Healthy Options at Starbucks, Part 2: Drinks

Starbucks Cups

Last week’s entry was about Starbucks’ healthier food options, and here’s the follow up with the beverages.  Between the various sizes, substitution options, and myriad of sweeteners, there are literally thousands of possible combinations.  I’ve tried to pick the best representations in each category.

If you’re going to add that splash of milk, go with the Nonfat (2 ounces adds 22 calories), or maybe the Soymilk (25 cal) or  2% Milk (30 cal).  Avoid adding Whole Milk (37 cal) or Half & Half (78 cal) — It might not seem like a lot, but if you cut out 78 calories a day, that can have a big cumulative effect.

All nutrition info below is based on the “Grande” 16 ounce size.  Get a 12 ounce “Tall” instead and you can reduce everything by 25%.  You may also want to check out their list of “Delicious Drinks Under 200 Calories” (Note:  Everything on that list is Tall, not Grande).

Okay, one final thought before we get to it:  If it comes with whipped cream, it’s not coffee — it’s dessert.

Brewed Black Coffee or Tea – Best Choice Overall

The basic cup of Starbucks joe has 5 calories (and a whopping 330mg of caffeine).

Hot Tea — without milk, sugar, or honey — is zero (yup, zero) calories.

Hot Espresso Beverages – Better Choices

Regular Espresso (1 ounce shot) or Espresso Macchiato (adds steamed nonfat milk foam)
5 calories, 75mg caffeine

Cappuccino with Nonfat Milk
80 cal, no fat, 90mg sodium, 10g sugar, 8g protein, 150mg caffeine

Caffè Latte with Nonfat Milk
130 calories, no fat, 150mg sodium, 18g sugar, 13g protein, 150mg caffeine

Hot Espresso Beverages – Worst Choices

The info below is with nonfat milk and no whipped cream.  Getting them with 2% milk and whipped cream adds 12g of fat and 110 calories.

Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha
430 cal, 5g sat fat, 7g total fat, 230mg sodium, 75g sugar, 14g protein, 150mg caffeine

White Chocolate Mocha
350 cal, 4.5g sat fat, 6g total fat, 240mg sodium, 58g sugar, 15g protein, 150mg caffeine

Peppermint Mocha
280 cal, 0.5g sat fat, 3g total fat, 120mg sodium, 49g sugar, 12g protein, 175mg caffeine

Dark Cherry Mocha
270 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 2.5g total fat, 115mg sodium, 49g sugar, 12g protein, 175mg caffeine

Frappuccino® Blended Beverages – Better Choices

Coffee Frappuccino® Light Blended Beverage
130cal, 0.5g total fat, 230mg sodium, 16g sugar, 5g protein, 95mg caffeine

Cinnamon Dolce Frappuccino® Light Blended Beverage
140cal, 0.5g total fat, 230mg sodium, 21g sugar, 5g protein, 95mg caffeine

Mocha Light Frappuccino® Blended Beverage
140cal, 1g total fat, 230mg sodium, 19g sugar, 6g protein, 95mg caffeine

Frappuccino® Blended Beverages – Worst choices

Of the 21 Frappuccino varieties, fifteen are 200 calories or more.  The three at the bottom of the list are:

Tazo® Green Tea Crème Frappuccino® Blended Beveragewithout whipped cream
380 cal, no sat fat, 2.5g total fat, 290mg sodium, 67g sugar, 11g protein, 75mg caffeine

Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino® Blended Beveragewithout whipped cream
400 cal, 4g sat fat, 8g total fat, 290mg sodium, 57g sugar, 13g protein, 25mg caffeine

White Chocolate Crème Frappuccino® Blended Beveragewithout whipped cream
480 cal, 4g sat fat, no total fat [huh??], 410mg sodium (!), 77g sugar, 15g protein, 110mg caffeine

Add whipped cream to any of the above and tack on another 110 calories.

Vivanno™ Smoothies – Better Choices

At first glance I shunned these smoothies because they’re fairly high in sugar.  However, it’s mostly natural sugars (from fruit), so they’re actually pretty good. The website says that each one is made with four ingredients — including a whole banana, whey protein/fiber powder, and ice.  The fourth ingredient is either orange-mango juice, strawberry puree, or “mocha flavored sauce,” depending on which you get.

The difference between the “Better” and “Worst” choices is marginal, so don’t stress over this one.

