3 recipes for a healthier cup of coffee

3 recipes for a healthier cup of coffee

A plain cup of brewed coffee only has one or two calories, but it quickly can become an unnatural, high-calorie drink when you start pouring in the cream and sugar.

Most commercial creamers are packed with additives, artificial flavors, trans fats and added sugars – most in the form of corn sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup.

Then there are commercial coffee house drinks. A grande Caramel Chocolate Frappuccino with whipped cream packs a whopping 590 calories with 19 teaspoons of sugar (74g) and 19g of saturated fat.

But it’s easy and relatively inexpensive to make your own delicious concoctions to sweeten up your cup of coffee. You can control what it tastes like and how healthy it is.

Got milk? Whole milk, half-and-half, creams and even evaporated milk from a small tin can provide the flavor you need without any additives, preservatives, added sugars or trans fats.

Real milk has a little saturated fat, but chances are you won’t be using enough to matter. Calories? Half-and-half and commercial liquid creamers both have about 20 calories per tablespoon. If you need it a little sweeter, add a teaspoon or two of your own sugar, honey or maple syrup. Brown sugar is good, too. If you’re avoiding sugar, add stevia.

DIY maple vanilla dairy creamer

This flavored creamer recipe is one you can make ahead of time so it’s ready every morning. It lasts about 10 days in the refrigerator. One tablespoon of this has 25 calories and 2g carbohydrates (sugar), compared with 35-45 calories and 5-7g carbohydrates (sugar) for most commercial French vanilla creamers.

  • Servings: 16 1-tablespoon servings
  • Ingredients: 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup whole milk, 1/8 cup pure maple syrup, 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Directions:
    • Combine cream, milk and maple syrup in a small pot and put it over medium heat.
    • Stir constantly until it’s very warm, but not boiling (tiny bubbles will start forming around the edges of the pot).
    • Remove the pot from the heat and blend in the vanilla extract.
    • Put the creamer in a closed container and refrigerate it.
  • Nutritional Information per serving: 25 calories, 2g total fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 5 mg sodium, 2g carbohydrates

Creamer without the dairy

Splash in almond, cashew, coconut, soy or any other plant-based milk. You can also add coconut oil to coffee to make it richer without any milk.

If you want a fancier drink, whip up this non-dairy coconut latte recipe (it has less than 100 calories.)

  • Servings: 1
  • Ingredients: 1 cup freshly brewed coffee, 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, 1-2 teaspoons honey (optional), ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)
  • Directions
    • Combine coffee, coconut oil, honey and vanilla in a blender or food processor and mix it on a high speed until it gets foamy.
    • Pour it into a mug and top it with a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg if desired.
  • Nutritional Information per serving: 86 calories, 7g total fat, 5mg sodium, 17g carbohydrates (only if you choose to add the honey)

4. Dry creamer

If you like dry creamer for its lasting power and easy portability, you’ll have to give this a try. It’s close to or a little higher in calories than the plain commercial products, but it doesn’t have trans fats, high fructose corn syrup or chemical additives.

  • Servings: 36 1-tablespoon servings
  • Ingredients: 2 cups powdered whole milk, 1/4 –1/2 cup powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • Directions
    • Place all of the powered whole milk and sugar in a medium bowl and mix well.
    • Drizzle the coconut oil over the dry ingredients and mix it until it’s well blended – there shouldn’t be any lumps. You can use a blender for a finer texture. When you’re finished, store it in a tightly closed container.
    • Add 1 tablespoon (more or less to taste) to your coffee.
  • Nutritional information per serving: 49 calories, 3 g total fat, 7 mg cholesterol, 26 mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate

5. Flavored coffee

If you like the taste of flavored coffee and don’t care for the cream, add fresh herbs like mint or dry spices in with the ground coffee in your French press or other drip coffeemaker. You can add cinnamon bark, cloves, cardamom pods, cocoa nibs or fennel seeds to your ground coffee.

Heather Klug is a registered dietitian and cardiac educator at the Karen Yontz Women’s Cardiac Awareness Center inside Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wis.

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  1. Eric Christopher Matthews June 12, 2019 at 1:58 pm · Reply

    Thanks for letting me know about the coffee ? recipes.

  2. Thanks! I am looking forward to trying the DIY Maple Vanilla Dairy Creamer! and have forwarded recipes to some of my very favorite people!

  3. Excellent article with great ideas! Was just thinking how unhappy I’ve been about store-bought creamers. Thank you!

    • Hi Gretchen. Glad you enjoyed the article. Agreed about store-bought creamers. They contain many additives and preservatives, so good to be careful and make your own whenever possible.

  4. These are great tips and suggestions. I love that you have the DIY creamer.

  5. Thanks, this is information I can use now.

  6. If you just want powdered creamer, could you omit the sugar and just mix powdered milk and coconut oil? What is its shelf life and must it be refrigerated?

    And for the maple vanilla creamer couldn’t you just use dairy half&half in place of the milk and heavy cream?

    • Hi Adel. Thank you for reading the article! Yes, you can omit the sugar in the powdered creamer recipe if you’d like. A small amount of stevia could also be added for a hint of sweetness for no additional carbs. You could also add warm spices or a little vanilla extract if you’d like some sweetness. Powdered milk is very shelf-stable so this doesn’t need to be refrigerated. It should last 6 to 12 months in the pantry, away from light and heat.

      For the DIY liquid creamer, you can substitute half-and-half for the heavy cream and whole milk. There will be a thinner consistency and not as creamy of a mouthfeel. If you plan to make either of the creamers, I would recommend making a smaller batch with the substitutions to see if you like the changes.

  7. I’m going to try that creamer-a local coffee shop has a yummy rosemary-maple latte…I might try steeping some fresh rosemary in it while it heats….

  8. I love that you included this recipe. Going to try it this weekend. I have been looking for a way to break away from my high calorie CoffeeMate- Looking forward to trying this one out!

  9. That sound good I’m going to try it

  10. I use and make sure to buy “plantbased” creamers made with Almond or Oatmilk. Sometimes I will add butter to my hot coffee along with plantbased creamers.

    • Hi Li. Plant-based creamers can be an excellent choice. Some have a lot of added sugars though. Double-check the ingredient list and aim for 4 grams of sugar or less per tablespoon of creamer. Be careful of butter in coffee. I know it slows down the absorption of caffeine in coffee, but does contribute a high amount of saturated fat, which can contribute to blockages. If you drink a small amount of coffee and limit other sources of saturated fat, then this may be fine.

  11. I always used real honey for my coffee or make sure to include Cinnamon sticks in it.

    • Hi Romulo. I love cinnamon in my coffee, too! If you brew your own coffee, you can sprinkle ground cinnamon and other warm spices on top of the coffee grounds before brewing. Honey is also great in coffee–just remember to keep it to small amounts since too much sugar from any source isn’t great for the body.

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About the Author

Heather Klug
Heather Klug

Heather Klug, MEd RD is a registered dietitian and cardiac educator at the Karen Yontz Women's Cardiac Awareness Center inside Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.