This is an excellent question that many people have when trying to make better drink choices. The short answer is yes, ice drinks do contain calories, but the amount can vary greatly depending on the specific ingredients. In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about the calories in popular ice drinks like iced coffee, iced tea, and frozen blended beverages.
Do Iced Coffees Have Calories?
Iced coffee is one of the most popular chilled coffee drinks, especially during hot summer months. An iced coffee is typically made by brewing hot coffee, then cooling it down by pouring it over ice. This means that the calorie content of an iced coffee is similar to that of a hot coffee.
Here are some estimates for the calories in different types of iced coffee:
- Black iced coffee (no milk or sugar added): 5 calories per 8 oz cup
- Iced coffee with 2 oz of whole milk: 45 calories
- Iced coffee with 2 oz of half & half: 80 calories
- Iced coffee with 2 oz of heavy cream: 110 calories
- Iced coffee with 2 teaspoons of white sugar: 32 calories
- Iced mocha (made with 2 oz of milk and 1 oz of chocolate syrup): 150 calories
As you can see, plain black iced coffee is very low in calories, while adding milk, cream, syrups and sugar can increase the calorie count significantly. The more fat and sugar added, the more calories there will be. For example, an iced mocha made with heavy cream and chocolate syrup can pack over 200 calories into a standard 16 oz drink.
Tips for a Low Calorie Iced Coffee
Here are some tips for enjoying iced coffee with a lower calorie count:
- Order it black or use just a splash of milk
- Use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar
- Ask for fat-free or low-fat milk
- Avoid heavy cream and sweet flavor syrups
- Request less pumps of syrup if adding flavors
- Try lighter drinks like iced lattes and cold brew
Do Iced Teas Have Calories?
Like iced coffee, the calorie content of iced tea depends largely on how it is prepared. Plain, unsweetened iced tea made directly from tea leaves contains minimal calories. However, many popular iced tea varieties have more calories due to added sugars and ingredients.
Here are the approximate calories for 8 oz of some common iced tea options:
- Plain brewed iced tea: 2 calories
- Sweet tea with 2 tsp of sugar: 32 calories
- Bottled sweet tea (e.g. Snapple): 120-150 calories
- Non-caloric sweetener iced tea (e.g. Pure Leaf): 0-5 calories
- Green tea: 2 calories
- Chai iced tea: 60-100 calories
As you can see, plain iced tea and unsweetened varieties like green tea have minimal calories. Watch out for the pre-made bottled options, which often have added sugar or honey. For lower calories, try brewing your own unsweetened tea at home or choosing light/diet varieties when ordering out.
Tips for Low Calorie Iced Tea
- Brew your own plain iced tea at home
- Order unsweetened tea at restaurants
- Avoid pre-made bottled teas with added sugars
- Use zero-calorie sweeteners instead of sugar
- Flavor with lemon, lime, mint instead of sweeteners
- Try lighter herbal teas like hibiscus or rooibos
Do Frozen Blended Coffees Have Calories?
Frozen blended coffee drinks have risen in popularity in recent years. These icy blended beverages are made with coffee, milk or cream, ice, and often sugary syrups and toppings. Here are the typical calories for popular frozen blended coffee drinks:
- Small Frappuccino (12 oz): 100-250 calories
- Medium Frappuccino (16 oz): 150-350 calories
- Large Frappuccino (24 oz): 200-500 calories
- Small McCafe Frappe (12 oz): 260 calories
- Medium McCafe Frappe (16 oz): 340 calories
- Large McCafe Frappe (21 oz): 430 calories
As you can see, these drinks can pack in hundreds of calories per serving! The combination of full fat milk, added sugars from syrups, and whipped cream toppings contributes to the high calorie count.
Tips for Lower Calorie Frozen Coffee Drinks
Here are some suggestions for ordering or making frozen blended coffee drinks with fewer calories:
- Choose small or child-size portions
- Opt for fat-free or low-fat milk
- Skip the whipped cream topping
- Ask for less pumps of flavored syrups
- Try a “light” version if available
- Make your own at home with lower calorie ingredients
- Substitute Greek yogurt for some of the milk
Can Ice Dilute Calories in Other Drinks?
What about adding ice to other beverages like soda, juice or alcoholic drinks? Does the ice dilute the calories at all? This is a common question for people looking to reduce their calorie intake.
Unfortunately, adding ice does not lower the calories in a drink. Here’s why:
- Calories are calculated based on the full volume of the liquid, regardless of ice content. A 12 oz can of soda has 150 calories, whether or not it is poured over ice.
- While the ice may water down the taste, the total amount of sugars and other calorie-containing ingredients remains the same.
- Dilution does mean you consume a lower volume of the actual liquid. But the calorie density stays the same.
The only way ice may slightly reduce calories is by filling up your cup with ice, leaving less room for high-calorie liquids. But the effect is minimal. You are better off drinking a smaller portion size if you want to cut calories.
Factors That Impact Calories in Iced Drinks
As we’ve discussed, the main factors that influence the calories in chilled drinks include:
- Added sugars: Sugar adds 4 calories per gram, so sweetened drinks are higher in calories
- Milk and cream: Full-fat dairy adds more calories compared to low-fat varieties
- Natural sugars: Fruit juices contain natural fructose that boosts calories
- Alcohol content: Alcoholic drinks contain 7 calories per gram
- Portion size: Larger serving sizes mean more calories
- Whipped cream: The creamy whipped topping increases fat and calories
- Flavor syrups: Sugary syrups like chocolate or caramel add calories
Being mindful of these calorie culprits can help guide you when ordering iced drinks. Choosing smaller sizes, minimizing toppings and sweeteners, and opting for low-fat varieties are some of the best ways to lighten up your favorite chilled beverages.
Should You Drink Calories or Eat Them?
One debate around liquid calories is whether it’s better to drink or eat them. For example, is it better to consume calories from soda versus food?
Research generally shows that getting calories from food is more filling and promotes healthier weight management in the long run. Reasons that drinking calories may be disadvantageous include:
- Liquid calories don’t trigger feelings of fullness like solid food does. This makes it easier to over-consume.
- Beverages don’t require chewing, so they don’t satisfy hunger for long periods.
- Sugary drinks flood your system with quick-absorbing carbs that promote fat storage.
- People don’t compensate by eating less after drinking high-calorie beverages.
With that said, enjoying the occasional iced coffee, frozen drink or other chilled beverage can be part of a healthy lifestyle. The key is moderation and balancing intake with adequate physical activity. Drinking your calories isn’t necessarily worse, as long as it fits into your overall daily calorie needs.
Tips for Drinking Ice Beverages Guilt-Free
Here are some final tips for satisfying your cravings for chilled drinks without overdoing the calories:
- Go for small or child-sized portions when ordering out
- Share a large drink with a friend instead of getting your own
- Dilute sugary sodas and juices with seltzer or sparkling water
- Make lower calorie swaps like sparkling water with lemon instead of lemonade
- Brew unsweetened iced tea or coffee at home to control what’s added
- Compare nutrition info and calories before choosing drinks
- Treat yourself to specialty iced drinks in moderation, not every day
- Balance out indulgent drinks with more activity for the day
The Bottom Line
Iced coffee, tea, and other chilled drinks can definitely contain calories, especially when loaded up with added sugars, fat from cream, and other flavor enhancers. But you can enjoy reasonable portions of your ice drinks guilt-free by making smart modifications and watching portion sizes. Focus on more whole foods for your daily calories, drink plenty of water, and supplement icy beverages in moderation.