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How to Order the Healthiest Drink at Starbucks, According to Dietitians

These drinks are just what the doctor ordered.

<p>Starbucks</p>

Starbucks

Somewhere between pumpkin spice lattes and caramel macchiatos, Starbucks became known for its decadent caffeinated drinks—so much so that you might associate the iconic green mermaid with sugary, flavored beverages that taste just like dessert. And while it’s perfectly okay to occasionally enjoy these drinks, you might be looking for more “healthy” options—or, at the very least, ways to make your usual drinks a bit healthier. To help you out, we asked dietitians to call out the healthiest drinks at Starbucks, along with their expert-approved ordering tips.

Related: 10 Super-Hydrating Drinks That Are Way More Interesting Than a Glass of Water

Starbucks and Your Health

First things first: It’s important to note that Starbucks drinks, including the ones higher in sugar, aren’t inherently bad. In other words, it’s perfectly fine to enjoy them! “Food has no moral value,” explains Marissa Meshulam, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of MPM Nutrition. “Eating ‘X’ doesn’t make you healthy and drinking ‘Y’ doesn’t make you unhealthy; any beverage can fit your lifestyle."

Kristen Carli, MS, RD, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Camelback Nutrition Wellness, echoes this notion: “Labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on their nutritional content can create a negative mindset around food. [What’s more,] cultivating a healthy relationship with food involves finding a balance between nourishing your body and enjoying the foods and drinks you love.” This includes letting yourself indulge in occasional treats (such as Starbucks drinks), which can pave the way for a more sustainable approach to eating overall, says Carli.

How to Make Starbucks Drinks Healthier

All that said, it’s possible to customize Starbucks drinks to make them healthier, if that's a goal of yours. Start by considering your usual Starbucks order, the flavors and ingredients you enjoy, the purpose of the beverage (e.g., do you want a treat, a boost of energy, or both?), and other foods or drinks you’ll be consuming throughout the day, suggests Meshulam. From there, you can use this info to tweak your order in a way that works best for you.

Specifically, focusing on the following factors can help you create a healthier drink:

  • Milk: If you’d like to reduce your intake of saturated fat, choose non-fat milk, almond milk, or oat milk instead of whole milk, says Carli.

  • Sweeteners: As Meshulam notes, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally consuming added sugar. But if you’re interested in cutting back, take a tip from Carli and ask for fewer pumps of flavored syrup, should your usual drink call for it.

  • Toppings: Similarly, toppings like whipped cream, chocolate drizzle, and caramel sauce will add extra sugar, so minimizing or skipping these add-ons can help reduce your drink’s sugar content, notes Carli.

  • Size: Simply opting for a smaller size than your typical order will reduce both saturated fat and added sugar, depending on the drink’s ingredients.

It's also worth noting that sugar can be more satisfying when it’s chewed, according to Meshulam. So, if you’re truly craving something sweet, consider enjoying an edible treat—like a cookie—which could do a better job at making you feel satiated than drinking a sugary beverage, she says.

Bottom line? “There is no one right drink order,” notes Meshulam. A “healthy” Starbucks drink will look different for each person, since it’s all about your individual needs and preferences. However, if you’re unsure where to begin and you're looking for inspiration, the following dietitian-recommended drinks are a great place to start.

Healthiest Drinks at Starbucks

Caffé Americano

  • Calories: 15 calories

  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams

  • Protein: 1 gram

  • Fat: 0 grams

  • Sugar: 0 grams

  • Caffeine: 225 milligrams

For the most caffeine “bang for your buck,” order a caffé americano, which gets two thumbs up from both Carli and Meshulam. It’s a simple drink made of nothing but water and brewed espresso, so it’s naturally free of sugar and fat. But if you want a hint of sweetness and creaminess, take a tip from Meshulam and order it with some frothed coconut milk.

Cappuccino

  • Calories: 140 calories

  • Carbohydrates: 14 grams

  • Protein: 9 grams

  • Fat: 5 grams

  • Sugar: 12 grams

  • Caffeine: 150 milligrams

If you’re in the mood for something fancy, go for a cappuccino, as suggested by Carli. Not only does it offer a subtle natural sweetness, but it’s topped with a creamy foam (made with your milk of choice), making it a rich but sugar-free treat.

Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso

  • Calories: 120 calories

  • Carbohydrates: 22 grams

  • Protein: 2 grams

  • Fat: 3 grams

  • Sugar: 12 grams

  • Caffeine: 255 milligrams

Thanks to this iced concoction at Starbucks, you can satisfy your sweet tooth sans excess sugar. As Carli notes, it tastes sweeter than many other drinks on the menu (thanks to the combo of oat milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon) even though it technically has less sugar. For context, the Iced Shaken Espresso made with classic simple syrup has 14 grams of sugar, while the Espresso Frappuccino made with whole milk has 42 grams.

Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew

  • Calories: 110 calories

  • Carbohydrates: 14 grams

  • Protein: 1 gram

  • Fat: 5 grams

  • Sugar: 14 grams

  • Caffeine: 185 milligrams

If you’re a fan of cold brew but looking for something more decadent, this vanilla sweet cream version is the perfect fit, according to Carli. Like the iced shaken espresso, it has a satisfying sweet flavor without the excess sugar.

Iced Flat White 

  • Calories: 110 calories

  • Carbohydrates: 10 grams

  • Protein: 6 grams

  • Fat: 6 grams

  • Sugar: 8 grams

  • Caffeine: 90 milligrams

For another Starbucks drink that will satisfy your sweet tooth, consider the iced flat white. According to Carli, it contains less sugar than most other drinks on the menu, but it’s still subtly sweet. Moreover, the beverage has less caffeine than other coffee-based drinks, making it a great option if you’re looking for a gentler boost of energy.

Mint Majesty Herbal Tea

  • Calories: 0 calories

  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams

  • Protein: 0 grams

  • Fat: 0 grams

  • Sugar: 0 grams

  • Caffeine: 0 grams

Featuring a blend of spearmint, peppermint, and lemon verbena, the Mint Majesty tea at Starbucks is a delicious and healthy option. It’s also a caffeine-free herbal tea, making it ideal if you want to enjoy a warm beverage without an energy boost, says Meshulam. Additionally, this drink works well as a post-meal refreshment, as mint is great for digestion, she notes.

Green Tea

  • Calories: 0 calories

  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams

  • Protein: 0 grams

  • Fat: 0 grams

  • Sugar: 0 grams

  • Caffeine: 25 milligrams

Green tea is a wonderful way to get a hint of caffeine without the jitters associated with coffee,” says Meshulam. That’s because the drink contains L-theanine, an amino acid that balances the effects of caffeine, providing a more stable energy boost, she adds. Plus, green tea is rich in antioxidants, which protect your cells from oxidative stress.

Pro tip: If you’re ordering iced green tea but craving more flavor, ask the barista to add a splash of lemonade instead of getting it with simple syrup, suggests Meshulam.

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