Healthy Ways to Order at Starbucks

by Danielle Omar
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Healthy Ways to Order at Starbucks

If you need a hit of caffeine, Starbucks is probably a go-to. But if you’re trying to lose weight, a daily Starbucks habit could wreak havoc on your good intentions. With an overwhelming amount of tempting options beyond a zero-calorie black coffee, it’s easy to order a beverage that rivals a pastry nutritionally. Frappuccinos and loaded mochas are obvious calorie-bombs that everyone knows we should avoid, but even lattes add up — especially when you order larger and larger sizes. In fact, Starbucks recently rolled out a new drink size, the 31-ounce Trenta, which is one ounce short of a quart.

But you don’t have to give up your daily fix to stay on track. These dietitian-approved tricks will help you navigate the menu so you can find healthy, satisfying options to keep you on track.

Nutrition Stats: 150 calories, 6g fat, 10g protein, 14g sugar

Nutrition Stats (iced): 100 calories, 3.5g fat, 6g protein, 9g sugar

Why it made the cut: Lattes are a blend of espresso and milk, so it’s like drinking a nutritious glass of caffeine-boosted milk. Any sugar in a regular, unsweetened latte is natural sugar from the milk, rather than added sugar — and the milk adds protein, making lattes a better option for supplementing a breakfast that needs a protein boost.

RD tip: All Starbucks drinks are made with 2% milk unless you specify otherwise. If you’re a fan of dairy milk, 2% is a great option. It’s creamy enough to be satisfying, but it has fewer calories and fat compared to whole milk. When ordering non-dairy milk at Starbucks, choose almond or soy. Almond milk reduces the calories in your drink, but won’t give you any of the filling protein, while soy milk is pretty comparable to dairy milk in terms of nutrition. Note that the ice in the iced latte cuts the milk back which reduces the calorie, fat, protein and sugar count across the board.

Nutrition Stats: 80 calories, 3g fat, 5g protein, 8g sugar

Why it made the cut: This is a one-to-one ratio of brewed coffee and steamed milk, so there’s less milk in a misto than in a latte, which slashes the calories nearly in half, but you still get the frothy creaminess from the steamed milk.

RD Tip: Order this with almond milk if you’re not a fan of dairy milk or want to cut even more calories — there are just 40 calories in a tall almond milk misto. If you’re craving a flavored drink, add no more than one pump of any syrup.

Nutrition Stats: 105 calories, 5g fat, 3g protein, 8g sugar

Why it made the cut: This drink satisfies a chocolate craving while reigning in the sugar and calories you’d find in other chocolatey Starbucks drinks, like the Salted Caramel Mocha. At just over 100 calories and 8 grams of sugar, this mocha is a reasonable indulgence.

RD Tip: Order just about any other flavored latte this way, too. Choose a tall to keep portions in check, almond milk to keep calories down (or 2% dairy milk if you need a protein boost) and just one pump (versus three) of syrup (whether it’s mocha, pumpkin spice, vanilla, etc.) for added flavor.


READ MORE > HEALTHY WAYS TO ORDER AT CHIPOTLE


Nutrition Stats: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g sugar, 0g protein

Why it made the cut: The Passion Tango Tea tastes fruity and refreshing without any sweetener. If you don’t normally like unsweetened iced tea, give this flavored tea a shot — you can’t get better than a zero-calorie drink packed with fruity flavor!

RD Tip: Be forewarned that many of Starbucks’ teas are heavily sweetened (even when the description reads “lightly” sweetened). Avoid iced tea lemonades and Refreshers, which are loaded with sugar, and instead opt for unsweetened iced teas or follow the one-pump rule to keep calories at a minimum.

Nutrition Stats: 200 calories, 2.5g fat, 5g protein, 37g carbs, 7g sugar, 5g fiber

Why it made the cut: At just 200 calories, this oatmeal has 5 grams of filling fiber from oats and blueberries, and only 7 grams of sugar when you leave out the agave syrup packet. The combination of filling oats, fresh blueberries and crunchy nuts is satisfying to help keep you full.

RD Tip: Choose the Hearty Blueberry Oatmeal over the Classic Oatmeal since it comes with fresh fruit, rather than sugar-sweetened dried fruit. That cuts back on added calories and sugar while increasing the volume and flavor to keep you satisfied. Leaving the agave packet behind cuts 20 calories and 5 grams of sugar. Sprinkle on cinnamon instead.

Nutrition Stats: 450 calories, 27g fat, 20g protein, 34g carbs, 15g sugar, 4g fiber

Why it made the cut: This protein box is available at nearly every Starbucks location, whether you’re in a busy city or at a kiosk in the mall. Containing one full cup of fruit plus whole-grain crackers and three cheeses, this box combines produce, protein and whole grains for a balanced meal that’s easy to eat on the go.

RD Tip: Split this box up and have snacks for two days — each snack packs in 10 grams of protein.

Nutrition Stats: 290 calories, 10g fat, 19g protein, 4g sugar, 6g fiber

Why it made the cut:  This protein-rich breakfast is a great option for after the gym and an ideal non-pastry, non-cereal alternative if you’re on-the-go and need something to keep you satisfied. Not only is it a vegetarian, protein-rich choice, it also boasts 6 grams of fiber to keep you satisfied all morning.

RD tip: Round out this breakfast with a fresh fruit or a plain  yogurt cup if you’re looking for something a bit more hearty.

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  • Josh Peterson

    Great article Danielle! Starbucks are everywhere that when you’re short on time, it’s a great reward, but it’s hard not to be lured by the brand and the flavors of various drinks!

