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What Can I Replace My Coffee Habit With?

April 25, 2014

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Hi, I’m Maria Marlowe, a Certified Health Coach and author of Detox without the Deprivation. This is my weekly “Ask Health Coach Maria” series, in which I answer frequently asked questions that relate to health and wellness. Have a question? Ask me here

Hi Maria,

I have a serious Starbucks habit, and I’m trying to quit. What can I replace my coffee habit with?

-Stacy, New York City

Dear Stacy,

You’re not alone in your coffee habit. Over 50% of Americans drink at least one cup of coffee a day, and 60% of coffee drinkers say they “need” a cup of Joe to start their day.

We drink it in the morning to wake us up, crave a cup post-lunch to keep us pushing through the last few hours of work, and sometimes even enjoy it as an after-dinner drink.

Though taste does play a role, most people turn to coffee to perk them up and give them energy. However, the surprising truth is that coffee is often the very culprit that’s zapping their energy in the first place!

With the proliferation of coffee shops on every corner, coffee has become so ubiquitous that no one would argue that it should be considered a drug that needs to be regulated. But think about it.

Coffee is a stimulant. People get addicted to it. Daily users get withdrawal symptoms, like headaches, irritability, and restlessness, when they try to wean themselves off of it or even decrease their intake. That does sound like a drug, doesn’t it?

The caffeine in coffee increases your stress hormones, taxes your adrenal glands, and can throw off your body’s natural circadian rhythm, which can disrupt your sleep cycle even if you only drink a cup in the morning. 

But don’t worry—if you’re hooked on coffee, quitting is possible.

One of the most challenging parts of quitting coffee is replacing the habit. Sipping from that mug in the morning can be almost as addicting as the caffeine itself, and once the coffee is gone, you’ll likely desire something to take its place in your morning ritual.

Luckily, you have plenty of options. Plus, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised to find that after kicking your habit, you have even more energy.

How to Kick Your Coffee Habit for Good, Pain-Free

The first step in quitting coffee is to wean yourself off a little each day over the course of a week. Doing it in this way helps you avoid the headaches and other unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. I counsel my clients to use this approach, which I learned from IIN teacher Dr. Frank Lipman, and it works every time:

Day 1: Drink your usual amount of coffee

Days 2-5: Blend regular coffee with 50% decaf. Drink for the next 3 days.

Day 6: Have 25% regular coffee, 75% decaf.

Day 7: Start to have 100% decaf (this could also be an herbal tea; a tea low in caffeine, like green tea or rooibos; or one of the other coffee alternatives below).

After a week, your body should no longer crave coffee and you’ll soon be feeling naturally energized and happy.

Now, if you have been drinking coffee for years, you may want to extend this process to up to two weeks. Coffee causes the adrenal glands to pump out more cortisol, a stress hormone, which taxes the adrenal system and may throw off the body’s natural circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock). Because of this, it may take you a little longer to normalize your body’s natural rhythm and energy cycle, but once you get off the coffee hamster wheel, believe me: you will feel more energized than ever.    

As you transition away from coffee, don’t think that you need to go without a steaming cuppa for the rest of your life. There are a wide number of natural coffee alternatives for you to choose from, many of them with impressive health benefits as well as great flavors:

Coffee Alternatives

Roasted Chicory Root: If you crave the coffee taste, chicory root is the closest alternative. It tastes just like coffee, but without the caffeine or high price tag.

Rooibos or Herbal Teas: Herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free. Rooibos is a popular herbal tea which is native to South Africa, and is loaded with antioxidants and minerals.

Green or White Tea: While green and white teas do contain some caffeine, it is significantly less than the amount found in coffee and will not leave you feeling jittery. Each of these teas has its own unique benefits, from supporting the metabolism to improving heart health to combatting depression, and they are both high in antioxidants.

Matcha Tea: Matcha is ground tea leaf powder in a gorgeous, jewel-tone shade of green. It’s meant to be consumed in whole form, unlike other teas, whose leaves are discarded after steeping in hot water. Matcha is bursting with antioxidants and vitamins that may help boost mood and concentration. In animal studies, it has even been found to detox PCB's from the body.

Matcha tea is closely associated with the Japanese tea ceremony, and whipping it up can be meditative, giving you a little feeling of Zen in the morning. To make, simply whisk the powder in a cup of hot water until frothy.

Goji Berries: Goji berries are one of the most nutrient-dense fruits on the planet, and they’re sometimes called the happy berry for their ability to boost mood. Add the dried berries or powder into your morning smoothie for a burst of flavor and energy. One great way to try them is in this Summer Skin Glow Smoothie.

Maca: Maca is an adaptogenic plant which increases energy and endurance naturally. Add ½ a teaspoon to your morning smoothie for sustained energy without the caffeine jitters.

Breakfast: If coffee has been your only form of morning nourishment, consider replacing it with a real breakfast. Fret not about calories! Eat something whole and healthy, like fresh fruit, fruit-based smoothies, oatmeal, or toast with avocado or nut butter and fruit on top. These fiber-filled breakfasts will give you the energy and the nutrients you need to start your day energized and focused.  

Experiment with these alternatives, and see which one works best for you. If you’ve given up coffee, tell us why and what results you’ve seen in the comments below.

Maria Marlowe is a Certified Health Coach and regular Wellness Today Contributor. Get your health question answered in her next column by sending her an email at healthcoachmaria@wellnesstoday.com.