Going to a local coffee shop is an everyday occurrence—and for some of us who have gone back to school or work from home, it’s more like an all-day affair. That makes picking the healthiest coffee shop fare especially important. To help you reach your goal weight sooner rather than later, we’ve put together this trusty healthy coffee shop guide. From Starbucks and Dunkin’ to your local neighborhood shop, it’s sure to keep you on track no matter where you find yourself sipping and snacking.
1. Egg and cheese it
An egg and cheese sandwich will usually come in at under 400 calories no matter where you go. Plus, the protein hit helps temper your appetite as the day wears on. Eggs have tons of other health benefits, too.
2. Consider tea
Coffee is most Americans’ number one source of polyphenols—the weight-lowering micronutrients that make the Mediterranean diet so effective. But before you make that a trenta (that’s Starbucks-speak for 31 ounces), consider this: A research team in Washington found that downing more than five cups of java a day can double visceral belly fat. The good news? Thanks to its high catechin content, green tea has the opposite effect. So if you’re heading to the coffee shop for round two or three of Colombian bold, consider placing an order for a spot of tea instead.
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3. Espresso yourself
If you typically order a pre-sweetened or flavored coffee, slowly wean yourself off the sweet stuff by asking for fewer flavor pumps and adding fewer sugar packets to your cup. A regular 16-ounce iced coffee, for example, has about 5 calories and 0 grams of sugar, while the sweetened version has 80 and 20 grams of sugar—that’s the equivalent of five packs of sugar! Asking for “light” syrup or “half the usual amount of syrup” could easily save you 40 calories and 10 grams of the sweet stuff. Eventually, you’ll be able to make the jump to plain, unsweetened drinks.
4. Go cold brewed
When regular brewed coffee is chilled and stored, two things happen: First, it begins to lose whatever nuance of taste it once possessed, and second, it starts losing the polyphenols that give coffee its health benefits. The best iced coffee is cold brewed. It takes more time to make so it will be more expensive, but you’ll taste the difference. Most notably it will be less bitter, which means you can get away with adding less sugar. And less sugar means fewer calories.
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5. Ban bran muffins
One of the great health food imposters, bran muffins are simply excuses to get you to eat cupcakes for breakfast. Each can deliver about 440 calories, with nearly a quarter of them coming from fat. Pair it with a cappuccino and you’ll have blown through a quarter of the day’s calories before noon.
6. Don’t consider a croissant
They look innocent enough, but depending on which type you get—chocolate, almond or vanilla— this flakey, buttery crescent-shaped treat could cost you anywhere between 260 and 380 calories and half the day’s fat. Skip it and go for a slimmed-down alternative like a cup of warm oatmeal.
7. Sideline the cream cheese
Coffee shops tend to smear more cream cheese on their bagels than you would at home, which turns a nutritionally lacking but not diet-blowing 300-calorie breakfast into a 500-calorie monstrosity filled with 20 grams of fat. If you must get a bagel, ask for some cream cheese on the side and spread it on yourself nice and thin, or, better yet, skip the cream cheese altogether.
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8. Mix up your milks
You already know that creamer is a no go—the stuff is filled with heart-harming trans fats, after all. But when it comes to picking between whole, skim or something in between, the choice is far less obvious. For decades, the USDA and numerous health authorities have told us that animal fat is a dietary demon that should only be eaten in moderation, if at all. Recently, however, researchers have begun to question if that suggestion should possibly be revised. One European Journal of Nutrition review of 16 studies concluded that consuming full-fat dairy products can actually ward off weight gain overtime. Despite these findings, though, the USDA—and many nutrition experts—continue to recommend low-fat dairy over full-fat. The bottom line: more research is needed, but don’t be afraid of a little fat if it comes from a healthy source. You need a bit of fat to absorb some of the nutrients that are on your breakfast plate, anyway.