Starbucks Nutrition: Healthiest and Unhealthiest Drinks

Confessions of a Starbucks-aholic

So if you haven’t gotten the idea yet, I’m kind of obsessed with Starbucks. Whether I’m writing about the exclusive Secret Menu, the various ways in which Starbucks rips you off, an extensive summary of their menu, or their Gold Rewards program, I’m always writing about it somehow. I’m a self-proclaimed addict, and yet seem to have a sort of love/hate relationship with them because of their prices and nutrition.

Anyway, in this hub I will outline what the healthiest and the tastiest things at Starbucks are. Which drinks are the least amount of calories, which are the healthiest, which are low-carb, and which are… well… none of the above, but so delicious that it makes you not care for a few minutes what sludge you’re practically inhaling through the straw.


Healthiest of All

First off, I want to say this disclaimer:

BY FAR the healthiest drinks to get at a Starbucks are the brewed teas or coffees with no sugar, creamer, or milk. The teas are basically 0 calories because they are just water, and can be really healthy if they are of the Green Tea variety, full of antioxidants and healthy energy. Brewed coffee is as little as 15 calories with no additives. It is also very good for you because there's no sugar, and therefore no fat, no carbs, no artificial sweeteners. Even the shaken lemonade Iced Teas are pretty healthy because it's basically lemonade, i.e. only sugar, a lot less complicated than the milky, fatty, Espresso or Frappuccino beverages. But since most people don't get simply brewed teas or coffees, and these are generally widely known to be healthier, I'll be focusing on the more complicated drinks that are offered at Starbucks, the Smoothies, Refreshers, Macchiatos, Lattes, and Frappuccinos. Grab a latte and let's start!


Nutrition

Smoothies

I'll start with the healthiest beverages. As you move further down the page, you go deeper and deeper into sin, metaphorically at least.

The Smoothies are a great choice for someone looking for a healthier option at Starbucks.

While the Smoothies have more calories, they are much more full of protein, and yet low in fat. The Smoothies come in three flavors: Chocolate, Mango, and Strawberry. All come in only one size, a 16 ounce. They are all made with a whole banana and have protein added to them to make them especially packed with healthy building blocks for our muscles. I like to think of the smoothie as a treat after going to the gym for a week or something. Although they’re a bit too heavy to have every day, they make a great end of a week’s worth of working out pick-me-up. Or, they are a delicious cool treat on a summer’s day. They’re a great pool-side drink and don’t leave you feeling especially guilty, but very satisfied. As far as comparing the smoothies amongst themselves, the Mango wins out. It not only has the least calories, but also the least fat. However, keep in mind that the chocolate isn’t that many more calories, and for the extra 4 grams of fat also has 4 extra grams of protein.

Refreshers

The Refreshers are a very different kind of drink. They are much lighter in texture and weight. While they don’t have any protein, they are extremely low calorie and have practically no fat, which is a pretty significant bonus. The best part of the Refreshers however is that they have other health benefits. The Very Berry Habiscus has whole blackberries in it and is made with real fruit juice giving it a delicious raspberry flavor and kick of antioxidants. Furthermore, it contains Green Coffee extract for natural energy. The Cool Lime Refresher similarly is made with real fruit juice, a lemon slice, sprigs of mint, and Green Coffee Extract. Both make a great afternoon pick-me-up. Since neither are really coffee, they don’t keep you awake at night, but still don’t let you fall asleep in the afternoon. Great for after work or school, refreshing on a warm day, and wonderful for the pool or beach.

The Skinny on the Skinny

So Starbucks has come up with a very clever way of keeping up with today's growing armies of health-obsessed, weight-watching phenatics, i.e. almost everybody. They have created the Skinny (insert drink name here). For example, Skinny Vanilla Latte, Skinny Mocha, etc. The point of the Skinny is that it's made with non-fat milk and a less sugary syrup. Do they taste the same? Obviously not, but if you're really looking to shave off some calories, they are defintely a good alternative. Although filling your body with fake sugars is definitely not "healthy," the drinks are generally healthier in other ways. THey have 0 grams of fat, 9 grams of protein, and about 30% of your daily value of calcium (nutritional facts from a Tall).

As you can see, looking down the chart below, the lattes can get pretty pricy health-wise. By the time you get to the Salted Caramel, White Chocolate Mocha, and Peppermint Mocha, it's pretty much as many calories as an entire meal. So keep these larger drinks as a treat for a special occasion rather than a daily thing.

This chart shows the amount of calories in each beverage, in their iced equivalent, their Skinny equivalent (if applicable), and their Skinny Iced equivalent (if applicable). .

