Healthier Coffee Habits | For The Busy Professional

While coffee has always been a popular drink, it’s become even more so in the last five years. 62% of Americans now drink coffee every day! But is coffee a healthy drink? Many Americans may need to look into healthier coffee habits to keep their coffee break a good one. 

While coffee has its healthy properties, it really depends on when and how you drink it. If you are drinking a sugary Starbucks specialty first thing in the morning you may need to tweak a few things before you consider it “healthy”! As a busy professional, you might rely on coffee to get you started in the morning or keep you running through the afternoon. Don’t worry, you can keep your coffee! Read on for a few easy tweaks and nutritious swaps to lead you into healthier coffee habits.

Drink water first

This May Be The Easiest Change For jumpstarting Your Healthier Coffee Habits. drink water first thing in the morning– yes, before that cup of joe!

Coffee is very acidic. Taking that hot acidic drink to an empty stomach first thing in the morning can cause an unsettled stomach for the rest of the day. Aim to drink a full glass of water first thing in the morning to get your digestive system moving and line your stomach. This can protect your gut health for the rest of the day.

Another reason drinking water before your coffee, and throughout the day, is so important is to stay hydrated. Caffeine is a diuretic and naturally dehydrating. At night while we sleep we are technically fasting and we wake very dehydrated. Drinking water in the morning is key to getting everything started in a healthy manner. Coffee first thing in the morning can do more damage than good for your digestive system, your mind, and balancing your energy for the rest of the day.

Eat Breakfast, then caffeinate

Another trick for healthier coffee habits is eating breakfast before having your morning coffee.

A recent study published in The Journal of British Nutrition found that drinking coffee before your breakfast in the morning can impair metabolic and blood sugar levels. It was shown to be worse (much worse, actually) than being woken up every 5 minutes throughout the night followed by a sugary breakfast! This bad habit of drinking coffee before breakfast could also raise your long-term risks for heart disease and diabetes. To beat this inevitable late-morning slump and long-term affects, plan for an easy but healthy breakfast before your coffee. Found in this article by Healthline, here are some healthy breakfasts that will stabilize your blood sugar for the day:

  • Hard-boiled eggs and whole-grain toast with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • Steel-cut oatmeal (unflavored, no sugar added). Add blueberries, sunflower seeds, and agave or maple syrup for a kick of flavor! 
  • Plain greek yogurt with steel-cut oatmeal, berries, honey and cinnamon for a delicious morning treat.
Water and breakfast in the morning will coat and protect your stomach from the acidic affects of coffee. Your stomach holds important “gut flora” that helps you digest your food. When you have a highly acidic drink first thing in the morning, this can destroy your gut flora balance and harm the protective lining on your stomach. Doing this too often could lead to upset stomach, digestive problems, and possibly even ulcers. Eating breakfast before your morning coffee is an easy habit that has many protective benefits for your short- and long-term health!

Wait an hour

This may not be the easiest of your healthier coffee habits, but it could make the biggest difference in your energy levels. Waiting an hour in the morning before your beloved caffeine awakening can do wonders for your natural energy!

Coffee may be the first thing you reach for to get that energy kick in the morning, but waiting a bit can actually help you feel better for the rest of the day. Your natural cortisol levels peak in the morning. By drinking coffee (which also raises your cortisol levels and makes you feel more awake) you are undermining your natural energy. As a result, you may quickly build a tolerance to caffeine and begin to require it just to wake up in the morning.

If you wait to have your coffee when your natural cortisol tends to dip, like an hour after you wake up, you can avoid building a tolerance to coffee and make the most of your morning cup! Other peak cortisol times, and when you should avoid your coffee break, tend to be between noon and 1pm and between 5:45-6:30pm. Just remember to avoid right around mealtimes! A follow-up coffee an hour after a meal might be just perfect for reaching your energy goals.

drink your coffee black

The healthiest way to drink your coffee is black!

