Starbucks may have grown to 80,000 locations worldwide based on the quality of its creative coffee drinks, the cool cache of hanging out for ours in one of their cozy dining rooms, and by figuring out how to effectively market a $7 cup of coffee with an 80% markup. But what they’re not as well known for, is their healthy, nutritious offerings.
The coffee chain knows that fat and sugar drive huge sales, which is why so much of their menu is devoted to items that may taste great, but which are nutritional minefields of whipped cream, heavy cream, and sugary flavored syrups. Take a closer look at what may be arguably Starbucks’ biggest pop culture contribution to date, the Pumpkin Spice Latte, with over 200 million cups soldin the first decade the product was rolled out. The Grande version of this drink, with whole milk and whipped cream, clocks in at 420 calories, and 50 grams of sugar.
The nutritional outlook doesn’t improve, as you move down the seasonal menu. A grande-sized Gingerbread Frappuccino, for example, contains 68.5 grams of sugar when ordered with the default whole milk and whipped cream. That’s nearly the same amount of sugar as you’d find in two cans of soda. Or nearly 20 Oreo cookies. Or, most appallingly, seven of McDonald’s chocolate doughnuts.
But is it possible to nurture a daily Starbucks habit, without tossing a refined sugar hand grenade into your bloodstream? Here’s a look at 12 drinks you can order from Starbucks right now, that will help you balance your nutritional goals, while providing the caffeine boost that your central nervous system so desperately craves.
In fact, check out the video below from Brittany Dawn, you’ll find a list of options that are all below 100 total calories:
Cold Foam Cascara Cold Brew
Cold foam is one of the latest innovations to pop up at Starbucks, and it’s pretty miraculous stuff. Finally, our cold drinks can be foamy, just like the hot beverages available in most coffee shops. This drink scrimps on sugar and calories even further, using Cascara (an all-natural sweetener derived from the cherries of the coffee plant, with a flavor similar to maple or brown sugar) to lend natural sweetness without adding a ton of extra calories or grams of sugar.
Iced Skinny Mocha
If you’re counting calories and fat grams, you make think the world of Caffé Mochas is strictly off-limits to you, especially since the full-fat hot version of this drink is one of the unhealthiest things on the Starbucks menu. But the “Iced Skinny” version isn’t all that bad. It’s sweetened with sucralose, the same ingredient used to make Splenda. A grande contains a paltry 120 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 8 grams of sugar.
Iced Coffee with Coconut Milk
Add a splash of coconut milk to your iced coffee, and you’ll introduce the familiar creaminess of milk, with much fewer fat and calories. Use coconut milk, and you can even skip adding additional sugar, due to its slight natural sweetness. A grande only packs in 1.5 grams of fat, and you may not even feel like you’re missing out.
This one’s an obvious pick for anyone trying to cut calories and sugar, since an Americano is traditionally made with two or three shots of espresso, and then topped off with hot water. Ordered barebones, the drink has just 15 calories and zero grams of sugar; just resist the urge to mask its bitter flavor with additional creamer, sugar, and chocolate sprinkles.
Unsweetened Passion Tango Tea with Coconut Milk
The addition of coconut milk transforms this sugar-free beverage into more of a creamy smoothie, without adding much in the way of additional fat and calories. More importantly, order a grande, and you’ll add 2 grams of protein to your daily intake.
Unsweetened Iced Green Tea Lemonade
On hot days, this makes a light, refreshing alternative to coffee, without additional sweeteners and sugar. You’ll also reap the antioxidant benefit of the green tea, with a healthy dose of caffeine, to boot.
If you just can’t face the prospect of giving up your hot coffee in the morning (and who can?) the Caffe Misto may be the drink you’ve been looking for. It’s similar to a latte, but uses brewed coffee in place of espresso, and skips the layer of foamed milk on top. Order with skim milk or alternative plant-based milks for an even greater reduction in calories.
Shaken Tazo Black Tea Lemonade
Finally…and Arnold Palmer you can feel good about. Packing just 110 calories in a grande size, we love the way shaking aerates the drink and makes it all frothy, without additional sugar or sweeteners.
Skinny Vanilla Latte
If you just can’t get on board with all of these plant-based milks and unsweetened beverages, the Skinny Vanilla Latte is here to help. A grande has just 100 calories, thanks to the use of skim milk and sugar-free vanilla syrup, proving that it’s possible to cut calories without sacrificing flavor.
Caramel Frappucino Light
Think the decision to cut calories and sugar makes the frappucino family strictly off-limits? Not anymore. This lightened-up version of the classic contains just 100 calories for a grande, compared to 420 in the original version.
Cool Lime Refresher
This seems like the perfect way to beat the heat on a scorching Summer day, with just 60 calories in a grande size. You’ll get lots of natural sweetness and a big burst of energy from the lime juice, as well. This drink does have 14 grams of sugar, which may seem like a lot, but is really nothing compared to the other drinks in the Refresher lineup.
Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew
This one’s a great option for anyone looking to cut sugar, fat, and calories from their Starbucks order, without resorting to skim or plant-based milks or artificial sweeteners. It’s got real cream and real sugar; just not bucketloads of it. A grande has 110 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 14 grams of sugar.
Flat White with Almond Milk
A flat whatsthatnow? It’s just how you order an espresso with steamed milk, if you speak Starbucksease. But order it with almond milk, and you can happily slurp down a grande with just 100 calories, 6 grams of fat, and a pulse-quickening 195mg of sweet, sweet caffeine.
Nitro Cold Brew
This is one of our favorite Starbucks drinks, particularly in the summertime. Nitro cold brew coffee is magical stuff. Slow-steeped coffee is infused with nitrogen, and poured from a tap system. The velvety resulting coffee cascades down the inside of a glass like a Guinness, with none of the acidity or bitterness often associated with black coffee. You don’t need to add any milk or sweeteners, which makes a grande practically calorie-free. (Okay, it’s got 5.)
Doppio Unsweetened Espresso Macchiato With Whole Milk
Looking for a way to pack the maximum possible amount of caffeine into the smallest volume of low-calorie liquid possible? Try ordering the way the Italians do: A “doppio,” or double shot of espresso, with just a kiss of steamed milk. The whole shebang packs 150 mg of caffeine into a drink with just 15 calories.
Very Berry Hibiscus
This drink, part of the original Starbucks lineup, makes another great choice for a hot summer day. You get a bit of caffeine from the antioxidant-rich green coffee extract, with just a hint of sweetness from the fruit juice. A grande contains just 60 calories, and 12 grams of sugar.
Café Au Lait
If you’re a devoted latte drinker, try making the switch to a Café au Lait. You’ll plenty of smooth and creamy frothy milk, but a tall size will only set you back 20 calories. Try it with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top, to add more flavor without adding additional sugar or calories.
Creating Your Own Healthy Starbucks Drinks
That does it for our roundup of the healthiest drinks Starbucks has to offer. But what if you want to go off-script, and create your own good-for-you concoctions? Here are a few guiding principles for trimming the excess fat, calories, and sugar from your favorite Starbucks drinks:
Embrace almond and coconut milk.It’s much lower in fat and calories, while still adding creaminess and body to your favorite drink. It’s also packed with protein, which will help keep you feeling satisfied for much longer.
Add fresh fruit.This depends a lot on what you’re ordering and what your particular local Starbucks keeps in stock, but most locations typically keep both fresh limes and fresh strawberries on hand. Try asking for them with your unsweetened iced teas or fruit drinks; they’ll add natural sweetness and a fun snack to munch on after your drink is gone.
Choose light or skim milks.You can knock as many as 80 calories right off the top of most Starbucks drinks, just by opting for light or skim milk. With everything else usually going on in these drinks, you probably won’t even notice the difference.
Try the iced version of your favorite drink.The space for ice takes away some of the milk and automatically cuts down on the calories. Plus when it melts, it adds an extra boost of slow hydration, which helps counteract the negative side effects of caffeinated drinks.
Ask for sugar-free syrups.This one may not be for everyone, since some sugar-free sweeteners may pose their own potential health risks. But most Starbucks locations stock sugar-free versions of their vanilla, caramel, cinnamon dolce, hazelnut, and peppermint syrups; ask for a pump to sweeten your next coffee purchase.
Go down a cup size.If you love cappuccinos and lattes, try downsizing from a Venti to a Grande, or a Grande to a Tall, while asking for the same number of espresso shots. This will help you skip all of that extra steamed milk and sweetener, while delivering the same much-needed jolt of caffeine to your system.
Skip the whip.This one may seem like a bit of a no-brainer, but no, whipped cream is not a part of a healthy diet. That dollop of whipped cream adds about 100 calories to any beverage, and most of the time, it just gets mixed into your already creamy drink, anyway.
Actually, skip the Frappucinos in general.Just because it’s served at a coffee shop, doesn’t mean it’s not essentially a giant milkshake. Some Frappucinos can pack upwards of 500 calories, and as many as 70 grams of sugar, which is a bit like eating two Butterfingers at the same time for no reason in the middle of the day. Stick to the other iced coffee beverages, or if you must, look for light versions made with sugar free sweeteners.
And while you’re at it, skip all of those “secret” Starbucks orders.Sure, they’re colorful and fun, and they may look great on Instagram, but they may also contain blood sugar-shattering amounts of syrup. Many recipes call for up to four pumps of syrup per flavor, and the “secret” items tend to combine multiple flavors. Sure, we may want to all drink a colorful liquid unicorn once in a while, but remember how quickly those flavor shots add up, at around 20 calories per pump.