Savings from the Skinny

Drink
Calories (Hot)
Calories (Iced)
Calories in Skinny (Hot)
Calories in Skinny (Iced)
Americano
25
15
---
---
Cappuccino
140
---
---
---
Caramel Flan Latte
280
---
---
---
Vanilla Latte
290
210
---
---
Flavored Latte
290
210
120
80
Mocha
290
220
140
100
Cinnamon Dolce Latte
300
220
120
---
Peppermint Mocha
360
280
130
---
Salted Caramel Mocha
360
---
---
---
White Chocolate Mocha
430
360
---
---
*Calculations taken from Whole Milk Grande (16oz) beverages, no whip. *All Skinny calculations made from Nonfat Grande (16oz) beverages, no whip. *Dashes indicate no drink exists on the Starbucks website with these qualities.

Macchiato Nutrition

Macchiatos

Macchiatos are somewhat fewer calories than lattes, but this is not because they have less flavored syrups, it is because they are basically a Vanilla Latte with some flavored syrup that is extremely sweet drizzled on top. So a Caramel Macchiato is a Vanilla Latte with caramel drizzle on top and so on. Although there is no Skinny Macchiato, there is very simple way to order a Skinny Macchiato, but it’s much more of a mouthful.

Make Your Own "Skinny" Macchiato at Starbucks

  1. Order which ever you want with nonfat milk.
  2. Also order with the sugar-free vanilla syrup

This can decrease the calories in your macchiato by about a hundred, and although it may be a more mouthful of an order, it is a better choice. You can keep the caramel drizzle, hazelnut drizzle, and vanilla drizzle on top because they give it all the flavor and are the only thing that separate it from a simple Vanilla Latte.

Tall Heart Attack with Whip?

We have finally arrived at the Frappuccino, the most unhealthy drinks at Starbucks. Well, these babies are clearly the MOST unhealthy, but they are also delicious on a really hot day. Luckily, there is a healthier version of Frappuccinos, the "Light" version. IN the table below, the Frappuccinos are given in order from lowest to highest, and their "Light" versions are also given. Frappuccinos are the tastiest in hot weather and the best kind, at least in my opinion, are those with little treats inside them. Fraps such as the Caramel Ribbon Crunch, Java Chip, and Mocha Cookie Crumble have little crumbles in them to give you something to munch on at the same time. Not surprisingly, these are the highest in calorie count. All of these measurements are made with whip and with whole milk because you can't get a Frap without any whip, that's blasphemy! If there isn't a "Light" version of the Frap you want, try switching your whole milk for nonfat, which should make it at least better than what it was, health-wise.

Lighten Up Your Frap

Drink
Calories in Regular
Calories in Light
You Save
Cinnamon Dolce Creme Frappuccino
350
---
---
Tazo Chai
360
---
---
Caffe Espresso
380
---
---
Straberries and Cream
380
---
---
Cinnamon Dolce
380
140
240
Caramel Flan
390
150
240
Hazelnut
390
---
---
Vanilla Bean Creme
400
---
---
Mocha
400
---
---
Caramel
410
140
270
Double Chocolate Chip
410
---
---
White Chocolate Creme
420
---
---
Caffe Vanilla
430
180
250
Tazo Green Tea
430
---
---
White Chocolate Mocha
440
---
---
Caramel Ribbon Crunch Creme
440
---
---
Java Chip
460
200
260
Mocha Cookie Crumble
480
---
---
Caramel Ribbon Crunch
480
---
---
NOTE: The regular fraps are calculated with whole milk and with whipped cream since baristas always use whip unless asked not to. The "Light" ones are calculated without whip and with nonfat milk. A "Creme" Frappuccino is one without coffee, usually

Quick Tips to Make Your Drink Healthier

  1. Ask for a non-whole milk, i.e. 2%, nonfat, soy. All three of these reduce the fats and calories in your drink substantially.
  1. Ask for one or two less pumps of syrup in your drink. A Tall latte has three pumps of flavored syrup, a Grande has five, and a Venti has seven. Getting a Grande with four pumps instead of five can reduce sugar, fats, and calories in your drink.
  2. Ask for no whip. Whipped cream on any drink adds around 110 calories and has the equivalent trans fats of seven strips of bacon. This is a no-brainer, if you really want to be healthier, SKIP THE WHIP.
  3. Get iced. Iced drinks have less actual "drink" and more filler, i.e. ice. This sucks cost-wise, but is less calories...
  4. Ask for the sugar-free syrups. If you don't want to get the Skinny or Light beverages because you don't like nonfat milk, try getting whole milk but asking for the sugar-free syrups. Although these aren't available for every flavor, they do cut down on calories, sugar, and carbs.
  5. Choose a tea instead of a coffee. Nine times out of ten, teas are substantially less calories, sugar, carbs, and fat than an espresso beverage, even the lemonade ones. If you need an energy boost, choose a Green Tea or a Refresher.

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