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What's Wrong With Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte?

author image Jess Barron
Jess Barron is Editor-in-Chief of LIVESTRONG.COM. Read some of her other health and fitness articles here. A longtime foodie and fan of Farmer's Market food, Jess particularly loves heirloom tomatoes, fresh figs with burrata cheese, and anything with pumpkin or peanut butter in it! Her love for food fuels her desire to exercise daily. In the summer of 2012 Jess lost 20 pounds in a test group for a new fitness program. Some of her favorite workout routines include walking, running, yoga, P90X, INSANITY, and mixed martial arts. Jess's writing can also be found at She has appeared on MSNBC's "The Most," ABC News Now, and XM satellite radio and her writing has appeared on and Yahoo! Follow Jess on Twitter @jessdandy. Also, you can add her on Google+ and follow her on Pinterest.
What's Wrong With Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte?
You might want to think twice about Starbucks' PSL. Photo Credit: @shaerae via Twenty20

Anyone who's wandered the aisle of the local Trader Joe's has noted that pumpkin foods and beverages have exploded in number. According to Nielsen, 37% of U.S. consumers will purchase a pumpkin-flavored product, and Americans spent $361 million on pumpkin products in 2014 — 79% more than we did in 2011.

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Plus, Nielsen's research found that Americans shelled out $32 million on pumpkin flavored coffee in 2014!

The lion's share of the pumpkin coffee cash is most certainly being thrown down for Starbucks’ famous Pumpkin Spice Latte or PSL as it's known for short.

The PSL was launched in 2003, and the seasonal beverage is now a very popular teenager. Like many popular teenagers, the PSL has been killing it on social media. Its Twitter presence @TheRealPSL has over 100,000 followers. And there are over 330,000 photos tagged with #pumpkinspicelatte on Instagram. Adweek reported that Instagram photos of Starbucks' pumpkin spice lattes are receiving 493% more likes per photo than other shots tagged with #Starbucks.

It's a much-beloved drink, to be sure. That said, there are a few issues to consider before you order one...

Please don't shoot the messenger, but Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte contains 50 g of sugar, twice as much as an actual slice of pumpkin pie! Personally, I'd rather eat the pie...
Please don't shoot the messenger, but Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte contains 50 g of sugar, twice as much as an actual slice of pumpkin pie! Personally, I'd rather eat the pie... Photo Credit: ReneYoshi/iStock/Getty Images

Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte Contains Twice as Much Sugar as an Actual Slice of Pumpkin Pie!

A grande (16-oz) Pumpkin Spice Latte with 2-percent milk and whipped cream contains 380 calories and 50 grams of sugar! This is two times as much sugar as you would consume if you actually ate a slice of pumpkin pie. (It probably shouldn’t have been so shocking to us after we investigated what was really inside a 24-ounce Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino: 510 calories and 81 grams of sugar...) Personally, I'd rather eat the pie.

Can You Say Carrageenan and Mono- and Diglycerides? (I don't Want to, and Here's Why...)

It's a bummer to see emulsifiers carrageenan and mono- and diglycerides on the PSL ingredient list. Carrageenan is a food additive made from seaweed that is commonly used as a thickener or emulsifier in packaged foods such as ice cream, almond milk and coconut milk. Carrageenan has been connected with causing inflammation and gastrointestinal issues.

Mono- and diglycerides are a type of incomplete fat that is added to processed foods to help bind the ingredients and/or increase the shelf life. They’re created from an animal source (derived from a pig or cow), a vegetable source (usually canola or soybean oil) or may be synthetically produced. Vegetarians and vegans should avoid consuming them since manufacturers aren’t required to list the source of the mono- and diglycerides contained in their product.

Prepare this latte at home and you can make sure it will be free of carrageenan and mono- and diglycerides!
Prepare this latte at home and you can make sure it will be free of carrageenan and mono- and diglycerides! Photo Credit: Getty Images

If You Drink a Pumpkin Spice Latte Every Day This Fall, You'll Spend Over $230

If all these other details didn’t scare you away from Starbucks already, keep in mind that a grande Pumpkin Spice latte there will set you back more than $4, depending where you live in the world. (Did you know that in Oslo, Norway that same Starbucks grande latte will cost you $9.83?!) So, if you drink one every day this autumn, you'll be giving Starbucks over $230.

Thankfully, I found some amazing natural and organic bloggers — Lindsay Nixon of Happy Herbivore, Genevieve of Mama Natural, and Meg of Beard and Bonnet — who inspired me to create a delicious 125-calorie pumpkin spice latte recipe that vegans and non-vegans can both enjoy.

This homemade pumpkin spiced latte recipe contains 125 calories and 15 grams of sugar.
This homemade pumpkin spiced latte recipe contains 125 calories and 15 grams of sugar. Photo Credit: lacaosa/Moment Open/Getty Images

Save 200 Calories and $2 a Day With This Easy, Healthy Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

This recipe will make one grande-sized latte that contains 125 calories and 15 grams of sugar. To see the carbs, fat and protein content, you can view this recipe in LIVESTRONG.COM’s free food and recipe tracker.


  • 2 ounce double espresso shot
    1 cup organic unsweetened vanilla almond milk or coconut milk (check the ingredient list and make sure you choose a brand that doesn't contain carrageenan) OR if you’re not vegan, 1 cup organic milk
    4 tbsp organic pumpkin puree
    1 tbsp real maple syrup
    1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or your own mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove)
    * 1/8 tsp organic vanilla extract


NOTE: If you don't have an espresso maker, you can use 4-6 ounces of very strong coffee.

1. When you have your coffee ready, add the pumpkin, spices, vanilla extract and maple syrup to a mixing glass or blender and mix together. When smooth, remove from blender and pour into mug.

2. Froth your almond milk using the frother on your espresso machine OR if you don’t have an espresso machine, put your milk into a saucepan and cook at medium heat until it’s simmering. Pour into the blender and blend on high until it gets frothy.

3. Pour the milk into a coffee mug carefully, using a spoon to hold the froth back, then spoon the froth on top.

If you love pumpkin as much as I do, be sure to check out these recipes:

Gluten-Free 2-Minute Paleo Pumpkin Microwave Muffins
4 Yummy 200-Calorie-or-Less Pumpkin Treats
Gluten-Free Paleo Pumpkin Pie

And if you want to make a fantastic, low-sugar pumpkin spice latte (with actual pumpkin in it!) at home, check out this fabulous DIY version. Enjoy!

DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte

Happy PSL season 🍁 🍂 🎃 Skip the store brand and make it yourself!

Recipe + nutrition info:

Posted by LIVESTRONG.COM on Friday, September 1, 2017

What do YOU Think?

READERS - Do you love or loathe pumpkin spiced drinks? Will you try this latte recipe? Should Starbucks make a vegan version of its popular drink? Do you have other favorite pumpkin recipes? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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