I’m not going to lie … I make my coffee every day at home, and I have the MOST simple, most-low-tech, old-school coffee maker that I love. It has a reusable filter so there’s no fuss or harm to the environment, and I can brew it at any strength – I happen to prefer 1 heaping tablespoon for 4 cups of water, which is technically about ¼ strength, but I drink all 4 cups, so I’m getting the equivalent of a strong cup of coffee, just with a lot of extra water!
I like my coffee like this so much that Kevin and I even have separate, matching coffee makers. Yep, they sit right next to each other on the counter, and we each prep our own coffee pot each night for the following morning. Some think it’s strange; I think it makes total sense!
And I like my coffee pretty simple … a splash of Nutpods (preferably hazelnut), and sometimes another splash of Califia Farms Almond Coconutmilk blend. No sweetener, but it wasn’t always this way. I distinctly remember putting 6 packets of Splenda in my coffee when I was first trying to enjoy the taste of coffee. If you’ve ever put Splenda in your coffee, you know this is a cloyingly sweet, rather disgusting way to doctor it up. Once I learned that Splenda is unhealthy (did you know they make it by chlorinating a sucrose molecule?!? Yes, adding chlorine to sugar … that’s Splenda. If you wouldn’t drink your pool, don’t choose Splenda), I switched to stevia, and I used liquid stevia to titrate down from 40 drops (again, gross!) all the way down to zero. It’s been about 7 or 8 years since I’ve had sweetener in my coffee, and it tastes delicious this way to me.
But we’re not here to talk about my personal coffee preferences, although clearly I could do that all day. We’re here to talk about STARBUCKS. Now let me be honest … I don’t even love Starbucks coffee that much, but sometimes it does feel like a “treat” to go get a drink from there. That said, I know some of you are devotees, and can’t start a single day without heading to your local Starbucks. If you’re getting black coffee, go ahead and go to the next blog post … you’re fine. (We could talk about coffee quality and mold and toxins and fair-trade and allll the other things, but we won’t today).
But if you’re like MOST people who go to Starbucks, the whipped cream and the syrups and the flavorings and the Frappuccino and all the other bells and whistles … well, they’re hard to resist. And it seems relatively innocuous. You’re eating healthily all day, just have that one Venti Frappuccino that you love as a “treat,” right? I mean, it’s just coffee…
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the liquid calories that we drink, particularly from SUGAR, are some of the most detrimental to our health. Even though your fancy drink tastes great in the moment, it is NOT keeping you full for long, and is definitely leading to a blood sugar and energy crash a few hours later, which puts you on the roller coaster all day long … reaching for sweets or chips, feeling exhausted and hangry, and keeping your body from operating optimally (want more on the blood sugar rollercoaster? Check out my free Blood Sugar Masterclass here!)
Starbucks drinks can really add up in that area … a grande (that’s a “medium”) Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha has 510 calories and 72g sugar! That’s not even a venti (or “large”)! Frankly, once I saw that, I was legitimately too scared to look up what a venti had, or peruse the nutrition facts of other drinks. The average American is suggested to consume less than 25g of added sugar per day, and this medium drink has 3 DAYS’ worth of sugar right in it!
So, what’s a person who loves Starbucks to do? Good news, I’ve got you covered. Today, I’ll go over 4 hacks to healthify any Starbucks drink, 12 delicious and healthier Starbucks drinks you can order, and 6 healthy Starbucks dupes you can make at home. If you’re struggling to order healthily at Starbucks, you’re in the right place!
Top 4 Hacks to Make Your Starbucks Order Healthier
If you’re not interested in my special orders below but are looking to healthify your “regular” drink, here are a few things you can do:
- Cut down on pumps of syrup. The grande varieties have 4 pumps of syrup – cutting down to just one pump would save you 60 calories and (more importantly) 15 grams of sugar.
- Cut the whipped cream and drizzles. I knowww, but these end up piling on over 100 calories in many drinks, most of which comes from pure sugar. It’s just a blood sugar roller coaster waiting to happen!
- Choose the right base for you. Water is almost always the best base, and then add in a splash of milk or non-dairy milk. Dairy is inflammatory for many people, but if you do tolerate dairy, it can be a good way to make a drink a bit more filling. If you’re going for milk as the base of the drink, I suggest nonfat milk to keep calories lowest or 2% milk to fill you up a bit more; if you’re going for just a splash, half & half is fine. Assuming that you don’t tolerate dairy like most of us, almond milk is likely the healthiest Starbucks variety overall (because it reduces inflammation from dairy and has the lowest added sugar), but it can be a bit watery and not enough to “cut” the bitterness of coffee. If you want a bit more “heft” or creamy taste, a splash of coconut milk would be my next choice. The oatmilk and soymilk have lots of added sugar and other ingredients, so those would be my last choice at Starbucks. See this post for more on non-dairy milk substitutes.
