Coffee or Cake?

It goes hand in hand doesn’t it, coffee and cake (or scone or muffin).  

It seems like such a small insignificant snack, but what’s really lurking underneath that soft velvety texture. 1 standard slice of chocolate cake (51g) according to the NZ food composition tables is close to 147 calories, high in sugar and fat and low in fibre - now that all depends on the type of cake that you’re eating of course. Add a bit of cream and icing and now the same piece of cake is 185 calories. A slice of carrot cake of the same size with cream cheese icing is 195 calories. A 51g cheese scone weighs in at 163 calories and a 60g muffin comes in at a whopping 216 calories. Now just look at the portions in cafes...I can tell you that you are NOT getting a 51g slice of cake.

Now let’s add that trim Mocha with our muffin (because we’re watching our weight). We’re now enjoying a 320 calorie snack. Now there’s nothing wrong with a treat now and then, and if you’ve just done a 2 hour bike ride out to a distant cafe, then it’s likely you will burn this off. But this snack will take you either 32 minutes of running or about 45-50 minutes of power walking to burn off.

Here’s a breakdown of the calories in coffee. This is not including sugar or syrups which are 20 calories per teaspoon.

coffee cake.png

Visit the Starbucks website for a calorie breakdown of their products.

All calories aside though, it’s the composition of this combination which is ticking with a metabolic time bomb. You have all heard of insulin – Insulin clears the blood of excess glucose and sends it off to cells for use as energy. If there is a very large amount of glucose in the blood then some of it is chemically changed into fat and heads off to the fat cells. Sugar and refined carbohydrates (flour) stimulate the release of insulin, and due to the high amounts of these substances in our coffee and cake you can guarantee a lot of it is going to fat storage. Not only that, the butter and oil in our cake (and maybe the fat in our full fat latte) are also heading off for fat storage as well...That’s a double fat storage hit right there.  Not because fat is bad, but because you're eating a big ol' food-bomb.

But wait there’s more. We always hear stories that caffeine speeds up the metabolism and helps to burn more fat – this is not necessarily true. Coffee also stimulates an insulin release. So now we’ve got sugar AND coffee stimulating insulin release, which is releasing large amounts of insulin all at once into the body, if we keep this up, then we overwork the pancreas and eventually it becomes inefficient and ineffective at releasing insulin – and that’s when we’re looking at weight gain and insulin resistance. Again we must remember, all of this is not an issue if you’ve just done an hour or so of good hard exercise, as the insulin release will suck most of the sugar straight into the muscle cell which has just been depleted.

On another note, there is also evidence that coffee can raise cholesterol. It also raises blood pressure and stimulates the release of adrenalin and cortisol – both stress hormones which can also add to weight gain and insulin resistance.  Oh yeah, and too much cortisol WILL slow down your thyroid function.

But I won’t leave you high and dry without a solution, I used to be a daily jumbo muffin/coffee drinker, it was a daily habit that lasted for years, and not only that I would put 6 sugars into my full fat large latte....oh, and I had about 6 of those a day – recipe for disaster.

If you find yourself in this daily habit try to cut it back to every second day for a few weeks and then every third day and so on. Or you can try just having a muffin one day and a coffee the next day and then wean this down slowly. If you regularly walk past a cafe on the way to work, change the route that you take to break the habit of ‘stopping in’. Make a point of leaving the office when the bun run comes around so that you miss out.

If it’s calories you’re trying to cut but can’t quite give up the flavour yet, try having a long black with a splash of milk and biscotti. This will save you around 200 calories off a latte and a piece of cake.

It’s nice to head out with the girls for a bit of morning tea, but is this affecting your health and weight loss? If so, try to focus more on the company and less on the treats. A pot of tea (herbal or otherwise) is a great solution, as you can usually get a few cups out of it, and it takes a long time to drink, so you can still be busying your hands and your taste buds long after they’ve downed their last mouthful of mocha.

  • Share half your cake with a friend. You’ll feel great on so many levels!


  • Try an alternative food at morning tea – a poached egg on toast or some fruit and yoghurt with your coffee or tea instead of the muffin is a healthy alternative – who said you can’t have ‘breakfast’ food at morning tea time? So long as it’s good food, you can eat it at anytime!


  • Try making your own cakes and muffins using alternative ingredients like rice flour or stevia for sweetening. Make them smaller and only take one to work. Here’s my high bran, zero sugar, low fat muffin recipe.




Chocolate and banana muffin, makes 6 medium sized muffins


Carbs           fat        protein           cals

21.5              1.5       7.4                   146


1 cup wholemeal flour           

1 cup bran                  

15g cocoa                  

½ banana (80g)         

2 egg whites               

200ml natural yoghurt

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

20 drops stevia

½ tsp vanilla essence

1.5 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp baking soda