If like me you are more dependant on coffee than you’d like to admit, you probably like it in all forms. I have a serious phobia of weak/bad coffee and after a spell living in Spain and countless trips to visit my parents in the Canary Islands I’ve been totally spoiled by rich, velvety cortados and amazing little espresso bars. Despite loving ‘real’ coffee, I’m definitely partial to a more americanised Starbucks-style drink every now and again especially if they aren’t too sickly sweet and have a good strong coffee base. For me a vanilla or caramel latte is the perfect afternoon treat, but sweet milk-based drinks can be a fast-track to a bad diet without even realising it. Put bluntly, you’re drinking a LOT of calories and not getting much satisfaction from it compared to a meal or snack. A few Starbucks lattes a week and you can end up with thousands of extra calories, a ton of sugar and you’re left wondering why you feel sluggish, you’ve got bad skin and your jeans are tight because you’re not eating differently, right?
I wanted to figure out a way to enjoy a sweet treat regularly without it being terrible for me – for me totally eliminating things or seeing foods as ‘bad’ isn’t the way to go and in the past has led to a bad relationship with food, an “all or nothing” approach and feelings of guilt and denial. Guilt and food shouldn’t go together in my opinion, so rather than denying myself and yo-yoing from here to Timbuktu I wanted to find a drink that was delicious but also didn’t totally ruin my weight loss goals. The answer was surprisingly easy!
A Starbucks vanilla latte, and not even the largest one, has an impressive 290 calories. Now, I’m not someone who likes to calorie-shame, it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of what you’re eating and just because something is low calorie it doesn’t mean it’s good for you or is going to benefit your body (some of my favourite healthy meals can be calorie dense and packed with nutrients) but in this case, it’s all about satisfaction. Am I going to be as full on that 290 calories as I would be with a coffee and a handful of nuts? No. Aside from the calories it also contains a whopping 35g of sugars and 140mg of sodium, not that either of these in the right balance are bad, but it’s a lot for a drink. My DIY latte on the other hand has 50 calories, 5g of sugars and 4 mg of sodium. That’s 240 calories less, 30g of sugars less and a HUGE 136mg less of sodium.
The star of the show here is the Vivesoy Vanilla Soy Milk. I picked this up in Tesco, and whilst any vanilla soy/rice/coconut/almond milk would work, I have personally found that soy gives the most substantial froth which I really like. I use the frothing arm on my espresso machine (I have the Delonghi Icona Vintage FYI) but you can buy little electric milk frothers for next to nothing (I’m talking a couple of pounds from Ikea or eBay) or manual ones – they will change your coffee forever and give you that barista-made drink to rival a coffee shop. If you really don’t want to get a frother or you want to make this before you pick one up, you can always heat up the milk, put it inside a bottle and shake shake shake until it froths a little bit. It won’t give you superstar foam but it makes a difference and you get a little arm workout in the process.
I make my espresso using my machine but you can use instant coffee or a cafetiere, moka pot etc, and then add my frothed milk. I worked out that 1/4 cup has 54 calories of milk in it, so I fill it almost to the top, and it not only makes the perfect amount of frothed milk for my mug (since it doubles in size) but it brings my drink to the 50cal mark. It already has a hint of vanilla and it’s already sweet, but if I need more I add a little bit of liquid vanilla stevia. I don’t normally add this as it’s perfect as it is, but if you need it, that’s a good option. The milk has sugars and some sucralose in there, but life is all about balance and compared to a Starbucks latte, it’s practically saintly. Now I can enjoy my vanilla latte whenever I like and instead of practically consuming a liquid snack, I can drink it with my afternoon snack. That’s more like it! Who knew it would be as easy as a flavoured milk?