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Why didn’t you tell me coffee is low-calorie?!

If I ever look back and wonder exactly when I became a coffee addict, let it be known that it wasn’t when I worked at place that had a Starbucks on campus, nor was it when I worked at a place where they made a fresh pot every morning. No, it was the day I discovered that coffee has essentially no calories. It was yesterday. I wasn’t born then, but I sure do feel like it.

I’ve been feeling a bit sleepy during the day lately. I’m not really sure why. I’ve been getting enough sleep and I’ve been eating normally. The paranoid part of my brain suspects that this is the first sign of a horrible, painful, terminal illness and months from now I will look back and wonder why I ignored the subtle warning signs and didn’t get treatment early. In reality, I’ve probably just been working too hard. Sleepy as I may be, I don’t normally drink coffee. It took me two months to spend the $10 Starbucks card I got for Christmas. I’m a diet soda addict, and proud of it. None of that coffee addiction for me! No sirree! I may feed quarters into the vending machine in desperation for a Diet Dr. Pepper at the end of the day, but I could always look down my nose at those fools who stuffed dollar bills into the Starbucks’ barista’s hand in the mid-afternoon.

Then last week I went out with some coworkers to try the new “skinny” latte at Starbucks which is fat-free and sugar-free, but still has 90 calories. It really perked me up. A couple mornings later I was considering napping on my space bar, but I decided to grab a cup of coffee from the pot instead. After consuming the warm drink, I decided to look up how many calories of damage it had done me. I don’t really count calories, but when I try something new I like to get a sense of how many it contains. I entered the words “coffee calories” into Google, hit return, and was stunned to discover that one cup has about 9 calories. Nine calories! I was expecting at least 40 or 50. If the skinny latte had 90 and there wasn’t any sugar or fat in it, the calories were all in the coffee, right? My mom likes to drink Kraft’s International Flavored Coffees, and I know those have about 60 calories. And coffee is made from beans, which have calories. So coffee should have calories, right? It’s all brown and thick looking. It must have calories! Only it doesn’t. It’s no worse than all the Crystal Lite I drink (when we’re just talking calories).

Curious, I then looked up tea and discovered that it has even less calories. I’m not sure how I’ve gone over a quarter of a century without realizing this. I haven’t felt this stupid since the time I discovered I was tying my shows incorrectly. So, I think I’m going to start drinking coffee. I used to think it tasted like ass, but I’ve noticed that if you keep trying a food or drink over and over again you can usually start to tolerate it and sometimes even start to enjoy it. It’s called “acquired taste” because you have to acquire it. All the artificial sweetener helps too. And before anyone starts, yes, I know all the caffeine in coffee will give me webbed toes and three-headed babies and turn my teeth brown. And the artificial sweetener is actually making me fatter if the experiments with rats are true. I don’t care. I’m going to start drinking coffee in the mornings. And hopefully I won’t fall asleep in the afternoon. And hopefully I don’t have cancer and the coffee won’t start causing it.

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56 Comments

Fatty • February 14, 2008 at 8:07 am

I cant live without my morning caffeine!!!

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Red • February 14, 2008 at 8:08 am

As a former barista of 8 years, I can tell you that those latte-ish drinks (for which Starbucks has some ridiculous names)have all of their fat and calories packed into the milk and whatever flavoring is being used. If you want a mocha but not the fat, go for one made with skim milk (they like to call it “skinny”) and no whipped cream, and that’s about 170 calories (their normal one is about 650, made with whole milk and whipped cream).

And stay far, far, far away from Breve’s. They’re lattes made with half and half.

Espresso itself has, like, no calories, and most coffeehouses (even the little guys) carry sugar-free syrups (Torani – a popular brand of syrups – makes theirs with Splenda, so that’s better than other artificial sweeteners).

Just FYI in case you ever wanted to try any different coffee drinks ;-D

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MM • February 14, 2008 at 8:28 am

How did you survive to this very day without it?!

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Amanda • February 14, 2008 at 8:46 am

Oh goodness! You didn’t know coffee was nearly calorie free? How on earth have you managed the past couple of years?

I would be a quivering heap of goo if I didn’t have mine on a daily basis.

