As a health-conscious person, I tend to make my coffee at home, since coffees from coffee shops tend to be higher in calories and sugar due to added sugars and syrups. Every so often it is nice to splurge on an authentic Italian coffee though. I wonder between lattes and cappuccinos, which is a healthier option? Lattes and cappuccinos are both made with the same ingredients but the way the two drinks are prepared distinguishes them. How much of a difference does this make on their caloric and nutritional content?
Latte or Cappuccino: What is the Difference?
First, we must establish the difference between a latte and a cappuccino. In Italy, a latte is called a cafe latte translating literally to coffee and milk, cafe meaning coffee, and latte meaning milk.
The cappuccino is also Italian but is not named for its ingredients. The inspiration for the word cappuccino derives from the Capuchin friars who were known for their missionary work for the poor, dating as far back as the 16th century. The Capuchin friars wear a distinctive brown robe with a long pointed hood that dangles on their back. This particular hood is called cappuccio. During the invention of the cappuccino in which milk was mixed with espresso, they found the color of the coffee was reminiscent of the shade of brown of the Capuchin friars’ robes. This led to the name Cappuccino.
Both the latte and cappuccino contain a full double shot of espresso at the base, about a third of the drink. The Latte contains two-thirds of steamed milk while the cappuccino contains equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. Since the latte contains more milk than the cappuccino it makes sense that it is named the latte. The amount of milk in a latte makes it taste milkier and sweeter which is why they are traditionally served in larger cups than a cappuccino. The cappuccino has a bolder coffee taste as it contains less milk than the latte.
What Type of Milk to Use
Traditionally, an authentic Italian latte or cappuccino is served using whole milk. Whole milk is not the healthiest milk option as it contains a lot of calories and fat. In recent years establishments, such as Starbucks, which brand their identity around making authentic Italian coffee more accessible to the public, have switched to using 2% milk as their regular recipe after using whole milk for many years because their consumers have become more health-conscious.
They also have the options of non-dairy alternatives which have been gaining popularity due to consumer’s concerns on the ethics of dairy farming and inclusiveness to those who have lactose intolerance. Many of these non-dairy alternatives are usually healthier than whole milk or 2% but come at a sacrifice of taste.
How do these alternatives affect the taste of a latte or cappuccino? Some alternative kinds of milk tend to taste bitter when served hot such as almond and oat milk. This is because the acidity of the coffee clashes with the flavors of almonds and oats. Due to this acidity, those that use almond or oat milk tend to sweeten their cappuccinos and lattes with additional syrups or sugar. This changes the authenticity of the drink and also makes it unhealthy by adding additional calories and added sugars.
Macadamia and cashew milk are naturally sweet and contain healthy fats. These have flavors that complement the notes of a latte or cappuccino, but unfortunately, Starbucks has yet to add these as an option for consumers. A local coffee shop near you may have these available or you can check out the best cappuccino maker options and become an amateur home barista.
As for the contents of caffeine, cappuccinos and lattes contain similar amounts of caffeine per serving as they both contain a full double shot of espresso. A traditionally made 16-ounce cappuccino and a traditionally made 16-ounce latte contain about 173 mg of caffeine, but most people may choose to get a smaller serving size of a cappuccino due to the robust rich flavor and the smaller amount of milk. This caffeine content is equal to about 1 and a half cups of a regular cup of black coffee.
As for the nutritional value, traditional lattes (without added syrups) are higher in calories, fat, and protein per serving than cappuccinos. This is because of the higher amount of milk in lattes.
|Type of Drink||Calories||Protein||Total Fat||Carbs|
|16-ounce latte (2% milk- Starbucks)|
|16-ounce cappuccino (2% milk- Starbucks)|
Personally, I feel that the nutritional difference between these lattes and cappuccinos are not worth worrying about if you have a balanced diet and use moderation. Ultimately, your choice between a latte or cappuccino should come down to flavor preference. While they are traditionally made with whole milk, Starbucks regularly makes it with 2% milk these days. You can also choose to use a non-dairy milk alternative, with macadamia or cashew milk being the best options. Experiment with different options and find what you like the best.
Written by Jack Leduc