Coffee can be a saving grace to a sleepy start day, and it's one so many of us succumb to. The jury is still out on if this is a good or bad thing. For every wellbeing guru warning against the negative effects of caffeine on our nervous system, there's another study telling us that coffee has a myriad of health benefits. So, we take the well worn route of moderation. But, it's good to do your 'ground' work when it comes to how you have your morning bean brew. With so many options beyond the old 'cuppa', ordering a latte to-go isn't as easy as it once was. Which milk is best? What sweeteners won't wreck your sugar quitting intentions? We filter through the lengthy cafe menu to reveal the best health-conscious coffee choices to get the very most out of your daily drip.
Not natural? No, thank you.
First things first, skip the artificial stuff. Although sometimes we feel they are hard to avoid (bitter coffee isn't for everyone...), it’s about making smart choices. Generally, a small amount of natural sweeteners like NatVia or Stevia are ok to use in moderation, so stick to no more than one sachet per cup. But, better alternatives for sweet tooth saviours are Manuka honey, rice malt syrup and organic maple syrup (make sure it's not syrup flavoured). About half a teaspoon should be adequate for a small takeaway coffee.
Get a little nutty
Almond milk (or, mylk) has been having a real moment the last couple of years, and for good reason. It’s also rich in vitamins and nutrients, like Vitamin E, magnesium, iron and calcium, and is beneficial to skin health. (It's high antioxidant levels assist in repairing every day wear and tear damage to skin). The vegan milk alternative has had a number of iterations to make it more palatable, even versions made specifically for barista-made coffee - our favourite is Milk Lab (if your local cafe isn't using it yet, ask them why!). This means that you can choose a healthy nutrient-dense option without sacrificing that creamy frothed texture that makes that first morning sip so delicious. To be confident of no additives, try making your own. We show you how here.
Spice up your morning
While it’s tempting to have that cinnamon scroll in the morning, adding a dash of cinnamon to your coffee is a much healthier alternative that will also keep your taste buds happy. Cinnamon is high in antioxidants and is said to improve digestion and the absorption of nutrients. This incredible spice also stabilises blood sugar, preventing those cravings we all have come to expect throughout the day. Combining all of cinnamon’s super powers together in your coffee, you will end up with a healthier metabolism, and a drink that tastes like some of our favorite splurges, minus the calories.
Almost hot chocolate
Who doesn’t want to add a little chocolate to their daily routine? Hot chocolate is always a fond nostalgic childhood choice, but when you need that extra jolt in the morning to get your day started, it’s just not going to cut it. So, there's mocha. But often this means a heavy spoonful of sugary powders or syrups mixed in with your order. For a healthier option, opt for unsweetened or organic cocao powder. It is said to be a good source of essential minerals such as calcium and potassium, and for a little bite to your brew, a delicious addition is a tiny touch of chilli powder mixed in (great for your metabolism). If your local cafe doesn't have it, you can always add it yourself (just keep a little jar of cocao concoction in your bag).
The morning is often a busy time trying to get the day started and unfortunately we don’t always have time to get all the essential nutrients we need. Don’t let lack of energy slow you down, get your complete morning boost by adding whey protein powder to your coffee. This is best for at-home coffee lovers. Mix this protein powder in home frothed milk or boiling water before adding to your coffee so that it mixes seamlessly (no powdery residue). A caffeine jolt and a protein energy boost all in one will give you the energy to hit the ground running.
Some of us really enjoy those pumps of artificial vanilla syrup from our regular coffee spot for that extra dash of sweetness we’re craving. Unfortunately, those pumps of sweetness really add up in calories and artificial ingredients. One pump of Starbucks’ vanilla syrup has 20 calories, depending on the size of your coffee drink, baristas usually put in 2 to 4 pumps. Definitely not something you want to be consuming on a daily basis. Instead, opt for a teaspoon of natural vanilla extract. It has zero artificial ingredients, is high in antioxidants and works as an anti-inflammatory.
Story by Samantha Blanchfield