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Erin • February 14, 2008 at 9:00 am

I used to HATE coffee. Then I decided to add part time law school on top of my full time job. I started slow, with iced coffee. Now I’ve upgraded to a several cup a day habit.

And the calories in the skinny latte (try the cinnamon dolce, it’s nice and sweet, but not TOO sweet), is from both the milk and i think there’s 10 calories a pump of the syrup. But that’s it!

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vivi • February 14, 2008 at 9:02 am

Oh, come on!! Repeat with me: mediterranean culture doesn’t make me fat. Have you seen how italians drink an espresso after lunch? It not only awakens you but also is good for digesting whatever you’ve eaten. Coffee can’t have calories, it’s like tea. What has (loads of) calories is the whipped cream and powder cocoa and the milk and the sugar starbucks places in coffee cups!!… Don’t tell me it’s the first time you think of that!

Signature: a 3-cups-of-coffee-a-day-and-white-teeth girl that doesn’t consider herself a coffein-addict :)

PQ – I could do without the mean tone of this comment, vivi. Go drink a cup of coffee and be less cranky.

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Jill • February 14, 2008 at 9:02 am

I loves me some morning java!!!

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Adrienne • February 14, 2008 at 9:13 am

Like Erin, I wasn’t into coffee until law school where I became addicted. But it was funny, there was definitely a divide between those who guzzled coffee and those who guzzled diet coke. It was more the younger people who had diet cokes in the morning, but not always. Because I grew up in NY, where ordering a “regular” coffee automatically means cream and sugar, I don’t think I made the coffee has very few calories connection til a fairly late age either!

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G.G. • February 14, 2008 at 10:08 am

I discovered this “secret” last year, and it’s really helped me not overeat the sweet stuff–I wasn’t a coffee drinker before, but I am now. I found out it was cheaper for me to brew something for myself, though–I like Millstone Hazelnut coffee with a little Splenda and some sugar-free hazelnut (I think it’s Coffeemate brand? It’s cold and liquid, anyway) and it’s even fewer calories than a skinny latte. When I want dessert now, a cup of the above (decaf at night) gives me enough of a sweet taste that I don’t want more. And I’ve found out I really like the taste of good coffee when I go out somewhere, too.

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Rebecca • February 14, 2008 at 10:23 am

I am a whore for black tea with a drop of (skim) milk in it. It is the British me. Damn British whore!

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vivi • February 14, 2008 at 10:34 am

oh! I’m sorry, PQ, I didn’t want to be mean! English is not my mothern tongue, I apologise for any misunderstanding! If you read my comments in your blog I’m always trying to explain my european point of view on food. America and Mediterranean Europe are very different! :D

By the way, I’ve just had an espresso. A german espresso. Isn’t that enough punishment!

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Sarah • February 14, 2008 at 10:38 am

I am a unrecoverable coffee addict, but sadly, I hate black coffee. So I drink it with whole milk and real sugar (the only place I actually use real sugar, I use evil sweetener in tea, and no milk in tea either).

I make my coffee pretty full of calories, but it is the one part of my day I refuse to compromise in the name of Diet.

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erin • February 14, 2008 at 11:33 am

I have the exact same tired thing going on and the same paranoia, but, really, it’s just that it’s February. I think that people just feel tired as the winter drags on. Everyone I know in MSP is really tired, too. I dunno.

But, yes, coffee totally helps. And, yes, it is very very very very low in calories. :)

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jodi • February 14, 2008 at 11:50 am

i would think the 90 calories from the skinny latte comes from mostly milk… i do love the cinnamon dolce though, it’s super-tasty! :o)

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Red • February 14, 2008 at 12:04 pm

What kills me about coffee is how sweet stuff tastes sooooooooo good with it.

Sugar + Bitter caffeine == delicious sugar high.

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Emily • February 14, 2008 at 12:08 pm

You said you’ve been working out at lunch…. that makes me tired in the afternoon. I know it’s supposed to energize you, but sometimes it just doesn’t.

And I support your new habit. The skinny caramel latte is my new favorite thing.

