8 Calorie-Free Coffee Hacks That Will Help You Ditch Your Starbucks Habit

Updated: Sep. 15, 2020

It's no secret that all those fancy, secret menu Starbucks coffee drinks are absolutely delicious, but if you're trying to stay healthy and mind your calories, flavored drinks can be diet sabotage. We spoke with top nutrition experts to get their favorite calorie-free and low-calorie coffee hacks.

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Spice it up

After you brew the perfect cup of coffee, add a sprinkle of cinnamon right into your cup, recommends Joy Bauer, nutrition and health expert of the TODAY Show, and founder of Nourish Snacks. “A little calorie-free spice is nice.” Cinnamon is also said to reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) too.

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Invoke seasonal flavors

“Try a sprinkle of nutmeg for a festive feel,” says Joy of one of the easiest coffee hacks. “It’ll remind you of holiday flavors like spiced eggnog.” Here, answers to questions you’ve always had about coffee.

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Dial up the heat

Crank up the heat by adding a dash of cayenne for a Mexican-style java jolt. Joy warns us to use this spicy addition only sparingly, but loves that it can help rev up a sluggish metabolism. “This gives new meaning to ‘hot’ joe!” she says. Check out these other proven ways to boost metabolism.


Try a DIY pumpkin spice latte

“Make your own pumpkin spice latte whenever you’re in the mood—why wait until the fall to enjoy this beloved beverage?” Joy says. Combine vanilla extract, skim milk, some cold or regular brew, and 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice for a DIY pumpkin spice latte. “You’ll transform your coffee into festive holiday beverage,” she adds. If you’re slightly less concerned about each calorie, Joy says you can sweeten the drink with either a single teaspoon of sugar or a small squirt of whipped cream, which she says has only 15 calories. You can also try this nutritionist-approved recipe for a healthier pumpkin spice latte.

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Make it a mocha

“Try adding pure cocoa powder to your coffee,” advises Stephanie Greenspan, MS, a registered dietitian in Northern New Jersey. You can even use this hack at Starbucks because most of their straw and napkin counters have cocoa sprinklers as well. “It’s low in calories and loaded with antioxidants, so just a sprinkle will add flavor without any risk of overdoing the calories,” Greenspan says.


Mix and match

Greenspan says mixing cinnamon and cocoa powders—both nearly calorie free, is basically a flavor fiesta, giving a subtle caffeinated nod to Mexican hot chocolate and other warm spiced drinks that are usually indulgent. (These hot chocolate hacks just might challenge your love for coffee.)


Add a hit of protein

It may sound weird, lumpy, or gross (or all three) to add your regular protein powder to coffee, but Greenspan says it’s all about technique. “Brew your regular cup and add it to a blender along with protein powder,” she says. “It makes for a great breakfast, especially for those who have a tendency to skip an a.m. meal.” Here’s what happens to your body when you skip breakfast.

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Get minty fresh

Minty coffee? Yes, please. Just don’t use the dried stuff. Throw a leaf or two of the fresh-plucked green goodness that may grow in your garden or be on sale at the grocery store, because mint is loaded with antioxidants and is a known mood enhancer. Plus, it’s virtually calorie-free to steep a leaf or two. If mint iced tea can be popular, we know mint espresso drinks can be too (especially since Starbucks already offers mint-flavored syrup).