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Turn your summer treat into a healthier iced coffee

Sidestep the calorie minefields at coffee shops and fast-food restaurants

Published: June 02, 2014 08:30 AM

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You know summer is here when the coffee shops and fast-food restaurants start advertising their iced-coffee offerings. They look so tempting, but beware: They’re almost always loaded with sugar—and some of them contain as many calories as you should have in a meal.

Take Starbucks’ Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino, for example. It has 480 calories, 19 grams of fat, and a whopping 69 grams of sugar in 16 ounces. We looked at iced-mocha options on the menus of the various chains to see if we could find one that would hit the spot on a hot day but not make us regret drinking it. The good news: If you order carefully, you won't have to worry as much about the drink’s impact on your waistline or health. Here are three simple tweaks you can make.

Keep it simple

You can almost bet that the fancier the name, the more calories, fat, and sugar the drink will have. A small (12-ounce) serving of McDonald’s McCafe Frappe Mocha has 450 calories and 57 grams of sugar. That’s more than double the recommended daily limit of 25 grams of sugar, or 6 teaspoons, for someone eating a 2,000-calorie diet, according to the World Health Organization. Opt for the Iced Mocha and you’ll save 160 calories and 23 sugar grams. The same goes for anything that sounds like a dessert (recall the aforementioned Mocha Cookie Crumble).  Of all the drinks we looked at, the one with the lowest sugar content—just 8 grams per 12-ounce serving—was Starbucks’ Iced Skinny Mocha with nonfat milk.

Be specific about the milk

If you don’t tell the server what kind of milk you want, chances are his default will be to whip you up one with cream or whole or 2 percent milk and sometimes whipped cream. But if you ask for nonfat and skip the whip, you can save a lot of calories and fat.  

For instance, a tall (12-ounce) Starbucks’ Iced Caffe Mocha made with whipped cream and 2 percent milk has 230 calories and 12 grams of fat. Swapping in nonfat milk and saying no thanks to the whipped cream can slash the calories practically in half and drop the fat content down to 2 grams. The same is true for Dunkin’ Donuts’ drinks; order a Mocha Iced Latte with nonfat instead of whole, and you’ll get much less fat (0.5 grams instead of 6 grams) and fewer calories (180 instead of 230). And for the McDonald’s McCafe Iced Mocha drinks, this trick will take you from 11 grams of fat to just 0.5 grams and save you 120 calories.

Order the smallest size

Although you may still need to make the above adjustments to your order, drinking only a small amount of iced coffee will automatically limit the number of calories and amount of fat and sugar you’re consuming.

Linda Greene

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