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Even when it’s not PSL season, Starbucks is still busy tempting your sweet tooth with heavenly creations like the Cloud Macchiato and Juniper Latte. So, hey, it makes sense that when you swing by a nearby ‘Bucks, you’re stuck wondering what, if anything, on their impressively extensive menu is the healthiest option.
“It’s not that Starbucks drinks are ‘bad,’ but if you’re being mindful about calories, sugar, and fat, it can quickly add up,” says Laura Iu, RD, a nutritionist in New York City. “Think about all of those toppings and pumps of syrup, which can turn a simple pick-me-up into more of a meal-like beverage.”
To score a healthy Starbucks drink that won’t give you a sugar-high (and subsequent crash) Iu recommends sticking to a tall (12 oz) size if you opt for a sweet beverage. As for syrup and toppings, less—if not none—is more. There’s no reason to deprive yourself of a craving, so if you want that caramel macchiato, go for it, girl—just be kind to your body and ask for one pump of caramel rather than the typical two. Instead, tinker with the taste yourself by adding a dash or two of flavor-boosting cinnamon or cocoa powder to your coffee, Iu recommends.
Next time you’re at Starbucks (likely after finishing this article, duh), sip on any of these 12 hot and cold beverages that offer the most bang for your nutritional buck:
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Going for the simple option—and at any size!—is always a smart bet, says Keri Gans, RDN, dietitian in New York City. Head’s up, however, drinking too much espresso (and black coffee in general) can leave you feeling jittery and anxious and your tum, no bueno thanks to its acidity. If you have a sensitive stomach, best to keep the number of cups to a minimum.
Per serving, solo: 5 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 1 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, 75 mg caffeine
If you’re a firm believer that the bolder the brew, the better, go for an Americano. Essentially just water and coffee (and thus, keto-approved, too!), the beauty of this caffeinated cup is that you can control how much, if any, creamer and sweetener you want to add, which is why it’s a typical order for pro Cara Harbstreet, RD, dietician at Street Smart Nutrition.
Per serving, tall: 10 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 1 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 10 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 1 g protein, 150 mg caffeine
Ah, the LBD of caffeinated beverages. A black coffee is a classic choice, but if you’re not a fan, there’s no harm in adding a splash of milk and a little bit of regular sugar instead of artificial sugars, whose chemicals can trigger sweet cravings later in the day, Iu says. And if you’re looking for an extra jolt, opt for the blonde roast, which generally has more caffeine.
Per serving, tall: 5 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 10 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, 235 mg caffeine
Skim Cafe Misto
Made using a 1:1 ratio of freshly brewed coffee and steamed milk, this bad boy delivers that latte-esque creaminess with less dairy. To make it even lighter, opt for low fat or plant-based milk, Iu says.
Per serving, tall: 60 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 8 g carbs, 8 g sugar, 70 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 6 g protein, 115 mg caffeine
Nitro Cold Brew
A.k.a. cold coffee on tap that’s infused with tiny nitrogen bubbles to create a foamy, beer-like texture (sans alcohol, of course). Thanks to this creamy finish, you’ll be less inclined to add extra sugar, Iu says. Another bonus? No need for all that ice ultimately watering down your java.
Per serving, tall: 5 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 10 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, 215 mg caffeine
Either cold (which is reminiscent of a frap!) or hot, “this espresso poured over foamed milk makes this Starbucks drink rich without needing extra pumps of sugar,” Iu says. Take a sip and still craving some sweetness? Gans recommends adding lower-cal cinnamon or cocoa powder rather than requesting syrup.
Per serving, tall, nonfat milk: 100 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 15 g carbs, 13 g sugar, 115 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 10 g protein, 130 mg caffeine
Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew
Quick reminder: Cold brew is when coffee grinds are mixed with cold water for a good 12 hours, resulting in a slightly less bitter brew (that’s also less acidic). What makes this vanilla order a standout option is that right before serving, the barista tops the beverage with cream and sugar. “Basically you’re getting the real stuff (cream and sugar) just less than you’d maybe pour yourself—and a tall is just 90 cal and 9 g sugar,” Iu explains.
Per serving, Tall: 90 calories, 5 g fat (2.5 g saturated), 9 g carbs, 9 g sugar, 20 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 1 g protein, 145 mg caffeine
Teavana Shaked Ice Passion Tango Tea
Pro tip: Make sure to order this beverage unsweetened. Why? Because believe it or not, baristas add syrup to iced tea to sweeten it even if you don’t request it. Plus, this cooling quencher is super flavorful on its own so you won’t even miss the sugar.
Per serving, tall: 30 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 8 g carbs, 8 g sugar, 5 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, 0 mg caffeine
When the clock strikes 3 p.m. and that mid-afternoon craving kicks in, treat yo-self to a tall cappuccino. Underneath that frothy layer of foam is power-packed espresso with a touch of hot milk, all of which come together to help you power through that midday slump by satisfying (cya cravings!) and energizing (buh-bye yawns).
Per serving, tall, nonfat milk: 60 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 9 g carbs, 8 g sugar, 70 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 6 g protein, 75 mg caffeine
Jade Citrus Mint Green Tea
“Tea is loaded with antioxidants and it’s a great way to stay hydrated,” says Iu. And when you order this one in particular, you reap the slew of health benefits from green tea, which has been linked to nearly everything from improving your memory to preventing cancer.
Per serving, tall: 0 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, 15-25 mg caffeine
Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher
A combo of real fruit juice, whole blackberries, and green coffee extract—which, per Iu, provides a natural boost of energy without the jitters—this bright pink beverage is basically an adult (read: caffeinated) fruit juice. Skip added syrup and sweeteners and let the berries naturally amp up the flavor and, bonus, provide even the slightest bit of fiber.
Per serving, tall: 60 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 14 g carbs, 12 g sugar, 10 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 0 g protein, 35-45 mg caffeine
Latte lovers, rejoice! Sipping on this thick and rich drink is sure to please—and without packing on tons of cals and sugar. But if you’re really pining for a sweeter pick, Gans recommends ordering a tall Skinny Vanilla Latte, which has a few pumps of sugary syrup but still stays below 150 cals.
Per serving, tall: 100 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 15 g carbs, 14 g sugar, 120 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 10 g protein, 75 mg caffeine
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