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wilma • February 14, 2008 at 12:16 pm

coffee is the nectar of the gods. i looooveeee coffee, and have been drinking it since i was a young girl (yup, my parents let me have coffee. and i was allowed to drink alcohol at a young age…love the dutch parents. and it didn’t kill me or turn me into a drug addict :))

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kyle • February 14, 2008 at 12:24 pm

How in the world did you survive all this time without coffee?!?

I didn’t start drinking until I was in college. I had previously never liked it. Then one random day I woke up craving coffee, which I thought was really strange. So I went, got a cup, drank it black and haven’t turned back since :) Weird, huh?

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Erica • February 14, 2008 at 12:39 pm

If you tire of coffee, I find that green tea is also low-cal and contains caffeine. Plus, it’s a natural diuretic, and even though you can’t pee your way thin, it sure feels like you are after drinking it!

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Laura • February 14, 2008 at 12:42 pm

A cup of coffee before a run is also supposed to perk you up and make you a better (i.e. faster) runner. Did you know THAT?! Now you really will want that coffee before your mid morning runs at the Y.

I heart coffee!

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Rachel • February 14, 2008 at 1:02 pm

try starbucks.com. you can calculate the nutritional value of any type of drink combo imaginable. the problem is…they don’t show calories of their pastries.

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janice Bridge • February 14, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Add diet Swiss Miss (25 calories) and two sweetners (I use Splenda) to 16 ounces of home or office brewed coffee – almost a mocha – and MUCH less expensive – both in dollars and in calories

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Chubby Mommy • February 14, 2008 at 3:03 pm

I had my first cup of coffee at the ripe old age of 12 years old: one-third milk, one-third coffee, one-third sugar. They called it Kiddie Coffee, if I remember correctly: something to appease the little ones while the grownups visited after a huge family dinner.

It’s a ‘gateway beverage’. I’m convinced of that. Three years later I’d moved up to the harder stuff: coffee with creamer and two lumps of sugar. I needed more caffeine, you see.

Now, 25+ years later, I’m hooked. I don’t even bother with the creamer. Sugar? That’s for wimps. I take my coffee dark and bitter like my personality. Gotta have it.

Come to think of it, it’s 2 o’clock and I’m dragging. Think I’ll go brew myself another fix.

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anonymous • February 14, 2008 at 3:23 pm

oh my yes, coffee is virtually calorie free! the problem is that unless you drink it black, the added calories come from the sweetener and milk. and even if you use equal, or some such substitute, and skim milk, it’s the skim milk that supplies the calories. at starbuck’s they add A LOT of skim milk to their skinny lattes. better to make it at home and measure your milk. so worth it. i’m a diet soda fiend too but nothing perks me up like a cup of joe in the morning.

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JEM • February 14, 2008 at 3:38 pm

I don’t know if you like cold coffee but I sometimes make breakfast coffee delights, I found some sugar free syrups in the store. I use 1 cup skim milk (like 100 calories) coffee to taste and then syrup to taste and mix it up with some ice in a blender….so good!!! My favorite syrups are vanilla and Caramel. So its a 100 calories but tastes like those calorie loaded frappacinos!

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kathryn • February 14, 2008 at 3:44 pm

Coffee is awesome. Plus the milk in a skinny latte makes it perfect post-run with the carbs and protein. You get about 10 grams of protein in a latte and that’s more than a lot of yucky tasting “protein” bars.

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laney • February 14, 2008 at 4:09 pm

I’ve recently discovered unsweetened vanilla almond milk. http://www.bluediamond.com/shop/natural/almondBreeze32.cfm

It’s full of vitamins and only 40 calories for a whole cup and only 2 grams of carbs! So if you have coffee with like 2 ounces of the almond milk (which is yummy) you’re only out like 10 calories and 1/2 a carb! It’s great!

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Happy • February 14, 2008 at 4:24 pm

Coffee is a reason to get up in the morning. Coffee is heaven. Coffee is beauty. Coffee reminds us that there is good in the world.

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JEM • February 14, 2008 at 4:57 pm

One thing I did want to say but I didn’t want to be a downer is: try not to drink coffee every day. It stinks when you really get addicted and can’t function without it. My sister in law literally is lost if she doesn’t have her morning cup…I drink it only a couple days a week so I am not dependant. Just a thought.

