As some of you might know, I worked at Starbucks for most of my college days. What many of you don’t know is that while working there, I GAINED 15 POUNDS in my first 6 months! Even though I was running around the store all day, getting well over 10,000 steps in a shift, it wasn’t making up for the excess calories I was drinking. It was all too easy to do with the free drink benefit that partners are provided. After adding it up, I was getting around 600 extra calories a day from the coffee (not to mention the “damaged” or outdated bakery treats that the employees often split).
It wasn’t until an Anatomy and Physiology class period titled “Diet and Health” that I realized what was happening to me. The class dispelled many nutrition myths and revealed to me how the Standard American Diet (rightfully abbreviated SAD) has been deteriorating the health of our country for decades and continues to do so. I was determined to reclaim my health and fitness, and started out by swapping pizza and casseroles for more vegetable based dishes, exercising regularly, and trading my high calorie coffee for healthier alternatives.
Most people have heard of the “Secret Menu” at Starbucks, but many don’t realize that you can customize your drinks 100%. Want nonfat instead of the standard 2% (used in lattes) or whole milk (used in frappuccinos)? Done! Prefer just half the syrup (for half the calories)? Easy! There are endless combinations of milks, flavors (including sugar free options), coffees, and toppings you can modify to make you coffee both satisfying and healthy!
These might surprise you!
Calories of common drinks:
Mocha (360 cal.)
Vanilla Latte (270 cal.)
Caramel Macchiato (250 cal.)
White Mocha (430 cal.)
Mocha Frappuccino (410 cal.)
Caramel Frappuccino (420 cal.)
Chai Tea Latte (240 cal.)
Iced Black Tea Lemonade (90 cal.)
Iced Green Tea (45 cal.)
Very Berry Refresher (70 cal.)
What about the milk?
Almond- 65 cal./cup
Coconut- 90 cal./cup
Non-Fat- 90 cal./cup
Soy (Sweetened Vanilla)- 130 cal./cup
Standard 2%- 130 cal./cup
Whole- 160 cal./cup
Half and Half- 40 cal./2 Tbsp
Consider these healthier options:
Start with something simple.
Shots of espresso
Cafe Misto (half coffee, half steamed milk)
Try these add ins for more flavor:
Stevia- available at Starbucks
Bring Sweet Drops along for a variety of flavors!
Add Vanilla or Cinnamon powder at the toppings bar
Sugar free Vanilla or Cinnamon Dolce syrup
Skinny Mocha Sauce (5 cal./pump)
Caramel Drizzle (15 cal./light serving)
*Nutrition information from Starbucks is for a Grande (16oz beverage). Standard lattes are made with 2% milk, and Frappuccinos are made with whole milk. Better options are listed with the best options first.
Now, you’re probably wondering what my solution was when I realized how many calories I was consuming from my Starbucks drinks. I experimented for a long time, and found several favorites:
For days when I need quick caffeine- 3 Shots of Espresso over ice with a splash of soy milk and caramel drizzle (around 30 calories)
For days when I want to enjoy sipping my coffee- Grande Americano with steamed soy and 2 pumps of sugar free vanilla
For days when I am prepared- I bring Sweet Drops (the Caramel flavored liquid stevia is my favorite!) and add it to a brewed coffee or americano
For days when I want cold coffee- Iced Americano with soy
For days I want iced tea- Unsweetened Black or Green Tea with no water (water is usually added because the tea is brewed stronger)
For days I want sweet iced tea- Unsweetened Passion Tea with stevia added (ask them to add it to the shaker unless you have liquid stevia- it is difficult to mix yourself)
For days when I’m making coffee at home- I brew high quality coffee and add Sweet Drops and Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
Although soy isn’t the lowest calorie milk option at Starbucks, I really enjoy the vanilla flavor that it adds, so it is usually my go-to since I only use a small amount. I typically avoid lattes because I prefer to eat rather than drink my calories, but I will have a small latte on occasion.
Good coffee is one of my favorite small joys in this world. Whether I’m enjoying a cup on a slow weekend morning or sipping it on my way to work, it is something I take a few mindful moments to enjoy each day. I am grateful that there are so many delicious options I can enjoy while still reaching my health goals, and I hope these tips help you to as well!