Salt, Sugar, Fat and Copious Cups of Coffee

by DavalosMcCormack on January 31, 2011

I gave up coffee once for lent – well, coffee, tea and all other caffeinated beverages – and it was one of the hardest things I ever did. Seven weeks without a cuppa joe. But now, thanks to Starbucks, I could say I’m only going to have one cup the entire time – and still have way more than I need.

You might have read about the new serving size that Starbucks is unveiling; it’s the “trenta” iced coffee. And it’s massive, 31 ounces of milk and coffee and sugar and whatever else you want to put in it. 31 ounces. That’s incredible.

A normal sized cup of coffee is considered to be around 8 ounces. That means the Trenta is almost four times as big as normal. And presumably it has four times the sugar and fat content assuming you put in a proportionate amount of milk and sweeteners.

That’s a lot of extra calories to be pouring down your throat every day. Let’s take a look at the numbers – and these are based on Starbucks’ own calculations:

  • Trenta with non-fat milk = 190 calories
  • Trenta with 2% or soy milk = 220 calories
  • Trenta with whole milk = 230 calories

Assuming you don’t make any other changes in your life, those extra 230 calories mean you might gain almost 2 pounds a month, or more than 20 pounds a year. That’s a lot of extra weight just from one cup of coffee!

We all too readily make the mistake of thinking that drinks are simply items we use to quench our thirst or boost our energy. Often they do that but they also do a lot more, such as add on extra calories without adding on any extra nutritional benefit.

Not to mention the extra caffeine. And you thought you were already buzzed!

Kids stuff

In a way it’s not surprising that companies like Starbucks can get us to drink Trentas or other ridiculously supersized beverages. We’re suckers for all that fat and sugar.

Throw in a dollop of salt and you’ve got the three most popular tastes in America. And it seems we learn that lesson very early in life.

A new study, published in the journal Appetite, finds that children first develop their taste preferences at home – no surprise there really – and that by the time they reach preschool they have already learned then to identify brands that deliver those three tastes, namely salt, sugar and fat.

Now the study is quite complex so you can go and read the results yourself but the bottom line is that once kids had developed a preference for salt, sugar and fat they also developed a preference for flavor-added and highly processed foods that deliver those three ingredients in an easily consumed form.

That means they very quickly learned to gravitate towards sodas that were packed with sugar or other sweeteners. They also learned that items such as cheese puffs and corn chips also fed their cravings. Put them together and you have a perfect storm of poor food choices.

And of course advertisers and marketers seemed to understand this long before the scientists figured out what was going on. So for years they have being creating packages of junky food with colorful images of animals, creatures or cartoon characters designed to appeal to kids. The end result is that if the child gets the “food” of their choice you have one happy customer. Or one very unhappy one if the parent dares to say no.

It’s no wonder so many parents are tearing their hair out for ways to help get their kids to eat a healthier diet. The kids have been primed to head for whatever is worst for them. And everywhere they go they are surrounded by items designed to feed that appetite.

It’s also no wonder that so many children, teens and adults are overweight or obese. If you start out eating junk food at a young age, then by the time you get into your 20s, 30s or 40s, a drink like the Trenta is almost second nature.

So next time you are in a coffee shop or store or anywhere and someone is trying to sell you on the supersized version of something – take a moment to think about all those extra calories, all that extra fat, and whether you even really feel like having something that monstrous washing around inside you.

If you say no, you’ll not only save yourself a few extra pounds, you’ll also save yourself a few extra dollars.

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