If you’ve ever tried a low-carb diet, you know how difficult it can be to cut the tastiest macronutrient out of your life. It seems like everyone’s favorite foods are carbs. Pasta, bread, most dessert items, and breakfast food like cereal, pancakes, and waffles are all off-limits, making it seem like there’s nothing left to eat. Luckily, the carb police can’t take your morning cup away from you since coffee itself has zero carbs.
However, if you usually have a flavored latte or other fancy drink from your local coffee shop, the situation is more complicated. In this article, we’re going to break down everything you need to know about carbs in coffee. We’ll explain what kind of coffee has carbs in it and what alternative options you have to help coffee fit in your low-carb lifestyle.
Does Coffee Have Carbs?
As we alluded to in the introduction, coffee doesn’t have carbs if you’re strict about what you call coffee. If you’re only talking about coffee beans, then, no, coffee doesn’t have carbs. However, most people aren’t so specific when they say coffee, and many coffee drinks do have a significant amount of carbs in them.
If you drink an ordinary cup of coffee with milk and sugar, the latter will be the dominant source of carbohydrates. Sugar is a form of simple carbohydrate and is usually listed under the carbohydrate section on food labels. If you’re counting your carbs and want a handy way to estimate how many carbs you’re getting from sugar, remember that 1 teaspoon of sugar is about 4 grams of carbohydrates. Most people measure their sugar for coffee in teaspoons, so remembering this number is helpful.
Once you start getting into specialty drinks, the number of carbohydrates in each beverage can vary greatly. For example, a grande caffe latte from Starbucks has about 19 grams of carbohydrates, a grande cafe mocha has 40 grams of carbs, and a grande white chocolate mocha has more than 60 grams of carbs. For comparison, a 12-ounce bottle of soda has between 50 and 70 grams of carbs, mostly from sugar.
Does Black Coffee Have Carbs?
If you drink your coffee black, you’ve got it easy. There are no carbs in black coffee, and you don’t have to worry about calculating how much sugar you add or what kind of milk you should use. If you’re worried about your carb intake, black coffee is the healthiest way to drink coffee. Some people don’t like how black coffee tastes and add milk and sugar to cover the strong flavor.
If you want to drink your coffee black but don’t love the taste of pure coffee, we recommend slowly reducing the amount of milk and sugar you use over several weeks. You greatly increase your odds of acquiring a taste for coffee if you don’t shock your taste buds by stripping away their milk and sugar security blanket. Like a fine wine, coffee is an acquired taste that won’t resonate with you immediately. Over time, you’ll start to recognize and appreciate the subtle flavors and drink your coffee with less milk.
Low Carb Alternatives to Sweet Drinks
If you’ve become accustomed to getting a sweet, creamy coffee drink a few times per week, it can be difficult to quit that habit cold turkey. Besides slowly weaning yourself off of high-carb coffee, you can also make your life a little easier by replacing the carb-laden ingredients in your favorite coffee drinks with lower-carb alternatives.
Swapping unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk is a great way to replace sugar without trading one sweet ingredient for another. Many people find that the additional flavor added by alternative milk helps them use less sugar in their coffee without the flavor changing dramatically.
Another great option is to make cold brew at home instead of buying a sugar-heavy latte on your way to work. Cold brew is easy to make and naturally sweeter than regular coffee without requiring any sugar. Different flavors get extracted during the cold brewing process and give cold brew a sweet, chocolatey taste despite being 100% coffee.
Black coffee doesn’t have any carbs, however, saying that coffee has no carbs can be misleading. Most of the specialty drinks you’ll find on the menu at a coffee shop are filled with carbs and have no place in a low-carb diet. Luckily, a few intelligent alternatives allow you to continue drinking fancy coffee drinks without breaking the carb bank. Using unsweetened alternative milk or making cold brew are both great ways to enjoy some sweet-tasting delicious coffee for carb-conscious people.
Featured Image Credit: Ozgu Ozden, Unsplash