I’ll be the first to admit, I love coffee! But as a nursing mom, I have found my limitations with coffee and am so glad to have so many great coffee alternatives to turn to. What started out as just finding a coffee substitute while I was pregnant has turned into trying and loving lots of new additions to hot beverages. While not much can replace the nostalgia of a hot brewed coffee and healthy creamer, I still find myself craving a great coffee alternative these days!
In This Post
- Why change your morning coffee routine?
- Best Healthy Coffee Alternatives
- Best Milk Alternatives for Coffee
- More Delicious Dairy-Free Beverages
Why change your morning coffee routine?
Change comes hard when it comes to giving up our morning coffee! Die-hard fans would never hear of it, but there are quite a few benefits to giving up your morning beverage that can promote a healthier lifestyle. Here’s why having a list of go-to healthy coffee alternatives is a must:
- Less anxiety– As we know, coffee has caffeine which can be great, but can also come with the side effect of nervousness, anxiety, and even panic attacks. Lessening the amount of coffee we consume can promote a less “fight or flight” reaction within us, calming our nervous system.
- Balancing hormones (especially in women)- Caffeine can also mess with estrogen levels, creating a spike and worsening conditions such as menopause, endometriosis, or PMS.
- Better gut health– Coffee can irritate the gut, creating IBS-like symptoms. Many people rely on coffee to go to the bathroom but too much can create an opposite effect.
Moderation is key! Limiting your daily caffeine intake to no more than 2 cups of coffee a day will help greatly in keeping you balanced and still able to enjoy your morning cup. However, if you decide to go caffeine free, there are numerous healthy coffee alternatives to make your switch that much sweeter.
Best Healthy Coffee Alternatives
1. Matcha Tea
I’ll start with my favorite! Matcha Tea has quickly warmed its way into my heart. It might be the clean energy it gives, the combo of tea and a great milk alternative, or just it’s beautiful green color, but matcha is my go to afternoon drink. In the winter I like a hot match with almond milk and just a little sweetness, but as soon as summer hits I dig an Iced Green Tea Matcha Latte!
At its most basic form, matcha is ground up green tea leaves. It’s high in Catechins which are found in plants and act as a high form of antioxidants. Matcha is believed to help protect the liver, boost brain function, promote heart health and may even help you lose weight! It has a wholesome, slightly sweet clean taste. You can have it hot or cold and mixing it with an alternative milk and a little bit of honey can turn it into the perfect afternoon pick me up!
2. Chai Tea
Chai tea, also knowns as Masala Chai, is a blend of aromatic spices and herbs combined with black tea and milk. Since it is a black tea it has about half of the amount of caffeine than regular black coffee does, but is still considered a higher caffeine drink. Its flavor is a delicious full-body spiced filled flavor and the milk just adds to the creaminess. I like it all year round but the fall seems to be when I consume it the most. Must be the spices!
If you’re looking for a more latte-like hot beverage, then Chai Tea might just be it. It also is said to aid in digestion because of the ginger, and to be good for heart health. A storebought mix will normally be sweetened with sugar but if you make your own chai mix such as this homemade chai recipe, you can choose whatever kind of sweetener to use!
3. Rooibos Tea
We’ve talked about black tea but now we’re moving on to red tea, also known as Rooibos tea. This tea is unlike black or green tea in that it is not caffeinated, contains lower tannins than its counterparts, and also doesn’t have any Oxalic Acid (which can be found in other teas) which is great news for your kidneys!
Rooibos tea has an herbal-y, floral, sweet, and somewhat smokey taste to it. It can be combined with milk and sugar, just like black tea, which makes it a popular drink at coffee shops as well. Its red color as the plant actually turns into a more golden color once it’s been steeped. While I think of this tea as wonderful as an iced tea in the summer, it can also be made into a great Tea Latte, which I am also a huge fan of! This is perfect when searching for a good coffee alternative that can be made into a latte.
4. Golden Milk
Golden milk has increased in popularity recently due to the hype around Turmeric (I love using Turmeric in my recipes)! It gets its name because of the way the turmeric turns the milk that golden yellow color, as turmeric tends to do with anything. Very much like Chai tea, Golden milk boasts a mix of spices that warm you up nicely, but it isn’t a tea at all. It’s actually just a blend of turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, and maple syrup, with a milk alternative! Here’s a great recipe to try or buy an already pre-made mix!
