Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 18, 2021
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Drive-thru tested: ice coffee

Canadians love their coffee. It’s what we drink more of than any other beverage, according to the Canadian Coffee Drinking Study.* Apparently, we drink almost two and a half times as much java as we do bottled water. Almost two-thirds of us drink it every day, with Quebecers filling up the most often and Maritimers the least. While most of it is consumed hot, our appetite for cold specialty coffees has doubled in the past five years.

What does this mean for our diets? Some studies indicate that there are health benefits associated with coffee. Recent ones suggest it may reduce the incidence of gout, help prevent diabetes and decrease the risk of some cancers. Current recommendations suggest that Canadians can consume about three to four 8-ounce (250-ml) cups of joe or tea daily, as part of a healthy diet. That said, remember that most take-out cups contain significantly more than 8 ounces.

The one place specialty coffees do damage is at our waistline. It’s easy to drink an additional 1000 calories a day just by buying an iced coffee at lunch and another as an afternoon pick-me-up. Here are some hints on how to make your iced java fix a little healthier.


It’s easy to find nutritional information on Starbucks’ website. The site contains two reference guides: one that lists beverages containing less than 200 calories, the other that provides options for special requests. If you want to cut calories, customize your cold coffee and stick to small sizes. A 12-ounce (375-ml) latte made with skim milk contains 160 calories, while a comparable 24-ounce (750-ml) latte has 210 calories. Most of the drinks here can be made with skim, two-percent, whole or soy milk. You can save up to 40 calories per latte if you choose skim instead of whole milk. Another way to save calories is obviously to skip the whipped-cream topping.

Most shocking: the “light” Frappuccino contains 160 calories with whipped cream and 110 without. Sounds more like a “heavy” Frappuccino. Your best bet here is an iced latte made with skim milk, which contains 70 calories for a 12-ounce serving.

Rating: 4 stars

Second Cup

You’re faced with tonnes of choices here: you can have a Creamy Fruit Smoothie, an Icy Fruit Smoothie, an ice coffee or tea, or a cold chocolate. You also have the option of personalizing your cuppa. The 16-ounce (500-ml) Banana Berry Creamy Smoothie, when made with two-percent milk, contains 340 calories and 770 calories at 24 ounces.

The surprise here is the Skinny Chocolate Chiller. The name led me to believe that this would be a lower-calorie concoction when, in fact, the smallest 16-ounce cup contains 390 calories. A better choice would be the Icy Fruit Smoothie, which weighs in at 140 to 170 calories, depending on the variety, or the Icepresso Chiller (240 calories), if you’re in serious need of caffeine.

Rating: 3 stars

Tim Hortons

Having a limited choice of cold coffees is a good thing here, given that you can only choose the ever-so-rich Ice Cap. Not surprisingly, nutritional information has only been provided for the absolute smallest, 10-ounce (300-ml) portion: depending on the flavour you choose, calories range from 150 to 240. You can ask that it be made with milk instead of cream, which can save up to 170 calories per 10-ounce portion. Save 170 calories daily for one year and you can lose up to 18 pounds. So remembering to ask for milk goes a long way.

Rating: 2 stars

Dairy Queen

At Dairy Queen, it’s the Moolatte. You can choose a flavour, but that’s about it. And talk about one high-calorie, high-fat choice. For example, a Mocha Moolatte contributes 590 calories and 32 percent of your daily value for fat. That takes 188 minutes of walking to burn off! The only thing you can do to reduce the calories here is to leave some in the glass or simply stay away!

Rating: 1 star

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.