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By David Zinczenko, with Matt Goulding – Posted on Tue, Mar 30, 2010, 4:19 pm PDT


I met an old college buddy for brunch at a local coffeehouse recently. “You’re the nutrition guy, so I gotta be careful what I eat!” he teased, and ordered a totally healthy egg-white omelet. But then he ordered a coffee drink to go with it—some kind of whipped mocha frappe concoction—and all his nutritional hard work went right out the window. I didn’t want to ruin his appetite, so I held my tongue. But my buddy made a classic mistake: He was watching what he ate, but not what he drank. The damage: more than 400 additional calories, slurped from a paper cup.


The fact is, a shocking number of the calories we consume at coffee joints doesn’t come from the food. It comes from the coffee, and that’s a shame. A cup of coffee in its raw, natural state contains only 5 calories, and the metabolism-boosting benefits of caffeine actually make coffee a good weight-loss supplement. But too much of our coffee has been razzle-dazzled into sugary, fatty, dessert-like beverages: Instead of drinking a cup of Joe, we’re drinking… Joeshakes.

That said, as we discovered researching our forthcoming book, Drink This, Not That!, you can get your morning buzz without the accompanying caloric load, if you know what to look for—and what to avoid. Here’s an overview of the best—and worst—coffee drinks in America.


Dairy Queen Caramel MooLatte (24 fl oz)

870 calories

24 g fat (19 g saturated, 1 g trans)

112 g sugars

Per ounce this so-called coffee concoction delivers 1 gram of fat and 4.6 grams of sugar, making even Starbucks’ over-the-top line of Frappuccinos look like reasonably decent options. Maybe that’s why DQ decided to give it a name that alludes to the animal it promises to turn you into. If you can bring yourself to backtrack out of Dairy Queen and walk down to the neighboring coffee shop, you can order a large iced latte with a couple shots of flavored syrup and still save somewhere around 600 calories. (Do that a few times a week and lose 25 pounds in a year!) But if you’re stuck where you are, you better plan on pairing a small treat with a regular cup of coffee.

Drink This Instead!

Small Chocolate Ice Cream Cone with a medium cup of coffee

240 calories

7 g fat (5 g saturated)

34 g sugars

BONUS TIP: Drinks aren’t the only way to pack on unwanted calories. Think salads are healthy? Check out these 15 gut-busting salads.


Baskin Robbins Cappuccino Blast Turtle (large, 32 fl oz)

960 calories

27 g fat (16 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)

103 g sugars

In early 2009, when last we compiled our Worst Drinks list, Baskin Robbins stole the Worst Drink spot by a caloric landslide. The chain’s Chocolate Oreo Shake had 2,600 calories, and the Heath and York Peppermint Patty Shake wasn’t far behind. Thankfully, Baskin has since removed those items from its menu, but if it wants amnesty from us, it will have to drop the 32-ounce cup. 

Drink This Instead!

Cappuccino Blast made with Soft Serve (small, 16 fl oz)

280 calories

9 g fat (6 g saturated)

21 g sugars

BONUS TIP: For full nutrition information for all of your favorite chain restaurants and thousands of foods, download the bestselling Eat This, Not That! iPhone app. It’s like having your own personal nutritionist in your pocket at all times, and will help you avoid the caloric calamities and guide you to the best ways to lose your belly fast.


Krispy Kreme Lotta Latte Chiller (Large, 20 oz)

1,050 calories

40 g fat (36 g saturated)

97 g sugars

This has a lotta something, but it ain’t latte. The average latte of this size, even when made with whole milk, has about 6 grams of saturated fat. This “kremey” abomination has six times that much—nearly two days’ worth! Unfortunately Krispy Kreme makes it difficult to choose an alternative. Sure, the chain offers a line of hot espresso beverages, but it refuses to spill the beans on the nutritional info. That means you’re taking a big chance when you order the calorific Mocha or Kaffe Kreme. Instead, break your order down into two functions: the sweet and the caffeinated.

Drink This Instead!

Very Berry Chiller (Large, 20 oz) with a cup of regular coffee

290 calories

0 g fat

71 g sugars

BONUS TIP: Save calories, time, and money with the free Eat This, Not That! newsletter. Sign up today and you’ll get the Eat This, Not That! guide to shopping once and eating for a week, also for free.


Smoothie King Mo’cuccino Caramel (large, 40 fl oz)

1,140 calories

24 g fat (12 g saturated)

20 g protein

176 g sugars

The good news is that all Smoothie King’s coffee smoothies come equipped with a big scoop of protein powder. The bad news is that if you order this one, it will cost you more than half your day’s calories and as much sugar as 8 full-sized Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars. Stick with reasonable drinks and—more importantly—reasonable portions.

Drink This Instead!

Coffee Smoothie Caramel (20 fl oz)

340 calories

1 g fat (0 g saturated)

14 g protein

56 g sugars

BONUS TIP: For a more comprehensive list of dubious beverages, and what to drink instead, check our 2010 list of the 20 Worst Drinks in America.


Cosi Double Oh! Arctic Mocha (gigante, 23 oz)

1,210 calories

19 g fat (10 g saturated)

240 g sugars

A frozen mocha will never be a stellar option, but we’ve still never come across anything that competes with this cookie-coffee-milkshake hybrid from Cosi. Essentially it’s a mocha-flavored Blizzard made with Oreo cookies and topped with whipped cream and an oversized Oreo. Maybe that’s why it has half your day’s saturated fat and more sugar than a dozen Twinkies.

Drink This Instead!

Mocha (tall, 11 oz)

298 calories

8 g fat (5 g saturated)

41 g sugars

BONUS TIP: For other coffee secrets and tons of useful tweets, follow Dave Zinczenko on Twitter

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