Turmeric is great for its anti-inflammatory properties because of the curcumin it contains. You won’t find many recipes of Golden milk without the black pepper added in, since that is what helps the body apply the curcumin aka the anti-inflammatory properties. Another interesting fact that might really make it a great coffee alternative is the fact that Golden Milk is perfect as a cozy nighttime drink! Talk about a stark difference from coffee. Since turmeric lowers depression and anxiety levels, many people take it at night as part of their nighttime routine. This is one great healthy coffee alternative you must try!
5. Chicory Coffee
Finally a true coffee swap! If you’ve never heard of Chicory coffee, welcome to the club. Although it’s been around since the 1800s, several companies have really brought it to the mainstream market today. Chicory coffee is made of the root of the chicory plant which is roasted, ground, and made into the coffee-like grounds. It looks and actually does taste quite like coffee! Granted, it won’t be the exact replica but it does boast a unique woodsy, nutty flavor that many have taken to.
Many people enjoy using it just like coffee, although it has been known to trigger some allergic reactions so take caution when first trying. Since it’s so similar to coffee, it can be added to a latte or simply brewed “black”. Teechino has wonderful flavors that you can find and even has mocha or french roast options. It doesn’t seem to hold any spectacular benefits on its own, but just like coffee, you can add MCT oil to turn it into a bullet-proof coffee alternative that’s healthy and hits all the right spots!
6. Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate is an herbal caffeinated drink made from tea leaves and twigs and comes from South America. It’s a staple in the Argentinian diet and consists of boiling the leaves in a small container, normally a calabash gourd, and drinking through a metal straw. This coffee substitute is quite like coffee in that it has the caffeine properties, about 80 mgs a cup, but it is still considered a tea since it boils the leaves of the yerba mate plant. It hasn’t been quite as popular in the northern hemisphere since coffee and tea are dominate and the plant doesn’t grow as well, but it is still managing to make its way in through bottled sources.
You can find Yerba Mate tea bags or even the loose leaf tea at most health food stores, where you can also now buy the pre-made tea. Yerba Mate has a strong, earthy, and a bit bitter taste that, like coffee, many have come to love. Most South American’s claim that although the drink is caffeinated, its adaptogens keep you from the crash and jitters mostly associated with drinking coffee. It is an acquired taste, but you’ll find that with a bit of honey Yerba Mate can be a delicious and healthy way of substituting your coffee while still using the boost of caffeine.
7. Hot Lemon Water
There is nothing healthier out there than swapping your morning coffee or tea for hot water with a lemon wedge! It’s a huge health benefit to drink water in general, we all know that, but drinking hot water and adding the alkaline effects of a lemon boost this hot beverage to the top. If you have digestive woes, want to improve your skin, or give your kidneys a boost, hot lemon water in the morning (or any time of day) is the perfect healthy coffee alternative!
It’s quite simple: you boil 8 oz of hot water, add a squeeze of half a lemon, and drink! You can also add ginger, mint, honey, or fresh fruit to give it a twist. Drinking lemon water can have an adverse effect on your teeth since the acid might erode but to avoid this just drink through a glass straw and rinse afterward. It’s truly the easiest way to help improve overall hydration whilst balancing the alkaline in your body. What’s not to love about this very healthy coffee or tea alternative!
8. Adaptogenic Coffee
You might have heard of adaptogens such as Ashwagandha and Turmeric, but have you heard of them blended into a coffee-like form? To start off, adaptogens are the plants and fungi that help us cope and adapt to stress. Many people take these as supplements, but now you can have them as a healthy coffee substitute! The forms and kinds of adaptogens and mixes vary since they can each boast different adaptogen qualities. If you still want to drink your regular coffee and have these same benefits, you can add any of the adaptogens to your coffee (in liquid form) after you brew.
