Does this French Vanilla make my butt look fat?

K-Cup Flavored CofeeCredit: sxc.huCoffees with a little added, non-coffee flavor are a popular and tasty way to feed those caffeine cravings, or simply as a refreshing hot beverage on a cold day.  But can it have a caloric impact?  Is it loaded with sugar?  People who are trying to lose or maintain weight, or are on sugar-restricted diets for medical reasons, often focus on the solid foods they're eating without realizing how much the liquids in their diet are affecting them.

Coffee by itself - black, with no additives - is worth only about two calories for an 8 ounce cup.  That's great, if you're one of those freaks who doesn't load their drink with sweetener and cream, but for us mere mortals, a little sugar and a bit of half-and-half bump it up toward the 100-calorie mark.  Like it sweeter or creamier?  Add more calories, and multiply that 8 ounce figure by how many cups you really drink over the course of a day.  Or go out to Starbucks and try their 450 calorie, 16 ounce eggnog latte.

So is your daily flavored-coffee fix causing you to put on a little extra around the midsection?  The answer is clear and definitive:  "it depends"!

Whence Cometh Flavor?

The nutritional content of your flavored coffee - added cream and sweetener aside - depends on where the flavoring comes from.  One of the most popular ways to spice up your morning mug is to use the flavored creams or syrups available at many grocery stores.  Most of these do contain calories, but they also take the place of some or all of the other additives you might usually put in; if you're considering one of these products, you might gain or lose calories depending on how much of what ends up going in.

Flavored Coffee SyrupsCredit: Amazon.comIf you're a fan of tastes more exotic than the generic hazelnut or vanilla, the syrup products are available online and sometimes in specialty shops in a much wider variety than what you can typically find at a chain grocery store.  Often there are zero or low-calorie alternatives; the Da Vinci brand, for instance, offers over 40 no-calorie products.   I'm a big fan of their sugar-free Almond flavor as well as the Coconut.

The syrup method is convenient for many people - especially for those who share a communal coffee pot with people who may not share their tastes.  But if you can brew your own, pre-flavored coffee is the way to go - if you get a brand that's made from a good quality bean, its flavors are richer and fuller than what a pour-in substance can add.

Flavored coffee blends are made by soaking the beans, still warm from roasting, in flavored oils to absorb the taste.  The big advantage to this method is that it adds no extra calories or sugar to the blend!  I like to buy whole, flavored beans and grind them just before I use them.  I've found that many such blends have a natural, non-caloric sweetness to them, so I end up putting fewer additives into my cup - resulting in fewer overall calories consumed!

Now if only I could find a similar scheme to cut my caloric intake from pizza, ice cream, and italian subs.