Can coffee shops fit into a healthy lifestyle?

Like many things, coffee shops are now an integral part of our lives and we wonder how we ever did without them. Where did we meet? How did we get our caffeine fix?

Like many families, a visit to Costa, or Starbucks (or any of the others), has not only become a vital ingredient of any shopping trip (if only to persuade some more reluctant shoppers to go in the first place!), but it has, on occasion, been THE reason for going into town. They have almost become the focal point of social life and generally are great places to hang out.

However, a recent trip to a well known outlet was marred by the inclusion of calorie amounts on the product description cards. This is a relatively new feature in this particular chain in response, presumably, to the charge that they don’t tell customers of the nutritional content of their food.

The calorie count.

Looking along the counter the lowest calorie count on show, a small muesli slice, was 258 calories. Previously enjoyed snacks were coming in at over 450 calories and the most heavily laden ones were those labelled “low fat”. How wrong THAT perception is!

Luckily the calorie count had not been extended to the drinks, although you hardly dare be told how fattening a full milk latte with a shot of vanilla and cream is!

So if you are someone who regularly goes into a coffee shop and has a medium cappuccino and a full fat muffin, then you’ll be lucky to get away with less that 900 calories. That’s OK if it is your lunch (although we would question the nutritional value of said items to get you through to supper without further snacking), but what if it’s a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack? You’ve used up almost a third of your calorie allowance (and probably more of your fat and sugar allowance) before you’ve even had any meals!

That’s fine if done rarely, but if you do it a lot, then you’ll be in trouble without even really realising it…after all it’s only a coffee and a bun!

To compound matters, the range of “healthier” options at these places is always limited to an expensive carton of fruit (that’s almost impossible to buy on purely cost grounds alone) and some fruit juices…and we all know how dangerous they are!

The visit to the coffee shop is certainly marketed as a “comfort” experience and people should certainly not going to stop going, but their rise in popularity in the last 20 years must be one of the contributing (certainly not the only, that’s for sure) factors in the growing size of the nation’s waistline. The tempting calories on offer are, normally, in addition to regular meals, rather than a substitute and who could possibly go in, sit down on one of those comfy sofas and order a tap water and an apple?

So keep enjoying those visits, but try and make them as a real treat, to be done rarely and with some thoughtful choice on food and drink selection. Go there for “lunch” so that the calories you do have are not extra and make sure you eat good nutritional food for the rest of the day. Always ask for a “skinny” something and try to avoid creamy or sugar laden extras.

Good luck!

The New In 90 team

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