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10 Healthier Alternatives to Your Morning Cup of Coffee

If your New Year's resolutions include cutting back on caffeine, here are some great swaps for your beloved morning coffee.

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Cascara

This tea, made from the husk of the dried raisin-like coffee cherries, has less than a quarter of the caffeine of coffee. The drink doesn’t taste like coffee—more like herbal tea. Casara is just beginning to gain popularity in the United States, and can be found at some cafes, including Devoción in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where they make it a little differently than everyone else. “We are using a different type of cascara—from the inner part of the fresh cherry. It’s reduced into a type of molasses and mixed with water,” says Steven Sutton, founder of Devoción. As a bonus, cascara is a superfood with potent antioxidents. “It’s 100 percent fruit and water. You don’t have to add anything to it.” Sutton says it has tamarind, cherry, and plum notes, and that people who order it don’t add sugar or milk because it tastes great on its own. Check out the amazing health benefits of tea.

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Golden Lattes

The “golden” part of these coffee-free drinks comes from the yellow shade of turmeric, which is mixed with steamed milk (usually almond milk or coconut milk, so it’s vegan) as well as cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. It’s often sweetened with agave by vegans and honey by non-vegans; it has a chai-like spice to it. Considered one of the hottest drinks of the year, golden lattes are widely found at coffee shops and restaurants that cater to vegans, such as The Butcher’s Daughter in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. Did you know that turmeric has many beauty benefits too?

 

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Matcha

Matcha tea has a number of health benefits, which may be part of the reason this brew, made from finely milled green tea whipped with hot water until frothy, is popping up all over. Matcha can also be used in a variety of different types of recipes from coconut matcha lattes to matcha lemonade and matcha smoothies, all with an earthy, barky undertone. You’ll find matcha-focused boutiques—including Manhattan’s Cha Cha Matcha—in most major cities. You can also make your own using store-bought matcha such as Carrington Farms Matcha Tea Powder.

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Kombucha

This blend of tea, sugar, and a combination of bacteria and yeast tastes a bit like a fizzy, sour apple cider with a touch of vinegar, and is said to have a variety of health benefits. Look for cafes and restaurants that have kombucha on tap, such as Forager in San Jose, California, where there is a rotating choice of flavors on tap. According to Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD,  author, and founder of The F-Factor Diet, kombucha can improve digestion and even help stabilize mood. Because kombucha is fermented, it’s on the list of probiotic foods to work into your diet for better health.

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Yerba Maté

Yerba Maté, a South American infusion known for its earthy, herbal flavor, is popular in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. It has matteine in it, which offers a similar stimulant to caffeine. The Random Tea Room & Curiosity Shop in Philadelphia sells several different yerba maté options that can be ordered hot or iced, with or without milk and sugar. They even sell it served the traditional fashion, in a gourd. As a bonus, evidence suggests that yerba maté can lower blood sugar—and even prevent weight gain.

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Apple cider

While this option has zero caffeine and plenty of sugar, it is a great choice for those who need a warm drink to start their morning on cold winter days and also have the habit of heading to a coffee shop before work. In many cases, you can order cider from wherever you usually get coffee. Not available? Consider a small hot chocolate as a sweet substitute. Don’t miss the ways that apples can help you live longer.

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Protein shake

For anyone on a low-carb, low-sugar, high-protein diet, packing in enough protein during the day can be tough. But starting off the day with a protein shake—made with protein powder, ice, and maybe a banana—gives you a great head start. Just be sure to choose your ingredients carefully; Zuckerbrot warns that they can be just as bad as milkshakes if you add calorie-dense items like ice cream. Here’s how to find the best protein powder for you.

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Green juice

Just as protein shakes address protein shortfalls, green juices help those who struggle to get enough leafy greens in their diet. If you tend to get burgers instead of salads and ignore the veggies on your plate, a morning green juice—with hardly any fruit added—can be very helpful. However, as Zuckerbrot warns, drinking your greens can leave you hungrier than if you ate the whole fiber-rich vegetables. For the best of both worlds, consider these tricks to making a healthy smoothie.

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Dandy blend

Fans of Dandy Blend, an herbal, caffeine-free coffee substitute, have used it successfully to help kick a coffee habit. Dandy Blend is made of dandelions and roots (including chicory and sugar beetroot) as well as rye and barley. It’s steeped like a tea, and tastes great with added milk and sugar. Or consider swapping sugar for this natural sweetener that actually tames blood sugar.

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Tonic

A simple mix of tonic with ginger, lemon, and honey brought to a boil and then chilled can be delicious if you prefer a chilled beverage in the morning, perhaps to replace an a.m. cold brew. Some restaurants, such as Egg Shop in Manhattan, list them on the menu, and theirs has the addition of turmeric.

If you’re still stuck on java, here are some ways to make your coffee habit healthier.

Sherri Eisenberg
Sherri Eisenberg is an award-winning glossy print veteran for top travel, bridal. food, and lifestyle magazines who is equally deft with digital, social, mobile, and branded content. She has written for Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, and Bon Appétit, and has served as cruise editor for Travel and Leisure and Travel Holiday as well as Cruiseline.com and ShermansCruise.com. She has also been a columnist for The Los Angeles Times and, as senior travel editor of Condé Nast's Brides, she won the Lowell Thomas Gold Award for best travel coverage in a non-travel magazine. Sherri is the author of "The Food Lovers Guide to Brooklyn," which was published by Globe Pequot Press in 2010 and covered by everyone from The New York Times to Time magazine. She keeps a bag packed at all times and has no plants or pets so she can hop on a plane — or a ship — at a moment's notice.