If you’ve heard of Mushroom coffee or Lion’s Mane, then you’ve heard of an adaptogenic coffee! There are many companies out there but Four Sigmatic is the company I’ve mostly come to associate with this type of beverage since they have so many kinds of flavors, mixes, and even some protein powders all with the benefits of adaptogens. You can even find chai, golden milk, and matcha mixes! Since you can drink most of these hot, I love these as very healthy coffee alternatives and with a milk substitute, you’ll really feel like you’re drinking a latte that’s way more healthy than your average latte.
9. Apple Cider Vinegar
The numerous health benefits of apple cider vinegar have already been well circulated amongst the health industry, but have you ever considered it as a healthy coffee alternative? Very similar to the hot water with lemon, apple cider vinegar has the ability to alkaline your system and rid you of toxins but it can also help supress your hunger and improve your blood sugar levels. It isn’t recommended to take ACV as a shot since this can damage your teeth, your throat and your esophagus. This is where the ACV morning coffee swap comes in!
There are many recipes out there but an easy general rule is to add 1-2 tbsp of ACV into 8 oz of hot water, then add honey, a splash of pineapple juice (or other), cinnamon, and a pinch of cayenne and you have a delicious morning coffee swap. Consider it a form of herbal tea, or even a detox tea, but definitely consider it as part of your morning ritual. The recommendation is to drink this on an empty stomach before your breakfast for maximum health benefits.
This healthy coffee alternative hardly seems like a true swap, but if you’re into an iced coffee, iced tea, or cold smoothie in the morning then this is the perfect addition! Kombucha is made from fermented black or green tea leaves and normally drank for its health benefits. Since it is slightly effervescent it can seem like a great afternoon pick me up. This is a simple swap since you don’t need to add any additional milk, sweeteners, or mixes to the drink.
If digestion is a concern for you, then making kombucha part of your daily routine could be extremely beneficial. It helps aid in digestion because of its fermented properties. Similar to any fermented food such as kimchi or sauerkraut, Kombucha has live bacteria that help reinforce the lining of the gut. It is best to drink kombucha on its own versus with food, which is why making this drink a healthy iced coffee alternative could be the answer to your cold morning drink cravings!
11. Spiced Milk
We’ve all heard of drinking warm milk as part of our nighttime routine, but what about drinking spiced warm milk as a coffee alternative? It most certainly has become more popular as other non-coffee drinks have emerged. People that are sensitive to teas, caffeine, or coffee in general but still want the feeling of a frothy latte have turned to this simple drink as their morning cuppa’.
It’s a simple concept: warm milk on the stove, add in cinnamon, honey, cardamom, and vanilla, and froth it up! Simple staple ingredients brought together to create a soothing morning healthy coffee substitute. With the relaxing properties of cinnamon and the sweetness of the honey, you can expect this drink to bring calm as you start or end your day. Another great thing is that this can be a family drink! Let the kids in on the warm drink and your whole family will feel warm from within, no jitters, chocolate, sugar, or caffeine needed.
What’s not to love about a smoothie in the morning? Your kick of protein, fruit, milk alternative, healthy fat, and leafy greens all whirred up as one easy to take meal! There’s no way to talk about healthy coffee alternatives without including a healthy smoothie. The possibilities are endless when it comes to these, but I consider a true coffee swap as a smoothie that has a kick (adding matcha or green tea), has a healthy dose of fruit (for energy and some sugar), and has some protein (to keep me fueled for longer).
For most of my morning of post-workout and breakfast smoothies, I love using Arbonne Protein powder and have several recipes with this kind of protein in them. However, I have tried many other kinds that are just as tasty. If your morning consists of running around and gathering the kids, the lunches, the homework, and dashing out the door, then a morning smoothie as a coffee swap will not only kick start your metabolism for a busy day but also act as a meal all in one! When the days get crazy busy, the luxury of a slow hot beverage gets completely nixed, and in comes a morning smoothie! This is truly a healthy coffee substitute that can work on the busiest of days.
13. Bulletproof Hot Chocolate
Making hot chocolate healthy is my kind of coffee swap! Making bullet proof coffee is common but turning a hot chocolate into a bullet proof wonder is what I call genius. What’s not to love about a hot chocolate treat that will also fuel your brain, keep you full, and keep your blood sugar stable? Not much in my opinion!