Fewer sugar and sweeteners is always better. Even regular milk or cream has higher levels of sugar than most expect. If you teach your tastebuds to expect your coffee sweet, you won’t like it any other way. Instead, wean your tastebuds off of this sweet habit and learn to take your coffee black. Long-term this can be a healthy choice you’ll thank yourself for, especially if you drink coffee every day. A little sugar or cream here and there can add up quicker than you think. There are other ways to add tasty flavors to your coffee– we’ll get into them below!

Try plant-based milks

This is another healthier coffee habit that’s an easy switch. Plant-based milks can be a healthy alternative if you love your coffee creamy. 

If you like to add cream or milk to your coffee, try a plant-based milk instead. Plant-based milks usually have less sugar than regular cow’s milk or cream. Cow’s milk is also high in saturated fat that can cause issues like heart disease and diabetes. There are many plant-based milks with different health benefits to choose from. Mix it up with almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, coconut milk, hemp milk or macadamia nut milk.

Add a little spice

Spices can be an overlooked way to add flavor and sweetness to your morning cup of coffee. 

Many spices have a natural sweetness to them, which can add to your cup without the unwanted sugar or artificial sweeteners. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cacao and ginger all have a unique flavor and sweetness to them that compliments coffee. If you’d like to try the cacao, look for an unsweetened cacao powder with nothing added. You can brew them into your coffee by mixing into the grounds or just stir a bit into your cup for flavor at the end. Cold brew and espresso are lower in acidity and bitterness than regular coffee. You could try an Americano (espresso with water) if you’d like a smoother alternative to coffee that’s easier to drink without milk!

Use natural sweeteners

Natural sweeteners are an easy switch for those who like it sweet! 

If you just can’t get your coffee down without sweetening it up a bit, or if you’re just looking for a healthy alternative while you wean yourself off, natural sweeteners are the way to go. Natural sweeteners like honey or cinnamon can be healthier than artificial sweeteners or sugar. Honey is sweeter than sugar, so you need less of it to get the sweet taste you crave. It also has a lower GI value, so it raises your blood sugar slower than sugar. Although it may be healthier, honey does have more calories than sugar, so you still must add sparingly.

Cinnamon may be the best way to go, however. It’s naturally sweet taste comes with low calories and natural health benefits. studies have shown it can lower blood glucose and cholesterol when taken frequently.

Caffeine and stress

Be aware of how coffee is making you feel. stop when you start to feel the jitters! 

Many people get into the habit of drinking coffee all day long. If you are drinking coffee at set times of the day just because it’s become a habit, you might want to choose your coffee time with more purpose. The most recommended caffeine per day is 400 milligrams or 4 cups. If you tend to drink more than that you could try mixing caffeinated and decaffeinated.

Everyone’s tolerance of caffeine is different, so you may want to take a pause before reaching for that next cup. If you realize you are feeling jittery, stressed, or worried then you should wait an hour before drinking more coffee. If you’ve been having trouble sleeping, then quit drinking coffee earlier in the day. It’s all about reflecting on how you’re feeling and being more aware of your caffeine intake!

Search for nutrition

Consuming for nutrition is the best habit to get into.

Consuming for nutrition means to only eat or drink something if it has a positive nutritional value. For example, only add something to your coffee if it is healthy for you and only drink coffee when you need an energy boost. If you are eating something that is not nutritious or is bad for you, it’s essentially a waste of your time!

When you begin to think more logically about your intake, it will become easier to make healthy decisions. In a short amount of time, your taste buds will learn to prefer foods in their natural unsweetened state. Commit to this way of drinking coffee for a few weeks and you just might surprise yourself!

Healthier coffee habits is all about easy tweaks to habits you already have. An easy way to jumpstart these new habit changes is to make the decision now so you don’t have to later:

  • Set a glass of water at your bedside so you remember to drink it first thing in the morning.
  • Hide your normal sweeteners and set out the cinnamon or cacao powder instead.
  • Put a plant-based milk on your shopping list so you remember to pick it up.
  • Make your healthy breakfast easy by keeping ingredients on your shopping list and prepping breakfast for yourself the night before. You could even prep easy-to-grab jars of yogurt or oatmeal to carry to work with you.
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