your milk or creamer

coffee creamer

There's nothing wrong with ordering cream in your coffee, especially if you're someone who hates drinking it black. However, not paying attention to the amount or type of creamer that you're using can sometimes lead to excess weight gain.

"Coffee creamer can add even more sugar, calories, and fat to your daily cup of joe," says Burak. "It's important to limit the amount you're using or find one with less sugar and fat."

It's not about completely cutting out your favorite milk or creamer if it's something you truly enjoy, but it's about being aware of your daily coffee choices so you know exactly what you're putting in your body.

For healthier alternatives, check out these 12 Healthy New Coffee Creamers on Shelves.

Adding toppings to your coffee

starbucks pumpkin spice latte
Courtesy of Starbucks

According to Burak, it's not just the added cream and sugary syrups that can rack up unnecessary calories in our coffee routine.

"Many coffee shops add toppings to their coffee drinks like sprinkles, whipped cream, syrups, and sauces, which even further ups the calories, sugar, and fat content of a seemingly innocent cup of coffee," says Burak.

This is especially something to look out for with your favorite holiday drinks, because "many specialty or holiday coffee drinks surpass the calories and sugar content of most meals, bringing in hundreds of unnecessary calories into your diet," says Burak.

RELATED: The #1 Worst Pumpkin Spice Latte, Says Dietitian

Having coffee as a meal replacement


It's quite common for people to drink coffee in place of a meal. For example, you might feel so busy with work that you often forget to eat breakfast or lunch, but you still reach for a cup of coffee to get the jolt of caffeine.

Although this is common, it can have negative side effects if done often because according to Burak, you're essentially just putting a bandaid over a larger issue related to your body's needs.

"Coffee should never be a meal replacement or substitute for adequate rest," says Burak. "Make sure to eat food when you're hungry and improve the quantity and quality of your sleep if you're chronically tired, instead of just always reaching for the cup of coffee."

Drinking coffee on an empty stomach

drinking coffee

If you're someone who enjoys your coffee before your breakfast, you may want to reconsider, especially if you drink it with added sugar.

"When you drink coffee on an empty stomach, the sugar in it hits your bloodstream faster and aggravates its effects on your body," says Amelia Brown, RD. "As sugar passes through your body more quickly, it is more likely to get fully absorbed and stored in your body while contributing to weight gain."

Another thing to consider when consuming too much sugar first thing in the morning on an empty stomach is how it may affect your habits the rest of the day.

"Sugar absorption also induces unhealthy cravings and can lead you to overeat your meal, hence potentially adding extra pounds to your body," says Brown.

Here's One Major Effect of Drinking Coffee On an Empty Stomach, Says Science

Drinking coffee before bed

friends drinking coffee

Many people enjoy a nice warm cup of coffee or a shot of espresso with their post-dinner dessert, but this might actually lead to unexpected weight gain.

"Caffeine can disrupt healthy sleep, especially when you drink it close to bedtime," says Gariglio-Clelland. "Poor sleep quality can impact your weight by increasing hormones that make you feel hungry and reducing hormones that make you feel satisfied."

For even more healthy tips, read these next:

Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha