The #1 Unhealthiest Way to Drink Coffee, According to a Dietitian
While most of us choose to start our day with a coffee and think nothing of it besides the fact that we're about to get a boost of energy, depending on your order, you may be in for something totally unexpected. Unfortunately, just because a drink has "coffee" in the name doesn't mean you'll actually reap the benefits of the antioxidant-rich bean. Yes, you may still get a jolt of energy from the caffeine, but if you order any of the unhealthiest coffee beverages, you're more likely to get bogged down under a blanket of calories, saturated fat, and sugar. This may appease your tastebuds, but it will do nothing good for your waistline.
We spoke to registered dietitian Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, founder and director of Real Nutrition NYC, and member of our medical review board to understand exactly how a drink that has so many benefits can turn so bad.
Shapiro shared with us that the number one unhealthiest way to drink coffee is in a blended iced coffee.
"Although coffee culture is fun and part of our daily routine, it can be unhealthy especially when we turn our antioxidant-rich, energy-boosting, and performance-enhancing coffee into a dessert. Any blended coffee drink with syrups, add-ins like cookies, toppings like chocolate shavings, caramel sauce, and whipped cream might taste great but I would consider this a sundae, not a coffee drink," says Shapiro.
Beyond the fact that these coffee drinks are topped with the same ingredients you'd typically find on a sundae, Shapiro notes that the other correlation between the two foods is their sugar content.
"These drinks pack loads of sugar up to 70 grams per drink; that's equal to 17.5 teaspoons in one drink and 11 more teaspoons than we should have of added sugar in a day!" she says.
For comparison, a Dairy Queen Large Hot Fudge Sundae contains 73 grams of sugar—the same amount as what Shapiro notes can be in these unhealthy coffee drinks.
We're not calling these coffees out simply for the shock factor; we're calling them out because you deserve to know how they can affect your health.
"Drinking coffee this way regularly can add up and lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, hormonal imbalance, cavities, and sleepless nights," says Shapiro.
There are some hints in the description of these drinks that should be red flags. Watch out for words like "caramel drizzle," "whipped topping," "frozen coffee." And you should definitely beware of a coffee drink if the description says that the drink only contains a "hint of coffee."
Shapiro notes the average sugar count of many regular-sized drinks is 70 grams, but some iced coffee drinks far exceed this number.
Below, we share four of the worst iced blended coffee offenders from popular fast-food chains. Avoid these orders when you can to support a healthier weight and better overall health, and even if you're making your own brew at home, know that you should also avoid the 7 Things You Should Never Add to Your Coffee.
Dunkin' Butter Pecan Swirl Frozen Coffee with Skim Milk
A large Dunkin' Butter Pecan Swirl Frozen Coffee with Skim Milk contains 185 grams of sugar—168 of which are added sugars. While you may think it unfair of us to highlight the large size, we can say that ordering the small size is still terrible for you; a small frozen coffee still has 98 grams of sugar and 89 grams of added sugar—that's 178% of your daily recommended limit of added sugar per day! And if you think the safer order is a large Dunkin' Caramel Craze Iced Signature Latte With Whole Milk, think again. This latte still has 74 grams of sugar!
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McDonald's Caramel Frappé
The Golden Arches is another purveyor of awful blended coffee drinks. A large McDonald's Caramel Frappé is 670 calories, contains 17 grams of saturated fat (86% DV), and 89 grams of sugar!
Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino Blended Beverage
And then there's Starbucks—the infamous inventor of the Frappuccino and perhaps the chain that started this unhealthy blended coffee trend. Consider their White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino Blended Beverage. If you ordered the blended drink in a Venti, you'll be sipping on 76 grams of sugar and 500 calories. The same size of their Java Chip Frappuccino Blended Beverage will serve up 80 grams of the sweet stuff.
Panera Frozen Caramel Cold Brew
And if you think fast-food chains that are often considered "healthy" would keep these sugar bombs off their menus, think again. Even Panera has fallen prey to the frozen blended coffee trend with their Frozen Caramel Cold Brew serving up 60 grams of sugar.
For more on this popular beverage, see these Ugly Side Effects of Drinking Coffee, According to Science.