Coffee Drinks: Friend or Foe of a Low-Carb Diet?

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

Brewed black coffee is fine for the low carber, but coffee drinks can approach 100g of carb per serving!

Coffee, coffee, coffee; if going low-carb meant giving up coffee, most of us probably would not even think about it. Fortunately, you do not have to give up your coffee to go low-carb. However, a low-carb diet does mean that one has to make smart choices, and that means understanding the difference between a good ol’ cup of joe and the creation we now commonly refer to as a “coffee drink.”

Not too many years ago, coffee was just that: coffee. You might add some sugar or creamer to it, but that was about as crazy as anyone thought to get. But, over time, Americans began experimenting with flavored coffees. Oh, it might just be for special occasions or certain times of the year—some people, for example, love pumpkin spice flavored coffee in the fall—but it was a big change from a black cup of JFG. Over time, however, we began going further with our coffee fascination, giving “iced coffee” a try and, before you could brew that next pot, “coffee drinks” were born.

Brewed coffee is a perfectly acceptable choice for a low carber; it’s the add-ons that will get you. Milk has a lot of carbs (1.38g per oz. of whole milk) from the natural sugars, so most low carbers avoid it in their coffee in favor of heavy whipping cream (0g per Tbsp.) or half and half (0.64g per Tbsp.). Some people even like a teaspoon of coconut oil, indicating that it gives them the mouth-feel of whole milk without the carbs. And, of course, brewed coffee can be sweetened with a sweetener such as stevia or Splenda instead of sugar.

But, oh, those coffee drinks. Take Starbucks, for example, with which we are all familiar. Their menu indicates that all of their brewed coffees have 0g of carbs. But, start checking out the coffee drinks, and you will get a different picture completely. Each of the following carb amounts are indicated by Starbucks for the Grande (16 oz.) drink made with 2% milk and no whipped cream:

  • Café Latte, 18g
  • Café Mocha, 42g
  • Cappuccino, 12g
  • Flavored Latte, 37g
  • Iced Skinny Flavored Latte, 12g
  • White Chocolate Mocha, 60g
  • Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino Blended Crème, 98g

And, the list goes on; you can check out your favorite here.

So, what is a coffee lover to do?

Well, obviously, as discussed earlier, brewed coffee is your best bet when going for low-carb. If you just have to have something cool-sounding, the Americano is a shot of espresso with enough hot water added to fill the cup. Most coffeehouses have sugar-free syrups that, while not always carb-free, will add fewer carbs than the full-sugar versions. If you get your drink with soy or almond milk, be sure to ask if it is unsweetened, as many use sweetened. And, of course, you can always make your own coffee drinks in your own kitchen, using the ingredients of your choice. Here is a favorite of mine:


  • 2 sticks SPLENDA Flavors for Coffee, Mocha
  • 1 cup cold strong coffee
  • 3 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup of ice


Blend Splenda, coffee and whipping cream in the blender for about 15 seconds. Pour over ice. (I have also blended everything together WITH the ice; very good, as well).


What are your favorite low-carb coffee drinks? Please share your coffee drink ideas with us in the comment section below.

Image: Wikimedia Commons