Order This, Not That: Starbucks

by in Dining Out, December 13, 2011


Who doesn’t love Starbucks’ holiday drinks? They have such fancy names and delicious ingredients. But the hidden calories . . . you won’t believe your thighs! Get the skinny before you order your next grande or venti holiday brew.

ORDER: Reasonable portions of tasty delights
Many folks look forward to the seasonal offerings at Starbucks. There’s nothing wrong with tasty caffeinated beverages, but many of Starbucks dressed-up drinks contain as many calories as we should be eating in one meal. Luckily, Starbucks gives you the power to take control of your order. You choose the size of your drink, type of milk, and whether or not you want whipped cream. When ordering a fancy-shmancy drink, count it as a snack and aim for no more than 200 calories.

Just to get some perspective, a grande (16-fluid ounce) cup of brewed coffee without sugar or milk contains 5 calories and is free of fat and sugar. Add ¼ cup of skim milk for an additional 15 calories. Now take a look at the numbers on some of the more popular holiday drinks: Before you order one of those yummy drinks, choose one with a reasonable amount of calories.

NOT: Overly decadent calorie-bombs
‘Tis the season for a grande (16-fluid ounce) Eggnog Frappuccino made with 2% milk and whipped cream. This baby weighs is at 420 calories, 18 grams of fat, and 58 grams of sugar. Even the tall size (12-fluid ounces) comes with a hefty 320 calories and 13 grams of fat.

Instead: Order the grande Eggnog Frappuccino Light with only 200 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, and 2.5 grams of saturated fat.

A grande Pumpkin Spice Crème Frappuccino made with whole milk and whipped cream is not much better with 380 calories, 16 grams of fat and 52 grams sugar.

Instead: Choose a tall (12-fluid ounce) version made with skim milk and hold the whipped cream for 150 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 33 grams  of sugar.

Some folks think that soy milk makes for a healthier drink. Don’t be fooled. A grande (16-fluid ounce) Mocha Frappuccino with soy milk and whipped cream has 410 calories, 14 grams of fat and 65 grams of sugar (Yikes!).

Instead: Ask for light soy or nonfat milk instead to skim some calories or go for the tall (12-fluid ounce) Mocha Frappuccino Light for 130 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 18 grams of sugar.

Looking forward to warming up to a grande (16-fluid ounce) Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate made with 2% milk and whipped cream? You’ll be guzzling down 450 calories, 16 grams fat and 62 grams sugar.

Instead: Switching to nonfat milk will only save 50 calories. A small taste of this decadent drink is all you need. Order a short (8-fluid ounce) made with nonfat milk and hold the whipped cream for 160 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 32 grams of sugar.

We can’t forget about the delicious grande (16-fluid ounce) Caramel Brulee Latte with 2% milk and whipped cream. It has a whopping 420 calories, 15 grams fat, and 47 grams sugar.

Instead: Go for a short (8-fluid ounce) version with the same add-ins for almost half the calories (240) and fat (8 grams).

For more information about Starbucks beverages, you can find them here.

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Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »

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Comments (36)

  1. Laura says:

    I wrote a post recently about the ridiculous sugar content in these drinks. I think the best thing to do is to make your own at home. It's easy, save a ton nutritionally, and much less expensive!

    In a pinch, I order an Americano with a touch of whip on top. A little sweetness without being a total sugar bomb!

    • Susan says:

      Laura, I've started getting the Misto [aka Cafe au Lait] bc it has so much less carbs than the nonfat latte I used to get and that's with no syrup!!!

  2. Lauren says:

    I always forget about the "short" option! That's always good to have as a choice no matter the time of year. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Jen says:

    If you are going to order at Starbucks, you can also ask the barista to use less syrup in your drink. I find the drinks way too sweet, so I ask for half the syrup they normally use, which cuts down on sugar and calories. This may not work with the hot chocolate though, only flavored coffee drinks.

    • Susan says:

      Jen, I do that with the iced and hot latte drinks and it does work. It's amazing how the "less sweet" taste is actually what I prefer now.

    • bob says:

      it works with a hot chocolate too, you can get half the vanilla and mocha which is what they use in the hot chocolate. A grande gets four pumps of mocha and one pump of vanilla so you can get two pumps of mocha and .5 pump of vanilla and no whip. Really the whip is what makes the drinks so fatty

  4. mytwocents says:

    This is good to know because now my 2011 goal is to lessen on Starbucks Drinks and just settle for water, whether it's hot or cold

  5. Jonathan hand says:

    Skinny versions can be made of almost all of the drinks. The barista will inform you if a drink cannot be both sugar and fat free. You can always ask for fewer fewer pumps of any ingredient for any of the drinks. Customers do it all day long. Just say skinny and half the pumps before any drink and the nutritional values drop significantly

  6. Leslie says:

    Unless I'm having a protein shake I just don't enjoy drinking my calories! Their drip Verona or even Pikes Peak is great. Enjoy the company you are with rather than the coffee milkshake you are spending a fortune on! Problem solved!

  7. Aaron says:

    Pumpkin Spice Crème Frappuccino : never tried this one beofre, sounds nice.

  8. Naomi says:

    Honestly, if I'm having an eggnog latte, I want the full on full flavor version. I'm not having them all day, every day, just one, perhaps 2 a year. I can afford to have it and not some yucky tasting skim milk imitation! If my family is with me, we'll get a grande and split it 4 ways. To the commenter who said they have a "short" – good to know! I had no idea this size still existed.

  9. [...] Order This, Not That: Starbucks [...]

  10. qualitygeek says:

    Tea, green, unsweetened… 'nough said…

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