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Lyn • February 14, 2008 at 5:43 pm

Ahhh, yes, coffee. All the calories are in the milk. And in the cookies I feel I must have with it. Sigh…

So this year I switched to teas. So be sure and try some teas too! Drinking green or white tea has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and many diseases. Great for the cardiovascular system, lowering cholesterol, and come in so many tempting, 0-calorie flavors. Chai tea is a wonderful 5 calorie dessert :)

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saucywench • February 14, 2008 at 5:48 pm

All of the calories in a “skinny” latte are in the milk. It’s still a latte.

There are no calories in black coffee.

HOWEVER, be careful because it is bad to get addicted to coffee. The high intake of caffeine is not good for your system. Plus, on a different note, it really gives you bad breath :P

Just an observation! Good luck with your new coffee addiction!

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lovelines • February 14, 2008 at 6:44 pm

The only danger with coffee is overloading on the cream and sugar. Plus, a lot of those drinks at Starbucks are heinously over-caloried for their size.

My personal weakness at Starbucks is the passion tea lemonade. Yum!

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MB • February 14, 2008 at 7:42 pm

I had a serious coffee addiction for years and while I don’t think the calories from those 3-4 x-large Dunkin Donut coffee’s a day were so bad – the money I spent on them really added up. Also, once you get hooked on the caffeine you have to have it or suffer some really bad headaches.

I switched to mostly tea now (black and green mixed with milk/splenda) but still have a cup of Joe now and then.

I would suggest having your coffee as a treat and not make it a daily habit. Why start something you know is addictive? Go with the tea – you’re body will thank you and you’ll still get that little pick-me-up with minimal calories.

Plus you’ll have to learn that crazy Starbucks skinny venti mocha 1/2 caff no whip double dip language.

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em • February 14, 2008 at 8:33 pm

a starbucks skinny latte is a cup of nonfat milk (about 90 calories), sugarfree syrus (about 0 calories), and a shot of espresso (about 0 calories).

just fyi, in terms of where the calories come from

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Lora • February 14, 2008 at 9:37 pm

The best part PQ is the different types of coffee beans, roasts, etc. there are. I love Kona Coffee with a half-envelope of Sugar in the Raw. Before you know it, you’ll be grinding your own beans and thinking about strange characters and coffee like:

FBI Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks and

Quentin Tarantino as Jimmy in Pulp Fiction.

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RG • February 14, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Starbucks will also see you a bottle of their sugar-free syrup for $7 and tax. I like the hazelnut.

I never developed a coffee addiction, it’s tea for me all day long though because I like having something warm to drink. My office is usually cold even in the summer. But I do like iced/ cold coffee in the summer.

Have you given a thought to SAD? It’s winter, you’re in the Midwest, you’re not consuming all the serotonin i.e. carbs that you were used to – get a light! (At least, I wish someone had pointed this out to me when I suffered through a decade of winters in the Midwest. It took leaving there to realize that it’s not cold, holidays, illness or anything else vaguely associated with the winter. It was LIGHT.)

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Kelly • February 14, 2008 at 9:51 pm

Coffee is most excellent. I agree about the aquired taste thing – I used to only like the coffee “shakes” that are loaded with calories and sugar, but now I like it black. I am not a daily drinker though. Maybe I should start…the webbed feet would help with swimming!

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Cindy • February 14, 2008 at 9:58 pm

I’ve tried to learn to like coffee… and tea. I’ve tried herbal teas, green teas, black tea, tea with milk, tea with lemon, etc… I grimace at them all. I so want to learn to like a hot drink (other than hot cocoa!). Ever since I lost weight, I am often cold and would love to warm up with a drink. The trouble is I only drink ice water and that just makes me colder. I’ll get a diet coke (with extra lemon) when I’m out in a restaurant, but other than that, I only drink water or milk. It would be great, if I was 5… or 12… but I’m 46 and can’t find an adult drink to favor. And, yes, I also hate alcohol…

So, good luck with your coffee habit. Take it easy on the artificial sweeteners, though. Try to learn to like it black (it sounds cooler when you order it, too— an added bonus!).

