Summertime Thirst Quenchers: More Than You Bargained For (Part 1)

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August is upon us — the height of the “dog days of summer.” I don’t know about you, but I feel like we haven’t had much of a summer here in the Northeast. With all of our rainy, damp weather lately, I’m thinking this is more like the Pacific Northwest. But be that as it may, it’s still summer.

Rain or shine, something I’ve noticed more and more these days, particularly as I commute to work, are the overly large drink containers (buckets?) that people carry around, especially in the morning. Usually they’re filled with some kind of iced coffee (probably a Coffee Coolatta) from Dunkin’ Donuts, but sometimes they’re from Starbucks instead. It has me wondering how many calories and how much carbohydrate (never mind caffeine!) people slurp up through the straw each morning. So this week, I thought I’d start taking a closer look at some of the summertime beverages that people reach for when they’re parched and some possible alternatives to help cut down on the calories, carbohydrate, and in some cases, fat.


Iced Coffee
True iced coffee is just brewed coffee served cold. Some people brew their coffee and chill it, while others cold-brew their coffee to lessen the bitterness. Some folks add milk, cream, and/or some kind of sweetener, while others drink it straight. Let’s compare two popular versions of iced coffee:

Dunkin’ Donuts
Medium (24-ounce) Iced Coffee: 15 calories, 2 grams of carbohydrate, 0 grams of fat

Venti (24-ounce) Iced Brewed Coffee: 130 calories, 31 grams of carbohydrate, 0 grams of fat

Why the high calorie and carbohydrate content in the Starbucks? To look at the picture on the Starbucks Web site, one would think it’s simply coffee, but Starbucks describes this beverage as “slightly sweetened.” In fact, sipping this is the equivalent of eating two slices of bread or a medium banana, carbohydrate-wise.

The winner: Dunkin’ Donuts.

Alternative: Make up a pitcher of your own iced coffee with your favorite coffee blend. To cut back on the caffeine, make it with a decaffeinated variety or drink a smaller serving.

Frozen Cappuccino
Frozen cappuccino drinks have become a popular beverage, combining coffee with a frothy, milkshake-type base. All ages enjoy this frozen, sweetened drink. Again, let’s compare two popular versions of this frozen concoction:

Dunkin’ Donuts
Medium (24-ounce) Frozen Cappuccino with skim milk: 410 calories, 93 grams of carbohydrate, 0 grams of fat

Venti (24-ounce) Caffé Vanilla Frappuccino Light Blended Coffee: 280 calories, 59 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram of fat

Surprised? I am. Even a small (16-ounce) Dunkin’ Donuts Frozen Cappuccino with skim milk has almost 300 calories. For some reason, I thought the Starbucks version would have been a lot higher in calories and carbohydrate.

Nonetheless, neither of these is a smart choice. And for a lot of people, it’s not unusual to grab one of these drinks on a daily basis. Imagine the impact on your weight and your blood glucose if one of these beverages were to become part of your daily meal plan!

The winner: Starbucks. You can cut calories and carbohydrate further by choosing the Tall size, which contains 140 calories and 30 grams of carbohydrate. However, my advice is to save these frozen drinks for the occasional treat.

OK, one more comparison: Vanilla bean frozen cappuccino/frappuccino.

Dunkin’ Donuts
Medium (24-ounce) Vanilla Bean Coolatta: 650 calories, 136 grams of carbohydrate, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat

Venti (24-ounce) Vanilla Bean Frappuccino Blended Crème: 600 calories, 103 grams of carbohydrate, 15 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat

There’s really no winner here. The calories alone constitute one-quarter to one-half of some people’s daily calorie goals. And if you’re on a lower-carbohydrate eating plan, forget it. The carbohydrate content in both of these drinks is far more than what most people with diabetes consume at one meal.

The other concern is the fat content, and particularly the saturated fat content. Both of these beverages could be considered artery-cloggers. Think of it this way — you’re consuming the equivalent of 2–3 pats of butter when you gulp these down!

The winner: Tied. (But neither is recommended.)

A final note: The World Cancer Research Fund surveyed a number of iced coffee drinks from various chains and concluded that, due to their high calorie content, these types of drinks are a big culprit in contributing to overweight and obesity. These conditions can, in turn, increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

More next week!

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