Orange Mango with Nonfat Milk
260 cal, 0g sat fat, 1g total fat, 110mg sodium, 5g fiber, 34g sugar, 15g protein, no caffeine

Chocolate with Nonfat Milk
250 cal, 0.5g sat fat, 2g total fat, 140mg sodium, 6g fiber, 30g sugar, 18g protein, 15mg caffeine

Vivanno™ Smoothies – Worst Choice

Strawberry with 2% Milk
280 cal, 1g sat fat, 1.5g total fat, 110mg sodium, 41g sugar, 7g fiber, 15g protein, no caffeine


Hot Chocolate Beverages – Better Choice

Okay, there really isn’t a healthy choice in this category, but if you’re going to splurge, at least get the:

Hot Chocolate with Nonfat Milkand skip the whipped-cream
240 cal, 0.5g sat fat, 2.5g total fat, 140mg sodium, 40g sugar, 14g protein, 25mg caffeine

Hot Chocolate Beverages – Worst Choices

White Hot Chocolate with 2% Milk and Whipped Cream
490 cal,  13g sat fat, 19g total fat, 260mg sodium, 62g sugar, 16g protein, no caffeine

White Hot Chocolate with Nonfat milk, no Whipped Cream
360 cal, 4.5g sat fat, 6g fat, 260mg sodium, 61g sugar, 16g protein, no caffeine

Hot Chocolate with 2% Milk and Whipped Cream
370 cal, 9g sat fat, 16g total fat, 150mg sodium, 40g sugar, 14g protein, 25mg caffeine

Menu Mondays are my recommendations for the most healthful options at chain restaurants. Although it may be tough to find “perfect” options when eating out, it’s important to choose “better” whenever possible, and I hope these guides will help make that easier for you.

Starbucks Nutrition Info for All Beverages

Photo by Orangeya.

See Also: Healthy Food Options at Starbucks.

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25 Responses to Healthy Options at Starbucks, Part 2: Drinks

  1. Alice July 12, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    It amuses me that this article is named ‘healthy options’ yet only talks about calories. Coke zero has 0 calories and 0 sugar but you will get very sick drinking it. Basically everything sold by starbucks is rubbish and will make you ill if you regularly drink it long term. Don’t count calories, count the terrible chemicals you’re putting into your body.

    • Alice July 12, 2014 at 9:04 am #

      However, to go along with the point of this article, prehaps black coffee or tea is the best option if you really want to be serious about health.
      A frappachino is of course not going to hurt you once in a while but if you’re going to go for it, go for it; Fat-free options will also make you sick. The more they tamper with it the worse it becomes for your body.

    • Andrew July 13, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

      Hi Alice,

      Thanks for your comment. I actually agree with you! I wrote this post quite a few years ago — and back then, I was focusing primarily on calories. I had also just lost about 30 pounds by tracking my calories… and from a weight management/loss perspective, calorie counting is still a great tool for many people.

      Since then, I’ve shifted my focus to unprocessed, real foods. Even so, I stand by my “best choices” at the top (black coffee or tea!). I also wrote a post on what type of milk to drink — and that explains my logic as to why skim milk at Starbucks would be a better choice than whole milk.


      • Andrew July 13, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

        Sorry, I replied to your first comment before reading your second. Just to reiterate — the “processing” difference between most “commercial” skim milk and whole milk (like what Starbucks serves) may not be what you think: For both types, the fat has been removed via centrifuge, and for whole milk, the fat is then added back in to the desired percentage. So their “whole milk” isn’t actually whole anymore, sadly.

  2. Julie February 5, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    Well…I used to be a barista at Starbucks and gained lots of weight when I worked there…nobody’s fault by own, though, for partaking in so many of the high sugar drinks and pastries! About 2 yrs ago, I began a weight-loss journey and have been maintaining my nearly 90-lb weight loss for nearly the last year. I drink a brewed coffee every morning, whether I brew my own at home or stop by Starbucks. No longer do I add any sugar, but I don’t usually drink a lot of milk, either. I add a little splash of cream…not much but just enough. If I decide to order a latte or cappuccino (maybe once a week), I go with 2% milk because I find it to be more satisfying than non-fat and not quite as fattening as whole milk. But, the doctor at my weight loss clinic made it very clear that milk (of any type) is not the best thing for people to drink if they’re trying to lose weight, but mostly because of the carbs/lactose, not so much because of the fat content. I don’t believe fat makes people fat, but I do believe that carbs and sugar do. I cannot stand sugar-free syrups because they taste (and ARE!) very fake. But, it’s delicious to sprinkle some cinnamon on top. Basically, the more attention I pay to eating (and drinking) things in their purest form, the better and a good cup of regular brewed coffee in the morning…without sugar…is delicious and has some health benefits.

  3. Avocado April 17, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    I research Starbucks every coffee, frap, tea.. and the Best choice coffee Starbucks is CaFFe Misto ..only 10% Sugar.
    Have a great day everyone!

  4. Sasha March 5, 2013 at 7:53 am #

    I’ve found that while I’m not a fan of Starbucks’ green tea hot(I much prefer a cup of plain Tetleys), I love it unsweetened and ice. It satisfies my urge to goto Starbucks and I don’t have to feel guilty!

