Simple café menu swaps that'll slash the calories

By Susie Burrell|

You may love nothing more than your weekend café breakfast, or it may be lunchtime that you are most often found at your favourite local coffee haunt, but chances are you are familiar with your local café in some capacity.

While it may seem like a healthier option to grab food on the go at a café as opposed to a fast-food drive through, truth be told, while there may be some 'healthy' café options, when it comes to calories, fats and sugars there are plenty to be found in some of our favourite café menu items.

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Young woman eating breakfast in a cafe
Nothing beats a cafe meal - and with an easy switch, you can keep it lighter if you want. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

With the average Australian adult needing just 1200-1600 calories each day, calorie control is important — and with popular breakfast bowls and jumbo sandwiches containing 600-800 calories per serve, it is easy to overdo things when you pick up a snack with your coffee.

So, whether your favourite order is at breakfast or lunch, here are some easy swaps to slash the calories of your standard café order.

Instead of: Eggs Benedict
Try: Eggs on toast with vege sides

Poached egg on Rye bread being cut up revealing a runny yolk, cress on top, tomatoes,
Poached egg on toast with roasted tomato and avocado is a delicious choice. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A Sunday morning favourite, a standard serve of eggs Bene and a side of bacon contains more than 1300 calories and 100g of fat in a single serve, thanks to the creamy sauce and fat used in cooking.

On the other hand, an order of poached eggs, roasted tomato and avocado contains just 30g of fat, along with loads more dietary fibre and nutrients overall.

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Instead of: Ham and cheese croissant
Try: Ham and cheese toastie

Ham and cheese toasted sandwich
Swap a ham and cheese croissant for a toastie with the same fillings. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

One of the most energy-dense foods we consume is pastry, and when this is teamed with butter, ham and cheese your 'light' breakfast on the run becomes a complete calorie bomb.

With more than 500 calories and 30g of fat in a single serve, you can get a much more nutritious and filling breakfast option if you opt for a toastie on wholegrain bread.

Instead of: Acai bowl
Try: Bircher muesli

Bowl of Bircher muesli with fruit
Love a brekkie bowl? Give Bircher muesli a try. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A popular breakfast item with its fresh fruit and grains, it is no wonder this visually appealing breakfast would be considered healthy. When you consider, though, that the average acai bowl contains 500-600 calories and 60-80g of sugars thanks to the mix of juice and concentrated fruit syrup, an acai is more like a dessert than a healthy breakfast option.

If you love a breakfast bowl, Bircher muesli is a much better option nutritionally with far less sugar and much more dietary fibre.

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Instead of: Chicken Caesar salad
Try: Chicken Greek salad

Chicken souvlaki kebabs, sun dried olives, tomatoes, cucumbers green salad and focaccia on blue background, top view
Greek salad with chicken is a lighter choice than chicken Caesar salad. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The word salad lures us in, and indeed if you make a salad at home for yourself and use lighter dressings, lean protein and small amounts of cheese and creamy sauces, you can make a healthy version of a Caesar salad. The mix of high fat ingredients mean the average Caesar salad contains at least 30g of fat.

Greek salad with chicken, on the other hand, is much lower in calories and fat.

Instead of: Banana bread
Try: Biscotti

Italian biscotti cookies with a cup of coffee
For a sweet treat with your coffee, put in an order for biscotti. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

One of the most popular menu items at the local café, banana bread seems like a relatively innocent add-on to accompany your coffee order. Yet, really, it should be called banana cake, with the average slice slab sold in cafes containing more calories than a meal (500-600cal) thanks to the mix of butter or oil, white flour and sugar.

If you love nothing more than to enjoy something sweet with your coffee, seek out biscotti, if stocked at your local, which can contain as little as 100 calories and less than 5g of fat.

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Instead of: Smoothies
Try: Iced coffee

Iced coffees in glass jars
A simple mix of ice, coffee and skim milk is equally as refreshing as a smoothie - for a lot less sugar. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

If you made a smoothie at home with a little milk, yoghurt and fresh fruit, your smoothie would contain a respectable 200-300 calories and 20-30g of sugars. On the other hand, a large acai or mango smoothie, which combines honey, milk, yoghurt and fruit, can give as much as 60-80g of sugars or 12-16 teaspoons per serve.

On the other hand, a simple mix of ice, coffee and skim milk is equally as refreshing for a lot less sugar. Or for those who are not fussed on coffee, a vegetable juice is a nutrient-rich, low-calorie option.

Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, co-host of The Nutrition Couch podcast and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.

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