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Danielle • February 15, 2008 at 1:02 am

Not a huge coffee fan, here.

Every blue moon, if I really need a pick-me-up, and diet Coke won’t cut it, I will have one with about half of it cream, and 4 packets of sugar.

So I figure what’s the point? I may as well melt a container of coffee-flavored Haagen Daz and pour it into a coffee cup.

mmm, that sounds good right about now….

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sheddingpounds • February 15, 2008 at 4:51 am

*grining* Welcome to the dark side! I drink 1-2 cups every day and love it with fat free or 2% milk and the dreaded fake sweetener Splenda.

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Rosy • February 15, 2008 at 8:58 am

Cute!

I didn’t discover coffee until I was almost in my 30s. I say: drink it with a smidgen of skim milk, because it’s good for you and forego the fake sugar (which I always knew, is bad for you).

Once in a while I like a sweet, cold coffee so I do a hit of Nestle’s liquid Quick on a bottom of a glass with ice followed by hot espresso and 1/2 cup of skim milk. It does the trick.

This is my first comment, but I enjoy your blog immensely so… an overdue BRAVO!

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Sarah • February 15, 2008 at 8:59 am

I started drinking coffee in law school, too, and now, 15 years and 4 kids later, I am addicted! I recently restarted WW and my husband asked me what I would do if coffee counted as points (I drink mine black). Easy. I wouldn’t do WW!!!

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Jenny • February 15, 2008 at 9:56 am

Like you, I recently discovered coffee. Spent 29 years without it, 15 of those in the pacific northwest where drive through coffee is almost literally on every corner! It wasn’t until I worked in a building with a coffee shop on the bottom floor that I became addicted, for the same reasons. I love a skinny hazlenut latte. I need the milk and syrup to make it bearable but I’m definitely acquiring the taste. Now as someone suggested, its time to branch out beyond Starbucks. There are lots of excellent options in real coffee out there. Of course, this is the NW, we may just have more places. :)

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musajen • February 15, 2008 at 10:36 am

If you ever want to venture into drinking tea (just started myself in an attempt to ease the coffee consumption) there is a brilliant store called Teavana that can custom blend you loose leaf tea.

I stumbled upon the store during a trip to Chicago and the sales girl yanked these huge tins off the wall, lined them up uncovered and started fanning them so I could smell their combined, intoxicating, goodness.

Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies. Oh yes. It was like the door bell rang and a freckled girl bedecked in green and khaki was offering me crack.

But this was calorie free crack with black tea as its base so, even though it’s got caffeine, it’s supposed to have a calming effect (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5405686.stm). Plus it’s only got about 4-6 calories a cup.

If you’re interested, I can copy down the mixture the Teavana girl gave me and you can order it off their website.

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Marla • February 15, 2008 at 11:47 am

A year or so ago I was having a BIG problem with fatigue — I’d sit down and fall asleep at 10:30 (in the MORNING). Sometimes that’s caused by dehydration, but I was eating and drinking well. Eventually I visited my doctor, because I was also pretty sure I had some horrible fatal disease, and of course he found NOTHING wrong with me. Coincidentally, the next day my DH suggested I stop taking the daily multi-vitamins. That was it! The fatigue cleared up in a couple days.

I always have problems with vitamins. They either cause headaches or nausea. I thought this brand was the jackpot for me, because they caused neither one. I didn’t recognize that they were causing the fatigue; I could have gone on for months or years with this problem and not known how to cure it.

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Debbi • February 15, 2008 at 11:49 am

I’m with you on the coffee front. I don’t go a morning without it. I have to have the real 1/2 & 1/2 and will count the 40 calories each day – I can do without the sweetner.

I have a new tea addiction – Try GOOD EARTH ORIGINAL, sweet & spicy herb tea. It is quite sweet and needs nothing extra, comes in caffeine free so is good for afternoon and evenings. It is also great as an iced tea.