  5. Chris February 3, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    What a bummer! I always thought going with the green tea frapp was somewhat better, plus I loved it! But i guess not!

  6. Diana December 27, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    I love this site. You’re always saving the day for me.

  7. Esther December 8, 2012 at 7:46 am #

    What is your take on adding a pump or two of syrup to sweeten black coffee?

    • Andrew December 8, 2012 at 8:03 am #

      I’m not sure what’s in the flavors, but I’d guess it’s a cheap, concentrated sugar and some “natural” or artificial flavorings. You’re better off adding a teaspoon of less-refined sugar to your coffee — so you know exactly how much is in it — and then over time, slowly reducing that amount until you enjoy your coffee black. 🙂

  8. Emily July 7, 2012 at 2:43 am #

    So is it better to just cut out all the frappucinos?

    • Andrew July 7, 2012 at 8:19 am #

      Hi Emily!

      Generally speaking, I recommend not drinking your calories (or “diet” sodas).

      However, if that Frappucino is an occasional treat (rather than an everyday beverage), I think you’ll be okay.

      Personally, the only beverages I ever buy at Starbucks (or any coffee shop) are unsweetened green tea (hot or iced) or a very occasional black coffee. It took me a long time for me to shift from cream- and sugar-laden beverages, but now I don’t even miss them. (Bonus: They’re cheaper, too!) 🙂

  9. Maria April 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    I also forgot to mention that was with whole milk so the nutritional value of the drink becomes even a better choice making me disagree with your opinion

  10. Maria April 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    I was looking in the starbucks website and the Tazo Chai Crème Frappuccino is only 250 calories with sag fat of 2.5g total fat 4 g
    Sodium 210mg and sugars 48g and protein 4g obviously with no whipped creme. Its only 50 calories above and I think its a good option when you step into starbucks.

    • Andrew April 16, 2012 at 11:32 am #

      I don’t think this drink existed when I wrote this post.

      48 grams of sugar = 192 calories = approx 9 teaspoons of sugar. The majority of calories in this beverage are coming from refined sugar.

      To put it another way, that’s more sugar and calories than a 12 ounce can of Coke.

      I’d keep this one in the “Worst” choices column.

  11. Sadie October 6, 2011 at 5:25 am #

    I’m confused by your preference for low or non-fat milk, milk comes out ‘whole’ meaning with fat included, and I’ve read that the process that it takes to separate much of the natural fat from the milk also makes it harder to digest and absorb. Isn’t the point of ‘nonprocessed’ not to count calories but instead to eat foods as close to their natural state, from the earth or animal, as possible? In which case whole milk, raw if possible/available would be the least processed choice? I don’t think I could make skim milk in my kitchen, but milking a cow, I could do.

    • Andrew October 6, 2011 at 9:06 am #

      Hi Sadie — excellent question. The short answer is: My opinion on milk continues to evolve. The official USDA guidelines emphasized (and continue to emphasize) non-fat and low-fat milk. I don’t always agree with the guidelines, though, and I’m still not certain about milk. I posted this review in May of last year, and I’m starting to agree that “full fat” may be a better way to go. (Though if weight loss and cutting calories is the primary goal, then switching to non-fat is still going to be better.)

      HOWEVER, I learned recently that most modern milk “production” involves fat separation for every type — even for full-fat milk. They remove the fat and then add it back in to the desired amount. In that case, the argument for drinking “whole” milk falls flat, since it’s just as processed as non-fat milk.

      If you’re getting a drink with milk at Starbucks, you’re probably still better off going with the fat-free milk. At least that way you’re getting fewer calories. Sigh.

      • Alexandra June 26, 2012 at 11:53 am #

        I hear you…my stance on many food- and nutrition-related topics continues to evolve, but I will say that I’ve never bought the low-fat dairy thing, or even the whole low-fat anything thing. I think it’s caused more damage than good. Low-fat things do not satisfy us as much as their full-fat counterparts, so we might have more and eat the same amount of calories anyway, or we may feel emotionally unsatisfied, which can trigger all sorts of unhealthful eating habits. Low-fat dairy has more lactose per volume than full-fat dairy, and I suspect that all those sugars are not helping people lose weight. I don’t know how they are absorbed and dealt with in the body in the context of milk as a whole product, though…on my list of things to research! But ultimately, low-fat products vilify all fat, but it’s not so black and white.

  12. Katherine September 14, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    So, I’ve noticed whenever I order soy milk, they always use vanilla soy milk automatically..which has a bunch of extra stuff in it:( Just something to look out for (what a shame!)

    • Amy October 10, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

      SB only has vanilla soy milk ~__~ it’s not very good tasting either compared to other soy I’ve had girr


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