Diet & Nutrition

Healthiest coffee orders, ranked by a dietitian

Are you a flat white or a long black lover? Dietitian Melissa Meier ranks your daily coffee order from most to least healthy. Plus, she reveals what milk alternative is the superior go-to.

Australians reportedly spend $1.6 billion on tea and coffee every year – and if you’re contributing a decent chunk to that, it’s probably wise to reflect on the healthfulness of your go-to order. Soy vs. almond milk? Latte vs. flat white? Chai vs. long black? Here’s what you need to know when it comes to a healthy brew.

How to make a healthy coffee choice

If you’re into milk-based coffees, the type of milk you choose is a key indicator of how healthy your cuppa actually is. While it’s trendy to forgo cow’s milk, it’s actually my top selection because it’s naturally jam-packed with hunger-busting protein and calcium for strong bones and teeth. If you’re otherwise healthy, it’s perfectly fine to opt for full fat milk if that’s what you’d prefer – but I’d usually recommend reduced-fat milk for most people as a strategy to keep calories in check.

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Got milk?

After cow’s milk, the next best option is soy – it’s also rich in protein, and if you’re lucky, it’ll be fortified with calcium, too.

At the bottom of the list is all of the trendy nut- and grain-based alternatives most people think are healthier… but *news flash*, they are not. Plant-based ‘mylks’ (like almond, macadamia and oat) are usually mostly water, containing a miniscule amount of whatever nut or grain they are made from. For this reason, they’re relatively low in protein and micronutrients.

The next consideration is the size of your cup. While a small coffee might only contain a couple of hundred millilitres, super-sized sips can pack more than half a litre, which is a little excessive. Unless you’re into black coffee (which is virtually calorie free), I’d recommend opting for a small-sized brew to keep the portion size in check.

Last but not least, it’s important to consider the added extras. Yes, a little bit of sugar might make your cuppa taste delish, but it’ll also add a tonne of unnecessary calories (not to mention the damage it can do to your teeth). Same goes for sweet syrups like caramel and vanilla, too.

Popular coffee orders, ranked from healthiest to least healthy

To compare apples with apples (or coffee beans with coffee beans, in this case), I’ve listed popular brews per 290mL – that’s equivalent to a small size from a popular coffee chain.

1. Flat white or latte on reduced-fat milk

Per 290mL:

  • 467kJ
  • 8.7g protein
  • 12.2g sugar
  • 2.1g saturated fat
  • 290mg calcium
  • 110mg caffeine

2. Cappuccino on reduced-fat milk

Per 290mL:

  • 458kJ
  • 8.4g protein
  • 12.2g sugar
  • 2g saturated fat
  • 273mg calcium
  • 136mg caffeine

3. Flat white or latte on soy milk

Per 290mL:

  • 589kJ
  • 9g protein
  • 6.4g sugar
  • 1.1g saturated fat
  • 215mg calcium
  • 110mg caffeine

4. Cappuccino on soy milk

Per 290mL:

  • 574kJ
  • 8.4g protein
  • 7g sugar
  • 1g saturated fat
  • 203mg calcium
  • 136mg caffeine

5. Flat white or latte on full cream milk

Per 290mL:

  • 661kJ
  • 7.8g protein
  • 13.9g sugar
  • 5.2g saturated fat
  • 247mg calcium
  • 110mg caffeine

6. Cappuccino on full cream milk

Per 290mL:

  • 641kJ
  • 7.5g protein
  • 13.9g sugar
  • 4.9g saturated fat
  • 229mg calcium
  • 136mg caffeine

7. Flat white or latte on almond milk

Per 290mL:

  • 375kJ
  • 1.6g protein
  • 4.9g sugar
  • 0.6g saturated fat
  • 175mg calcium
  • 58mg caffeine

8. Long black

Per 290mL:

  • 12kJ
  • 0.3g protein
  • 0.3g sugar
  • 0g saturated fat
  • 9mg calcium
  • 293mg caffeine

9. Chai latte on reduced-fat milk

Per 290mL:

  • 954kJ
  • 12.8g protein
  • 29g sugar
  • 3.3g saturated fat
  • 415mg calcium
  • 23mg caffeine

10. Chai latte on full cream milk

Per 290mL:

  • 1180kJ
  • 11.6g protein
  • 31g sugar
  • 6.9g saturated fat
  • 363mg calcium
  • 23mg caffeine

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.