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Bella • February 15, 2008 at 12:04 pm

Welcome to the coffee-clutch club! It really is a nice way to start your day, and as long as you don’t drink lots and lots of it, it actually isn’t bad for you at all. Of course, I’ve been drinking coffee since I was 5 years old. Yes, 5 years old. My Nana used to make it for us when we stayed overnight at her house — she didn’t see why little kids shouldn’t have a bit. The coffee she made my sister and me wasn’t really coffee, though, it was more like a cup of milk with a dash of coffee in it. Still, ever since then, I’ve liked coffee, although I didn’t start drinking it regularly until high school.

I’m glad you discovered a new lo-cal food find.

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Elizabeth • February 15, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Coffee is oh so good. I start every day with a grande sugar-free vanilla iced latte. (2% milk for 120 calories)

:)

eBeth

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Melissa • February 15, 2008 at 12:47 pm

If you’re looking for an even lower calorie sbux option, try a nonfat, sugar-free anything cappucinno. It’s only about sixty calories for a tall, and the foam has an airy, whipped cream-like consistency.

Also, the store at which I work still has sugar-free gingerbread. If you come across it, give it a try! It tastes just like a cookie :).

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Nancy • February 15, 2008 at 5:44 pm

I love love love coffee. I’m actually thinking of putting a pot of it on now!

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K • February 15, 2008 at 6:41 pm

How funny! Earlier this evening, my husband was proposing to go on the “coffee diet” – caffeine instead of food (he wasn’t serious, I hasten to add).

Ahh, coffee. I can’t drink it black, but I can’t bear the creamy taste of full milk, so mine are still pretty light (and with extra protein!)

I think it’s fine to make it a daily habit unless you are very affected by the caffeine. I have yet to develop brown teeth or webbed toes, but I do try to remember not to drink it after about seven at night; if I do, I’ll be bright and chirpy at 2am…

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Jenny • February 15, 2008 at 10:34 pm

I have one word for you:

Welcome.

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E • February 16, 2008 at 8:45 am

Ahhh…coffee. I’m not exactly sure when I became addicted to it, but addicted I am. And did you know it has antioxidants? I’ve read several things online about it, but I’m too tired to do any links for you — I’m still working on my first cup of coffee :)

Also, I’m with you on the diet Coke, too. I LOVE the stuff, especially the fountain drink variety. oh gosh, now I’m having cravings…

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Lydia • February 17, 2008 at 12:40 am

I agree with the person above who mentioned the sugar-free caramel latte (made with skim milk). It is really, really great, as long as you like the caramel flavor. I will get one of those, often at one of these non-Starbucks, locally-owned coffee places. Their prices will usually be a little less confiscatory than what Starbucks charges, and it’s just as good. I love them when I’m on the road . . .

Welcome to coffee world!

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Margie • February 18, 2008 at 7:55 pm

I enjoy coffee. Used to drink it black, but after I had kids I got into the habit of having it with a little skim milk.

I have found that I’m pretty sensitive to caffeine; it will make me jittery if I have too much (like more than a cup or two of regular), and I have trouble falling asleep if I have it later in the day. So I limit myself to a few cups in the morning (made with 3 scoops decaf, 1 scoop regular–that way I can have as many as 3-4 cups and only get the equivalent of one cup’s worth of caffeine).

One thing I thought I’d mention, though, is that the boost (stimulant) you get from coffee wears off after about 6-8 hours. So for many people, that mid-afternoon slump is due to their coffee buzz wearing off. If you can drink another cup of coffee in the afternoon and not have it interfere with sleep, good for you; I just know that I can’t.

My mid-day pick-me-up of choice is a brisk walk outside at noon. Or sometimes a swim at the health club, when I have the time.

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mel • February 18, 2008 at 9:43 pm

i hope you read your comments because if you heart fake sugar, go to the coffee aisle and near the powdered creamer splenda has these flavored stir in packets that are calorie free and delicious! add a little skim milk, and as many packets as you want and it is soo good! they have a hazelnut one, mocha, vanilla…and a cinnamon spice i have n ever been able to find in a store.

also, if you like reese’s try one mocha packet or two mocha packets with one or two hazelnut packets with a little bit of skim milk and it is like coffeenutella*magic*.

PQ – Thanks for the tip. I’ll have to try that.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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