Starbucks 101: Healthy Drinks & Snacks.

A couple of readers have asked for a post like this for a while and finally I have written it! I figure I’m not the best person to ask about healthy Starbucks drinks because I am bias and have far too much love and adoration for the big-name international company BUT I did work at Starbucks for 4 years and have continued to stay updated on their new drinks, new food, and what exactly is in all of it.

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I have one basic rule when I go to Starbucks… KEEP IT SIMPLE. The less going into your drink, the less chance you have of un-healthifying it. There are some really delicious drinks at Starbucks and there are hundreds of people working endless hours to create more delicious drinks for Starbucks, but there are less employees working their butts off to create healthy menu options for you. Hey, they’re a business, of course if they can literally sugar coat it and charge $6 for it, they will.

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Let’s talk about size. Did you know that when Starbucks first opened they had two sizes, short and tall. 8oz and 12oz. That’s it. If you were going to go big, get the largest size possible, and really go for it, you were going to order an entire 12oz of coffee. Today, it isn’t uncommon to find someone holding a whopping 30oz of frappuccino in their “trenta” size cup. If you really want to choose wisely at Starbucks, I beg of you, order a Short, Tall, or, if you reeeeeeally need it, a Grande.

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If you go to Starbucks once a year, go for it. Get the whipped cream, enjoy the chocolate syrup, add extra sea salt… but if you go on a more frequent basis, in terms of healthy choices, less is more. I have a few go-to drinks I thought I would share, that are not only delicious, but as far as coffee-shop drinks go, are somewhat healthy.

All nutrition info is for the tall (12oz) size.

  • Coffee. Black. I’m one of those weird people who truly enjoys coffee black and thinks cream and sugar ruin the taste. (4 calories, 0g fat, 0.5g protein)
  • Tea. Black. Again, nothing added and Starbucks has revamped their teas to include some really awesome choices. I absolutely love peach, pineapple, and mint. (0 calories, 0g fat, 0g protein)
  • Americano. If you like a simple cup of coffee, try an Americano. Instead of grinding coffee and pouring hot water over it, an Americano uses shots of expresso and hot water. If I have the choice, I go for the Americano over drip coffee. (10 calories, 0g fat, 1g protein)
  • Americano Misto. Halfway between a latte and an Americano. I typically don’t like all of the milk taste in a latte so an americano misto is perfect. After shots of espresso are poured in the cup, half hot water and half steamed milk are added to the drink. (45 calories, 0g fat, 5g protein (skim milk); 50 calories, 2.5g fat; 4g protein (soy milk)) 
    • PROTIP: You can also do this with tea and create an unsweetened tea misto, half hot water and half steamed milk to steep your tea!
  • Latte. Nice and simple, a latte is a delicious drink and tastes amazing on its own without any syrup, chocolate, sprinkles, salt, or diabetes. (100 calories, 0g fat, 10g protein (skim milk); 110 calories, 4.5g fat, 8g protein (soy milk)) 
    • PROTIP: You could also reduce calories by choosing a cappuccino instead of a latte which reduces the milk content by increasing the foam in the drink.

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When I started working at Starbucks, I ate and drink pretty much everything in the store. It is all delicious, sweet, and addicting. Slowly as I began to get sick of it and started reading the ingredients lists and nutrition information panels, I reduced my go-to drink repertoire to the drinks listed above. It’s not that I think a couple squirts of vanilla syrup will kill you, I’m just not a fan of added sugar and try my best to keep it out when I don’t really need it. I like adding a sprinkle of cinnamon to my latte, an extra shot of espresso to my coffee, and sometimes I switch it up and get my drinks made with coconut milk, for the most part, less is more. Keep it simple.

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What should I eat at Starbucks? Again, keep it simple. Starbucks has tried to do a good job with adding a few more options for people with various allergies and diet requirements, but they still have a lot of crap. If you can make banana bread, make it, don’t buy a slice from Starbucks. Here are a few of my favourite healthy go-to snacks at Starbucks.

  • Spinach, feta, and egg white wrap (caution: sodium alert). It’s my favourite breakfast at Starbucks and a major treat for me. It’s delicious but it has a lot of sodium so beware. (280 calories, 10g fat, 19g protein)
  • Nuts. They sell little individual packages of roasted nuts and they are about the simplest snack you can get with the least number of ingredients. Don’t look for the sugar coated or honey cranberry or whatever, look for plain roasted almonds or cashews. (Nutrition information varies by brand and selection)
  • Oatmeal. Added dried fruit and nuts optional! A nice little cup of oats to start your day, but in fact you can get it any time of day as it’s not pre-made. (160 calories, 2.5g fat, 5g protein)
    • PROTIP: Ask for it to be made with steamed milk for a creamier cup of oats.
  • Protein Bistro Box. A nice and simple on-the-go snack box with hard boiled egg, peanut butter and pita, apple slices, and grapes. As far as snack boxes go, it has a moderate amount of calories and the best bang-for-your-buck. (360 calories, 18g fat, 15g protein)

There are some other choices that vary by store such as greek yogurt cups (not parfaits, just yogurt), fresh fruit cups, Evolution Fresh juices, salt and pepper popcorn, and kale chips, but you may have noticed my selection contained none of the “freshly baked goods” that sit in the Starbucks pastry case. The stores are designed so you have to line-up and walk by the pastries, increasing your chances of buying one. Don’t be fooled, get smart, snack smart.

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If there isn’t a Starbucks close to you, don’t panic, sometimes stepping out of the giant coffee chain world is awesome, those little hole-in-the-wall independent coffee shops are adorable. You can get pretty much any of my recommended drinks at basically any coffee shop! 🙂 Happy caffeinating!

What is YOUR favourite coffee shop?

What is your go-to drink?

4 Comments

  1. This is awesome! I’m usually either an americano or latte kind of girl, but I also fell in love with the Flat White and end up ordering that most of the time. Since doing my sugar free challenge last fall I don’t ever add sugar to my coffee anymore and it turns out that it’s so yummy without any sugar!

  2. Oooh love this! Great to hear the best options from someone who actually knows.

    I usually get an Americano, except during the holidays when I get a PSL with coconut milk because #basic but damn they’re good. Or once in awhile an unsweetened passion tea lemonade. I generally don’t buy any of the food. Occasionally I treat myself to the Justin’s PB cups and Liam usually gets a muffin, banana loaf or cake pop for treats.

    My favourite coffee shop is a little local shop called Dose. Best coffee, best food.

  3. Great post – I’m always so confused on the different types of espresso drinks!

    Starbucks is usually where I go, but in Ottawa we have a great local coffee place called Bridgeheads. Most of the locations are downtown, but they said they are opening up a shop in my suburb!

  4. The soy americano misto is the best (thanks again!) and I’ll grab the protein bistro box for lunch when I’m travelling thru airports. It’s good and one of the healthiest choices in an airport.

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