Why Your Morning Coffee Could Be Setting You Up for Bad Eating Habits

Updated 09/18/17

For so many of us, coffee is a morning ritual. Whether we brew it up at home or grab one while commuting into work, we expect a nice cup of morning joe to kick-start our days and get us off on the right foot. Despite how integrated a morning cup of coffee has become in so many of our lives, the health effects of the popular drink have long been debated. Some studies advise it's best to cut down on our coffee intake, while others have purported desirable effects like combatting aging. Whichever research you choose to follow, you may want to read up on the surprising finding that coffee could be influencing you to make poorer food choices.

A recent article on MyBody+Soul looked into the phenomenon of how coffee changes the way food tastes and sets you up to crave sweet things. As Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science at Cornell, points out, "When you drink caffeinated coffee, it will change how you perceive taste." Oftentimes we'll pair our morning brew with something sugary but ultimately not appreciate how sweet the additional item was—leaving us feeling unsatisfied and craving more sweetness as we move into the day.

"If coffee is making food less sweet, you are going to be craving foods that have a stronger sweetness," notes Case O'Dell, an accredited practicing dietitian. She suggests trying to trick your taste buds with a more savory focus. For example, instead of pairing your morning pour with a sweet pastry, reach for a low-carb snack like a small handful of nuts, edamame, a boiled egg, or a slice of cheese on bread. These snack choices will also serve as better fuel to ready your body and brain for the day ahead, rather than setting you up for a sugar crash after a few hours.

O'Dell also recommends seeing your coffee as a snack—enjoying it for its flavor—rather than needing to pair it with something else to stimulate your senses. Coffee aside, if you do crave something sweet and want to treat yourself, O'Dell recommends holding off for as long as possible before giving in. "I think morning is perhaps the worst time to have something sweet, as it often sets up the day to wanting more."

Next up, find out what happened when our editorial director quit coffee.

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