3 Ways to Cut Down on Caffeine (and enjoy it)
I usually write mostly about personal development and leave Health + Wellness mostly for my online program, the SexyFit® Nutrition Challenge.
However, I’ve been feeling the urge to write more equally about all petals of the Create A Life You Love umbrella – Health, Wealth, Purpose, Passion, Relationships, Creativity, Spirituality, Lifestyle + Adventure. And I’ve since I’ve been getting this question more recently, and dealing it with myself, the Health CALYL petal gets to be first :)
How I kicked my café latte addiction – personal recipes included:
Interestingly, two of the hardest habits for me to kick, have both revolved around caffeine: Diet Coke (I know, crazy huh?) and Coffee. After several attempts, I was finally able to quit Diet Coke in 2005. (Thank goodness – especially as there is no doubt as to how toxic artificial sweeteners are for our bodies).
Coffee, I was actually able to quit way before 2005, but it snuck back in (with minimal resistance) about 4 years ago when I was on an speaking tour in Australia + New Zealand. Café Lattes in both places were soo yummy….
And oh. so. addictive.
Since then, I’ve gone on and off coffee – completely eliminating it when I don’t feel as vibrant as I want, and bringing it back when I’m feeling healthy and good.
For the past 6 months though, I’ve noticed that anytime I re-introduce coffee, even as a treat, it makes me feel unbalanced. I become dehydrated (of course – coffee dehydrates you), I’m hungrier than normal after a couple of hours (initially coffee curbs huger, but then it increases hunger), my digestive system feels off (stomach ache from the acid and feeling clogged up), I’m moodier…and I gain weight.
All things I would prefer not to happen.
The challenge is of course that I love, love, love café lattes. I adore the ritual of a morning or mid-afternoon latte – it’s a treat, it’s warm, it’s sweet and it has a slight “kick”. All things that are hard to give up – even when I know how it makes me feel afterwards. Which is always my litmus test of whether to continue anything: “How do I feel afterwards? not just in the moment”
So this is what I did. I replaced, instead of eliminated. I found things that I liked at least as much and in some cases, even better. If you too are struggling to stay off coffee, or even just want to reduce your caffeine intake – here are my 3 Go-Tos that helped me kick my coffee habit – all super easy + yummy.
1. Chai Tea Lattes
My absolute favorite replacement! I actually like chai lattes even better than coffee lattes. Chai Tea isn’t actually caffeine free, as it contains black tea leaves, but it doesn’t have the same effect that coffee caffeine has on our bodies.
In part, that’s because there is only 30-65mg of caffeine in 8oz of black tea, versus 100-200 mg in the average cup of coffee. But it’s also because the caffeine in black tea works because of a component called “tannins”. Tannins have a calming effect on our nervous system. They also help caffeine to be absorbed much more slowly, which bypasses the caffeine “shock” and instead creates a calm, relaxed, yet focused state characteristic of alpha brain wave patterns.
No wonder I feel so good after my morning chai tea :)
And I still get to enjoy the ritual of a latte. My mug that takes two hands to hold, the hot creamy almond or coconut milk, the feeling like I’m treating myself and the satiety I feel after chai tea. I don’t even miss coffee lattes. And I love the exotic taste and scent of the indian spices cinnamon, cardamon and nutmeg – all contributing to a morning ritual and treat.
Most importantly, I feel great afterwards.
And…. I drink it almost every single morning.
Carmen’s Favorite Chai Tea Latte
Serves 1, double for 2
1 cup of unsweetened almond and/or coconut milk (add more water and less milk if you like a less rich latte)
1 bag of Chai Tea (Numi’s or Tazo’s Organic Chai Tea are my favorite brands)
1/4 tsp coconut nectar
3-4 drops of English Toffee Stevia to taste (Sweet Leaf* Brand)
Put everything in a sauce pan and slowly heat til first sign of simmer.
Watch carefully so the milk doesn’t boil over. I stay in the kitchen and do other things (take my vitamins, fill my water bottle for the gym) while waiting for the milk to heat. Why? I’ve left the kitchen way too many times only to return to burnt milk all over my stovetop :)
If you like even more spice, add a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon and/or vanilla.
I always carry a chai tea bag and stevia with me, so that if I’m at a cafe that doesn’t have unsweetened chai tea (just the bag or leaves, not a premix), I ask for a mug of hot almond milk with cinnamon, and use my own teabag and stevia. Yummy, hot chai latte – healthy, vibrant living, without deprivation, on the go ?
