The Healthiest Choices At Starbucks

’Tis the season for colder weather and warmer drinks. Plenty of us will be gravitating to Starbucks in the coming weeks, the famous chain known for their Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Salted Caramel Mochas. 

Problem is, many of the drinks and snack choices on the Starbucks menu are loaded with sugar, fat and calories, according to Gillean Barkyoumb, RD, founder of Millennial Nutrition. “While I fully believe in balance and having a conscious indulgence every once in a while, these drinks really overdo it in my opinion,” she says. “Take a grande PSL, which contains 2% milk and whipped cream; it has 50 grams of sugar, which is how much you’d consume in an entire day.” 

The Salted Caramel Frappuccino also inspires a “cringe,” says Barkyoumb, at 69 grams of sugar. “To help put this into perspective, a can of Coke—the typical scapegoat used to show how much sugar can be hidden in beverages—has 39 grams of sugar,” she explains. All this said, you don’t have to swear off the whole Starbucks menu throughout fall and winter. While there are some drinks you should only enjoy every once in a while, there are better choices just inches away from the suspect ones. Here are Barkyoumb’s favorites.

Unsweetened Tea or Black Coffee

If you’re looking for a tasty, low-cal option, Starbucks has a host of yummy tea flavors, from Honey Citrus Mint Tea to Peach Tranquility. “You really can’t go wrong with unsweetened tea—the green tea is my favorite—or black coffee, hot or iced,” says Barkyoumb, noting either option has zero calories. 

Latte with Coconut Milk

Barkyoumb says her “go-to gourmet coffee order” is an iced latte with coconut milk, no sweetener. You could also order this one hot. “The coconut adds yummy flavor, without a lot of sugar or calories,” she explains. 

Cold Brew Coffee 

While this drink might not satisfy in the winter, there are some devotees who order it year-round—and that’s not a bad idea. “The cold brew has a natural creaminess, plus you get more ‘bang for your buck,’ because it contains more caffeine than the traditional brew,” says Barkyoumb. No need for that double-shot latte. 

Skinny Vanilla Latte or Mocha

If you’re interested in a warm signature drink with less fat, sugar and calories, Barkyoumb says you could do worse than a Skinny Vanilla Latte or Skinny Mocha Latte. “Either one of these is a better option, too,” she says. “They use a sugar substitute called sucralose, which I am not a huge fan of, but I’d say in most cases it’s a better option than the original drink with loads of sugar.” For instance, a grande Mocha Latte has 360 calories, 44 grams of sugar and 15 grams of fat, whereas the Skinny Mocha has 170 calories, 15 grams of sugar and just 1.5 grams of fat. 

Want to Make a Starbucks Signature Drink Healthier?

Barkyoumb has some hot tips to better your beverages at America’s favorite coffee chain. Do not be afraid to speak up and ask for exactly what you want to make drinks healthier. 

Swap out milks. Simply swapping out whole or 2% milk with nonfat milk “naturally cuts fat and calorie content” of your signature drinks, says Barkyoumb. “Other milk offerings include almond milk, soymilk, and coconut milk.” These choices are also better for those with dairy sensitivities.

Limit syrup pumps. Ask for half the number of syrup pumps, or try sugar-free flavorings to enjoy the same sweet taste without the extra calories and sugar,” says Barkyoumb. Oftentimes, there’s way more syrup in your drink than needed to get that pop of flavor. 

Spice it up. Even better than getting that syrup pump? Swap it out for other flavorings at Starbucks. “Skip out on the syrup entirely and flavor with spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and cocoa,” says Barkyoumb. Starbucks sometimes has the spices sitting on the countertop, but you can ask a barista for them, too. 

Ask for extra foam. Asking for extra foam to top your beverage (instead of the liquid) naturally cuts down on calories, “as the foam is lighter in volume and calories compared to milk straight from the carton or jug,” says Barkyoumb. It’s also super-tasty.

Downsize. You don’t always need the venti, especially if you’re ordering a signature drink. “Sometimes you just need to indulge and enjoy a treat in its original, untouched form,” says Barkyoumb. “But instead of consuming the largest cup offered, downsize to a smaller cup to help with portion control.” 

A tall (12 ounces) of PSL is usually enough to satisfy that craving. 

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