The Coffee Date: 7 Survival Strategies For Not Ruining Your Blood Sugar

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The coffee date has become a cultural phenomenon. Is an old friend in town? Did you meet a potentially special someone online and you’re ready to meet in person? The coffee shop is your answer. You can buy a drink and sit for hours listening to tunes by indie songwriters, and though your drink may cost 10 times what you could have made it for at home, it just tastes better when it’s served to you by a friendly barista and you’re sitting with a friend.

Step aside, happy hour, there’s a new game in town.

Of course, if you have diabetes, popping into a coffee shop can be like popping into a very cozy minefield. You don’t want to say no to a date with friends, and you also probably don’t want to sit there awkwardly with a glass of water while your friends sip fragrant concoctions of fluffy white foam. Still, making a decision that will wreak havoc on your day seems a steep price just to fit in with the crowd.

We’ve got you covered. Armed with a plan, you can stride into your local vendor of caffeinated brews and sip with no regrets. Here are 7 simple strategies for making smart choices the next time you meet for a cuppa something tasty.

1. Be a leader not a follower

Be a force for good, because even your friend the gym enthusiast who eats kale and protein powder for breakfast would be better served by saying no to a cup of seasonally-flavored sugar and empty calories. Perhaps your friend is ordering the 16 ounce vanilla latte from Starbucks and being healthy by choosing nonfat milk. But even that is a solid 200 calories and 37 grams of carbohydrates. Ouch.

No one needs to drink a meal’s worth of calories in one sitting. Order first so that you won’t be tempted, or subconsciously enabled, to indulge because your friend did. Perhaps you’ll influence them to make a healthier decision. Don’t think of yourself as the only person who can’t order a sugary latte; think of yourself as the person with the sense to say no.

2. Beware the lingo

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a truly healthy choice and something that just sounds healthy. How do these strike you: Cold-pressed, handcrafted, all-natural, locally-sourced, or no high-fructose corn syrup. Most of us know, when we take the time to think about it, that how something is made, where it’s from, or what kind of sugar it has does not actually affect how healthy it is or its carbohydrate count. Even organic fair-trade all-natural sugar is still sugar.

Case in point: If you pop into Starbucks for a venti Strawberry Acai Refresher, which sounds so very light and airy, you’ll still consume 130 calories. That doesn’t seem that bad, but packed into those calories are 30 grams of sugar and 32 grams of carbs, which is significantly less refreshing. Don’t let fancy marketing tricks get you to make decisions you normally wouldn’t, and when deciding about a particular choice, stick to the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.

Not sure where to find your facts? We’re glad you brought that up.

3. Do a background check

It’s not hard to get more information about your coffee drinks. A quick online search will often reveal nutrition guides from major chains, and even if you’re going to a mom and pop shop, you can usually estimate nutritional value based on similar drinks in the same size from a chain. Starbucks’ online tool allows you to see how the nutritional content of your drink order changes based on your size, type of milk, and other options. Warning: it can be addictive playing with the options to get your drink of choice within the carb and calorie range that you’re comfortable with, but the process helps educate you about how different choices affect your drinks.

Watching the calorie count drop by 80-100 calories just from saying “no whip” makes it a lot easier to leave behind the topper. If you know your drink’s stats beforehand, it’s easier to order with confidence, because you know exactly what you’re signing up for.

Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.
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