Stevia is a natural, organic plant from South America and gives sweetness without calories and is low glycemic.
*Sweet Leaf is my favorite brand as it’s completely natural, made from the whole stevia plant and has no odd aftertaste. They have great natural flavors – English Toffee, Lemon Drop etc – in liquid format.
Stevia tastes great on it’s own in cold drinks, but in hot drinks, it tastes a little thin. Adding a tiny bit of coconut nector, sugar or syrup, fills out the taste for hot drinks – and still keeps it low-glycemic.
If you are struggling with not having the peristalsis effect (going regularly to toilet) from coffee, chai tea will help in this area :)
If you do want to go caffeine free, Tazo has a great de-caffinated chai tea version.
2. Green Tea
I sip on green tea throughout the morning, up until about 2pm, as any later that that, it seems to keep me awake at night. Green tea, like black tea, also contains caffeine, but only 24-45mg per 8 oz. And it also doesn’t have the same effect that caffeine from coffee has on me (weight gain, moodiness, hunger).
Why else do I love green tea? It’s considered much healthier than coffee, because of it’s many wellness benefits. It’s packed with powerful antioxidants called catechins, which have been shown to potentially inhibit the growth of some cancers. Research also suggests long-term consumption of green tea might help prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, and coronary disease and has also been linked to both stress relief and clearer thinking.
Carmen’s Favorite Green Tea
Tea of Inquiry Full Leaf – by Republic of Tea
I absolutely adore this loose leaf green tea and have been drinking it for years. It’s medium strength, but not bitter, and has an earthy, robust flavor from the toasted brown rice pieces. You can usually find it at Whole Foods, but I order directly online from the company here.
If you prefer a bagged green tea, Tazo has some beautiful combination green teas. You can find them at Whole Foods, or order directly from the company online here.
If you are struggling with headaches from coffee withdrawals – green tea seems to help even more than chai tea – even though it has less caffeine than black tea. During my SexyFit® Nutrition Challenge I encourage clients to replace coffee because of the anti-inflammatory, weight loss, improved skin, sleep and energy levels they can experience in just 5 days, and green tea is one of the things that seems to help the most with any caffeine headache withdrawals withdrawals.
3. Sparkling Lemon Water
Surprisingly, sparkling lemon water also helped me end my coffee latte love affair, simply because I often just feel like a “treat” – and a coffee latte would fill that gap. However, with the option of a re-freshing, lightly sweetened + sparkling lemon drink, I no longer crave a mid-afternoon coffee latte.
Of course, getting more water into our body always helps us feel better – it gives a natural energy boost, which also negates the desire for a coffee. Additionally, lemon not only helps detox the body, but also helps it be more alkaline (think anti-inflammatory versus an inflamed body) – all great things for overall health, and super easy to do with a simple, delicious drink.
Carmen’s Lemon Drop Sparkling Water
1/2 lemon (I like to use the pulp as well, but some people prefer it strained out)
1 cup sparkling water
4-6 drops (or to taste) of Lemon Drop Stevia (Sweet Leaf* Brand)
Ease + Enjoyment Tips:
Squeeze 2-3 lemons at a time and keep in a glass container in the fridge – the juice will last 4-5 days. Making a sparkling lemon drink is so much easier to do if you don’t have to squeeze the lemon every time. You will also have enough lemon for one of my favorite morning rituals – lemon, warm water and cayenne as soon as I wake up.
I use a large wine glass (see picture above) any time I drink sparkling water – it always feels more special and enjoyable.
In summary, why does replacing rather than eliminating work? Well, “nature abhors a vacuum” and it will fill a void, which is why people that quit smoking often gain weight (they start filling that void with food).
Just like dieting doesn’t work for me, neither does eliminating without replacing. Lifestyle changes have to be both sustainable and enjoyable. I’ve found that when I find or create something healthy + delicious that provides a ritual and/or pleasure – old habits (even my beloved café lattes) more easily fall away.
What about you? Which Go-To are you most excited to try? Do you have any questions for me, or for our community? Do you have any tips for replacing a coffee habit?
Click here to leave a comment – I absolutely love to hear your thoughts, suggestions and any questions you might have. Your questions and sharing are so valuable as they help our whole community :)
Love, love, love,