Hidden Sugars in Your Morning Coffee

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

The World Health Organization recommends we consume less than 5% of our daily calories from added sugar. For a 2,000 calorie diet, that equates to about 5 teaspoons or 25 grams. Could you be drinking more than the recommended amount as part of your morning routine?


Did you know that the average American adult consumes over 19 teaspoons of added sugar per day? This amounts to an extra 300 calories that offer no nutritional value. That's almost four times the amount that is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is estimated that over 30 million Americans drink specialty coffees including mochas, lattes, espressos, café mochas, cappuccinos and frozen or iced coffee beverages daily.* While coffee is a staple for many morning rituals, it’s also where excess calories are consumed. These sugary beverages may offer a quick pick-me-up and sugar rush, but the sugar crash that follows can leave you feeling just as sleepy and hungry again an hour later. If you’ve been searching for places to cut calories in your diet, your morning cup of joe could be a great place to start!


With 23 teaspoons of sugar, a Venti Peppermint Hot Chocolate from Starbucks contains more than four times the recommended maximum adult daily intake... in one beverage! A medium Toasted Coconut Swirl Hot Latte from Dunkin' Donuts contains 13 teaspoons while a medium Caramel Macchiato from McDonald's includes over 11 teaspoons of sugar. To compare, one 20 ounce bottle of Coca-Cola contains more than 16 teaspoons of sugar.


Excess sugar in these beverages contributes to the development of obesity, tooth decay, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In addition, when too many calories of added sugar are consumed, there is less room for more nutrient-dense foods. Reducing the added sugar in your coffee can have great health benefits over time and you may notice a reduced craving for sugars as well. That's a win-win!


Recommendations: The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend less than 10 percent of total daily calories come from added sugars. That's about 12 teaspoons (48 grams of sugar) in a 2,000-calorie diet. The American Heart Association recommends 9 teaspoons (36g or 150 calories) for men and 6 teaspoons (25 g or 100 calories) for women. As mentioned before, WHO recommends less than 5% or 25g total for the day. Whose recommendations should you follow? Less is better.


When you read the nutrition ingredients, keep an eye out for the many different names which sugar can be listed under. Examples of sweeteners and sources of added sugars include: brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, maltose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses, sucrose, white granulated sugar, agave nectar, evaporated cane juice, malt syrup, cane crystals, fruit juice concentrate, cane sugar, glucose, raw sugar, corn sweetener, syrup, crystalline fructose and invert sugar.


What's the takeaway? Be an informed consumer. Many restaurants and food retail chains nationwide post the nutrition information of their products either online or in their establishment.


Tips for reducing sugar:


· Make your drink at home to gain more control over the ingredients used. · Consume these specialty drinks less frequently or order a smaller size. · Ask your barista to include one less pump or use sugar-free syrup or sweetener. It should be noted that replacing added sugars with low- and no-calorie sweeteners may reduce calorie intake in the short-term and aid in weight management, but their long-term effectiveness for weight management is still unclear.


Make a plan to reduce the sugar in your coffee over the course of a few days or weeks. You’ll notice over time that you no longer crave as much sugar. Honey, agave and Sugar In The Raw are not “better” forms of sugar. Sugar is sugar. One might taste better to someone, but all added sugar contributes to added calories.



*This is a pre-COVID statistic.

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