10 Healthy Starbucks Hacks You Need to Try
What with all their seasonally exclusive lattes in limited edition cups personalized with your name in Sharpie, Starbucks has a firm hold on American coffee consumers — and for good reason.
At more than 30,000 locations worldwide, you can order up your choice of coffee-, tea-, or juice-based drink with a wide range of flavored syrups, sweeteners, and milks. But all those options can do a real number on your waistline if you’re a regular at your Starbucks Coffee.
Thankfully, there are ways to adjust your order so you won’t have to totally ditch your health and fitness goals.
10 Great Healthy Starbucks Hacks
1. Check the Nutrition Info Before You Go
Sonya Angelone, MS, RDN, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, suggests taking a look at the nutrition facts online before you order so you can get a better handle on how much sugar, fat, and calories are in your Starbucks drink.
Whether you count your macros or not, this simple exercise can help dictate not just what you order, but how you order it (more on that in a sec).
2. Stick to the Basics
A cup of freshly brewed Blonde Roast or Pike Place coffee is made up of just coffee beans and water, which translates to zero fat and carbs and negligible calories.
The same goes for the cold stuff. “The plain cold brewed coffee has no sugar and virtually no calories,” Angelone says. You can also order a caffè Americano (espresso topped with hot water) for a robust yet low-calorie option.
3. Order a Tall
You’re exhausted but do you really need a venti? Starbucks drinks are notoriously high in caffeine compared to other coffee chains.
To put it into perspective, a medium hot brewed coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts has around 210 milligrams of caffeine in a 14-ounce serving. While Starbucks has slightly different sizing, their caffeine count tops DD’s even at the smaller 12-ounce (tall) serving size: Blonde Roast has around 270 milligrams of caffeine and Pike Place has around 235 milligrams.
And, when you order a smaller size of the flavored drinks, you’re cutting back on sugar, calories, and fat, too. If you’re feeling particularly European, you can also order a short which clocks in at eight small-but-mighty ounces.
4. Be Wary of “Skinny” Options
Starbucks offers a handful of “skinny” or “light” versions of their menu offerings, which swaps in lower-calorie syrups and lower-fat milk and ditches the whipped cream and other toppings.
These changes do make a difference — a grande caffè mocha has 360 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 35 grams of sugar while the skinny version has 170 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 15 grams of sugar — but you’ll be sipping on a hefty dose of sucralose(an artificial sweetener that could potentially alter our gut microbiome).
“[Skinny drinks] are still not good for you just because they are low in calories,” says Mascha Davis, RDN, MPH, and founder of Nomadista Nutrition. “They are often high in artificial sweeteners and would still count as a dessert.” Instead, Davis recommends getting the real thing in a reasonable size.
5. Ask for Fewer Pumps and Less Whip
While Starbucks baristas maintain consistency from shop to shop by way of set recipes for their drinks, you can absolutely customize your order.
“Starbucks is great about adjusting amounts so they will always do a half pump of the flavor if you ask. That’s one of my favorite hacks to get the flavor with less sugar,” Davis says. Rather than stick to the sugary-syrup script, you can ask for a half pump or one pump of flavor — be it caramel, vanilla, cinnamon dolce, or any one of the seasonal options like pumpkin spice.
The average grande pumpkin spice latte, for instance, calls for four pumps of pumpkin spice syrup, which along with the milk, whipped cream, and pumpkin spice topping amounts to 50 grams of sugar (that’s 12 teaspoons of table sugar!).
You can also ask for less whip or no whip to save around 80 to 110 calories depending on the size and type of drink.
6. B.Y.O. Milk
“Most non-dairy milks have added sugars… actually all the ones I have seen in coffee houses do,” Angelone says.
While Starbucks won’t handle any outside milk to whip up your drink, you can bring your own small container of unsweetened almond, cashew, oat, or any other milk alternative to pour into your drink once it’s served to you. (Here’s a rundown of the healthiest milks if you need a refresher).
If you feel silly toting around nut milk, you can keep your favorite type stocked at home or at the office so you can add it to your drink once you get back (believe us when we say those drinks stay crazy hot for a long time, especially if there’s no milk added yet).
7. Order Unsweetened and Sweeten As Needed
Starbucks offers dozens of drink options that come void of sugar or artificial sweeteners. “Order the unsweetened drinks such as coffee, lattes, or cappuccinos,” Davis says. “The flavored drinks are packed with sugar.”
By ordering an unadulterated cup of coffee or tea, you can actually taste the intricate flavors of the coffee beans and tea leaves. You can always add a little bit of sugar or honey on your own.
8. Don’t Forget About Protein
Ordering a healthier drink isn’t all about slashing calories and fat. While swapping almond milk for Starbucks’ standard 2% cow’s milk will save you 20 calories in a grande cappuccino, you’ll miss out on 5 extra grams of protein. And if you choose coconut milk, you’ll cut that protein even more.
9. Doctor Your Drink Yourself
When you order your brewed drink, ask for room and doctor your drink yourself. They often offer plenty of choices of different milks and creamers, along with flavored powders, spices, and different sweeteners.
By DIY’ing the add-ins yourself, you’re controlling how much or how little goes in. Case in point: You can still get a sweet cinnamon drink by just using the spice and stevia, without having to go the route of the sweet sugary syrup. “I like ordering the classic drinks and adding the milk and sugar myself to make sure I am aware of the amounts added,” Davis says.
10. Know That Pastries Aren’t Your Only Choice
Feeling hungry? We have good news. Starbucks offers some fairly healthy breakfast, snack, and lunch options.
Rather than fall for the beautifully displayed cake pops, brownies, pound cake, and other pastries, opt for one of the more balanced, filling options like the reduced-fat turkey bacon breakfast sandwich on a whole-grain English muffin.
“I also like the oatmeal,” Davis says. “It’s a great healthy breakfast option and can be made low fat if made with water instead of milk.” She also recommends the protein boxes (which have between 20 and 35 grams of protein) and KIND bars if you’re in need of a quick snack.
4 Healthier Starbucks Drinks to Try
Try one of these four lower sugar, lower calorie options (nutrition stats are for a tall size).
- Calories: 50
- Fat: 0g
- Sugar: 11g
- Calories: 30
- Fat: 0g
- Sugar: 8g
- Calories: 40
- Fat: 2.5g
- Sugar: 2g
- Calories: 70
- Fat: 0g
- Sugar: 9g