- Consider a “short” or a “tall.” Honestly, a venti cup of caffeine and sugar is healthy for just about no one. This extreme hit of caffeine falsely stimulates your body and suppresses appetite, which might sound like a good thing, but always results in a rebound energy crash and onslaught of cravings a few hours after, and can result in adrenal issues if repeated over and over again. A short pick-me-up is enough!
Top 12 Healthy Starbucks Drinks
(Note: a few times below I’ll mention calories, which I usually don’t mention here on the blog. I want to emphasize that calories are not bad – they’re essential to survive! But empty calories (the ones that come without actual nourishment) go against most of our health goals, make us ride the blood sugar roller coaster, and don’t fill us up).
- Coffee. Sounds obvious, but if you’re going to a coffee shop, why not get coffee? I know, I know. I’m no fun. But personally, when I go to Starbucks, I get the blonde roast with a splash of coconut milk and call it a day. The Pike Place Roast, Dark Roast, Decaf, and all other brewed coffees would be great options, too!I usually get coconut milk, even though the Starbucks variety is sweetened, unfortunately, because I like the taste, and a splash isn’t the end of the world. Some Starbucks have stevia packets; if they do, I’ll do a splash of half & half with half a stevia packet. At home, I drink my coffee unsweetened, but I also drink far weaker coffee than Starbucks, so I need a little help with flavor when I’m there!
- Tea. Same as above – I love many of their teas (English Breakfast and Peach Tranquility are favorites!) brewed with water and a splash of coconut milk.
- Nitro Cold Brew Coffee. Another great option that’s easy to keep to what you’re there for – the coffee! Tastes great and can be refreshing and smooth even without the creamer because of the foam from the cold brew!
- Iced tea. The Iced Peach Green Tea or Iced Passion Tango Tea are my favorites! Straight up – no additives needed! The Teavana bottled Sparkling Unsweet Peach Nectarine Green Tea is also great. A long name, but worth it! What a fun, refreshing, fruity beverage – for 0 calories and 0 grams of sugar!
- “Fake” chai latte. The regular Chai Latte sounds healthy, but has 42g of sugar and 240 calories for a grande! Instead, ask for a brewed chai tea, made with half water and half almond milk – you’ll save 35g of sugar and an energy crash later!
- Espresso. Just be careful not to overdose on caffeine here – it can significantly impact sleep quality. But otherwise, this is a great option!
- Pumpkin Spice Cold Brew, adjusted. OK, let’s have some fun. If you want a fancy feeling, festive drink, try the tall (because there’s still sugar!) pumpkin spice cold brew, but cut out the vanilla syrup (saves you 10g sugar!), keep the pumpkin spice syrup, and add extra cinnamon on top. You end up with a delicious drink with just about 100 calories and 7 or so grams of sugar – could be a lot worse!
- Matcha Latte with almond milk, no syrup. Again, this will have some added sugar, but cutting the syrup and switching to almond milk makes a big difference! Try to stick to the tall and have this with a handful of nuts or other protein or fat to keep blood sugar stable.
- Iced Latte with 2% milk and just 1 pump syrup. I chose the 2% milk here for a bit of fat to stabilize out the sugar, and I lowered the pumps of syrup to give you the flavor without the crash later on.
- Flat White with 2% milk. Simple and to the point, with a bit of protein and fat to take the edge off hunger.
- Healthier Iced Brown Sugar Shaken Espresso. Instead of the traditional sugar bomb, ask for a tall iced espresso with a shot of oat milk and one pump of brown sugar syrup. Better yet – trade the oat milk for a splash of half & half or coconut milk.
- “Fake” Pumpkin Spice Latte. Order a tall 2% Americano Misto and ask to add cinnamon and nutmeg. You get your own stevia packet and stir it in. If you’re really wanting to go for it, add one pump of vanilla. Is it the same? No. But will you feel a heck of a lot better 2 hours later?
Top 10 Healthy Starbucks Dupes that You Can Make at Home
- Healthy Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte: Blend together 1.5 cups coffee, ¼ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk, ¼ cup canned unsweetened pumpkin, 1/3 scoop vanilla protein powder (I love Active Stacks), 10 drops liquid stevia, ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie filling. Pour in a mug, and top with optional whipped cream. Saves 48 grams of sugar, 320 calories, $5, and a WHOLE lot of health over the Starbucks Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte, and tastes amazing!
- Coconut Milk Latte. 3 ingredients, simple, and delicious!
- Paleo Frappuccino. I make the protein version of this a few times a week in the summer, using Active Stacks protein. SO GOOD!
- Vanilla Maca Latte. YES for the healing benefits of adaptogens (see more here), especially when served in a tasty and comforting combo like this!
- Dairy Free Dirty Chai Latte. Coffee AND chai tea? AM. IN.
- Peanut Butter Cold Brew Protein Shake. Looks delicious! Just use a different peanut butter (Skippy, which I grew up on, has hydrogenated oils that aren’t good for your heart, as well as added sugar)
Now it’s your turn … What’s your favorite healthy drink to order at Starbucks?
🎙️ Want to hear about this topic in audio format? → Check out the podcast episode here!
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