    I was curious why the reduced-fat turkey bacon breakfast sandwich didn’t make the cut and what the egg white spinach wrap provides to make it a better choice? Is it the balance of a little veggies and an appropriate amount of fat to keep you satisfied? I noticed it has more sodium too (830 mg) making it seem a little too pre-processed.

    I do find that although the egg white turkey bacon sandwich clocks in at 18g of protein and 2 grams of sugar that the low fat doesn’t provide as much satiety out of a breakfast as I’d like. Curious for thoughts on this!

    • Lisa

      Also, would like to know. I alternate between the two sandwiches at SB. Great ideas Danielle.

  • Anna Elizabeth Marinello

    Hiya! Part-time Starbucks barista and fellow MyFitnessPal user here! I can’t speak for Starbucks as a company, but since I work there I have a few tips!

    A few personal faves for cutting calories:

    The bucks has 3 sugar free syrups. Sugar-free mocha, sugar-free vanilla, sugar-free cinnamon dolce, with the latter 2 ringing in at zero calories. Score! I’ll refer to them as SFM, SFV, and SFCD.

    Black iced tea with a few pumps of SFCD is like an iced chai with zero calories. Big win.

    I would suggest trying the iced passion tango tea with a couple stevia packets. Ask for them to be shaken into your drink. Zero calories again.

    Ask for SFM in any drink with mocha, and SFV in your caramel macchiatos (which actually have a vanilla syrup base, not caramel).

    If you try to avoid dairy, coconut milk has the same calorie-count per 1 cup serving as skim milk. (80 calories)

    Lastly, the reduced-fat turkey bacon is a real winner with only 240 calories and lots of good protein.

    Enjoy!!!

    • maomao22

      Wow thanks for the tips!

    • Maegan Moore

      This is great! Thanks!!

    • JB1

      I was going to mention the sugar-free syrups and red-fat turkey bacon sandwiches…. my go-tos! Also, they’ll make a latte with half sugar-free and half regular syrup too (1.5 pumps each), if you need a bit more flavor and can stand the extra calories and sugar.

  • Val Prism

    Haha, this is like “order a light beer instead of an IPA” advice. Hope Starbucks paid well for the ad.

  • Donna Jurgens Corfield

    I always order nonfat milk and no whip no pumps, works for me. Love the different protein boxes

  • GailGedanSpencer

    I also like the Roasted Tomato and Mozzarella Panini. It’s 350 calories, which is pretty reasonable for a meal and it tastes like pizza.

  • Brendan Dillon

    Healthiest way to eat at Starbucks is to not eat at Starbucks. I enjoy much of their food, but it ain’t healthy. And their tea/coffee is bitter as all get out.

  • effamae

    Seriously? Starbucks? Why not just treat it as it is meant to be? It is an indulgence and health has nothing to do with it.

  • eric_a_stephens

    Even easier:

    For drinks, stick with unsweetened items such as green tea, espresso, or – wait for it – black coffee
    For food, have the sous-vide bites

    Super low carb

    You’re welcome.

  • Michelle Cohen

    Actually, as someone who watches calories and eats very healthy on a very low calorie diet, Starbucks is one of the healthiest fast food chains out there, i eat there frequently. One of the best things is they mark the calories and serving sizes on every single item. And they have a huge range of meals, snacks and drinks in addition to desserts that range from the healthy and low cal to the opposite, and to me their food is actually tasty and fresh. I find the best are as follows.
    drinks, i only get a grande skim latte. Lots of coffee, skim milk and actually lattes are better made with skim so you don’t sacrifice taste. if you want a little addition i add chocolate or vanilla powder on top (NOT syrup, thats concentrated sugar, AVOID).

    Food, great ones are:
    as mentioned
    –the spinach feta wrap, low cal, satisfying and nutritious.
    –reduced fat turkey bacon sandwich.
    –mozzarella sundried tomato panini. lots of bread but fewer calories than other paninis, good for comfort food.
    –their new Sous Vide eggs are DELICIOUS. The egg white and roasted pepper one is an amazing low cal choice for a protein snack or side.

    Some of the boxes are good too, beware the larger mixed salads, they’re full of oils often, and for some reason have a high calorie count.

    Even their dessert choices have some good picks among them including:
    rice krispie treat. It’s huge, but it has fewer calories than any big brownie bar that size.
    cake pops. Totally delicious truffle-on-a-stick, enough to satisfy as an indulgence but keep the calorie count low.

    Unfortunately my all time fave Starbucks item is the frosted seasonal sugar cookie which packs tons of calories, but boy are they good : )

    • Agreed about those sous vide eggs! Love those.

  • Maria Miranda

    I’m watching my carbs and I don’t see the nutrition stats for carbs for most of these items. Why is that?

  • AnnMarie

    What is SALT content for all of these? SALT is my medical concern (in addition to fat in foods). Thank you. Thank you.

  • Darin Rohatinsky

    Uhh..mine? Grande Americano w/an inch of coconut milk and sugar free vanilla. 20 calories and no sugar.

  • Dgirl

    I don’t know why anyone would encourage to do biz with Starbucks when they are in bed with Monsanto and GMO foods! These big money makers are going to destroy our ability to have healthy foods. Beware and be aware. BOYCOTT Them until they change their financial joint ventures…they are in a mutual fund together. Thanks.

  • Bruce Wagner

    Why the inconsistencies in the nutritional data?
    Seems intentionally misleading.

  • Chris Keitlen

    what do you think about the new egg bites? higher in protein, less carbs, no sugar?