When you “bulletproof” a beverage you add in a healthy fat such as MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) or ghee butter and mix it in so that your body works to burn off fat versus just carbohydrates. While you won’t reach a state of ketosis by purely just bulletproofing your drinks, you will enjoy a very low-carb healthy beverage, which is the draw to bulletproof coffee in general. To make this delish coffee alternative, you add your choice of healthy fat (coconut oil, MCT, or ghee) to hot water. Add half a cup of warm almond milk and mix in unsweetened cocoa powder with your choice of sweetener (if any), and voila! A healthy coffee alternative that keeps you fueled, kicks your chocolate craving and is low carb. A great start to your morning.
14. Hibiscus Herbal Tea
Classic and floral, hibiscus is an iced tea lover’s dream! This is a great summer morning drink that is so refreshing and guilt-free. When an iced coffee feels too heavy, this healthy coffee substitute hits all the right spots. I grew up drinking hibiscus tea iced, but only recently have I enjoyed the benefits of it as a hot drink. Still, I prefer the refreshing cool taste when it comes to a sticky warm summer morning. If you love iced tea in general but don’t always need the caffeine, this light and refreshing tea will be your perfect substitute.
Similar to green tea but without the caffeine, Hibiscus tea is floral, fruity, and a bit tart. It comes from the hibiscus flower which is just as beautiful as the deep pink color the tea produces. If you’ve seen “Agua de Jamaica” being offered at your local Mexican food market, this is essentially hibiscus tea. It is popular in the Latin American countries for treating high blood pressure and helping lower cholesterol. You can purchase it in tea bags to steep just as you would regular black tea or if you’re feeling brave, you can find and boil the loose leaf kind from your local health food store. Either way, hibiscus tea is a great coffee substitute, especially for a warm summer’s morning!
15. Protein Powder Latte
A latte that is loaded with protein instead of sugar is a dream! I enjoy more of a frothy, latte type drink to feel like I am getting a small break in my day, so a protein powder latte hits that plus ups my protein intake. Win-win! I’ve already raved about my favorite protein powder but this particular coffee alternative is a mix and ready to go when you are. Vital Proteins is a great place to find collagen and other protein mixes, and their flavors are great. For a great and healthy coffee substitute I go for the Madagascar Vanilla Protein Latte, but their other flavors such as the Hot Cocoa mix, or the Blueberry Collagen Latte are popular as well!
These mixes boast great flavor and are so easy since you just mix them with the alternative milk of your choice, but you can also create your own versions as well! Just add a collagen mix of your choice to your hot milk, such as oat milk, throw in a vanilla extract, cinnamon, sweetener of your choice, and froth up with a hand-held milk frother and you’ve got a morning or afternoon treat. If you’re feeling brave, adding a dash of canned coconut milk makes this coffee alternative that much creamier.
Best Milk Alternatives for Coffee
If you are still enjoying your coffee but just need a bit of a change in your milk options, try these out! Dairy-free and still enjoyable, these serve as the perfect compliment to your coffee.
- Almond Milk– If you’re looking for milk to cut the tanginess of coffee, then you can’t go wrong with almond milk! Straight-forward, this milk can be the best simple option for a cup of morning joe.
- Cashew Milk– This particular milk mixes really well with coffee, creating less separation. It can, however, be a tad bit more watery than other milk.
- Coconut Milk- This milk is creamy and keeps its body well, incorporating well into your coffee. It obviously has the coconut flavor, which is a consideration for morning coffee.
- Oat Milk- A barista favorite, this milk froths very well creating a creamier experience. The special barista blend is the best bet for making a morning latte to rival a real dairy experience.
- Hazelnut Milk– This newer addition has a much nuttier taste. It does separate a bit when it hits the coffee, but many people like its tangy taste. I recommend warming up the milk beforehand!
- Rice Milk– This milk mixes well into your coffee, but like cashew milk, it can be a bit watery. It does, however, provide a neutral base for adding syrups or sugar to your coffee that nut coffees don’t.
- Soy Milk– A classic of alternative milk, this milk can cut the tanginess of coffee but it can curdle once it hits the hot liquid. It’s best to warm up the milk before adding in the coffee!
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