For many of us, Starbucks is a ubiquitous beacon of hope, especially when we need an immediate caffeine fix. Whether it's a blonde roast after a morning run or a mocha latte before a long conversation, we can depend on Starbucks to satiate our craving of the moment. Unfortunately, some of their time-tested beverages, meals and snacks can be major diet disrupters. To help you navigate the syrup-laden waters of America's favorite cafe, here's a list of simple swaps you can make to reduce your calorie, sodium, cholesterol and fat intake without sacrificing familiarity and flavor.
1. If You Crave a Frappuccino, Choose "Light" Frappuccino Base
If you've ever tried to make your own blended drink at home using only coffee, milk and ice, you probably found it was impossible to replicate Strabucks' creamy Frappuccinos. That's because Starbucks uses a Frappuccino base, full of emulsifiers like xanthum gum and potassium sorbate, to reach that silky, sought-after texture. For those of you looking to get your Starbucks fix at a lower sugar, fat and calorie cost, order the Frappuccino Light blended beverage rather than the original. Compare a Grande Frappuccino Blended Coffee with nonfat milk at 220 calories and 50 grams of sugar to the same with a Light base at 110 calories and 23 grams of sugar. Best swap ever!
Read more: The 12 Worst Coffee Drinks to Order
2. Request 1-2 Pumps of Syrup Rather Than the Default 4 Pumps
The Vanilla Latte is a staple for any Gold Card holder. But at 200 calories and 35 grams of sugar for a Grande, it can really put a dent in your calorie allowance for the day. What many don't know is that Starbucks adds a default of four pumps of syrup to your flavored latte. But that doesn't mean that you need to keep it at four — you can actually customize your drink by asking the barista to use only one or two pumps instead. That way, you'll cut your calorie and sugar intake, and you won't feel like you've just had dessert for breakfast.
3. Choose Ham & Cheese Savory Foldover Over Sausage, Cheddar & Egg Sandwich
As delicious as Starbucks' Sausage, Cheddar & Egg Breakfast Sandwich can be, it's also packed with more than half the recommended daily value of cholesterol (165 milligrams), 43 percent your daily value of fat (28 grams) and about 38 percent the recommended daily value of sodium (920 milligrams). Instead, opt for the Ham & Cheese Savory Foldover. Bechamel sauce, a French white sauce, keeps this pastry rich without adding too much sodium. It has half the calories, half the sodium and a third of the cholesterol of the Sausage, Cheddar & Egg Breakfast Sandwich.
Read more: 7 Best Breakfast Sandwiches and 8 to Avoid
5. When You Order Cold Brew, Choose Milk or Black Over Sweet Cream
The Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew consists of Narino 70 Cold Brew and a dash of house-made sweet cream. Unfortunately, that dash of cream comes with approximately 100 calories and 3.5 grams of saturated fat. If you're still looking to bump your plain coffee up, order the Narino 70 Cold Brew with Milk. You'll cut the calories to around 25 and save yourself 2.5 grams of saturated fat. We recommend getting it with coconut milk for a little kick of lactose-free sweetness.
5. Choose Turkey Bacon Over Pork Bacon for Breakfast
Like the Sausage, Cheddar & Egg Breakfast Sandwich, this version with Gouda and bacon has a whopping 165 milligrams of cholesterol, which is 55 percent of your daily value. It also contains 19 grams of fat and 850 milligrams of sodium. Luckily, Starbucks also has the Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon, Cheddar & Cage-Free Egg White Breakfast Sandwich, which comes with 230 calories, 20 milligrams of cholesterol and 560 milligrams of sodium. In the pork-versus-turkey bacon standoff, opt for the latter to keep your morning light.
Read more: The 20 Best Ways to Use Eggs
6. Go for Egg White & Red Pepper Sous Vide Egg Bites
Who doesn't want to try Starbucks' new sous vide egg bites? But before you reach for those Bacon & Gruyere tarts, know that they come with 185 milligrams of cholesterol. That's 62 percent of your daily value — more than you'll find in even the Sausage, Cheddar & Egg Breakfast Sandwich. For the perfect protein snack, choose the Egg White & Red Pepper bites. While they come with five grams of saturated fat, they have only 25 milligrams of cholesterol, making them a healthier choice than their meaty counterpart.
7. For a Caramel Treat, Choose an Iced Caramel Macchiato
A Grande Caramel Frappuccino made with whole milk and topped with whipped cream has 66 grams of sugar. Imagine drinking 16 tablespoons of sugar! Especially keeping in mind that the American Heart Association recommends that men eat no more than 37.5 grams of sugar daily and women eat no more than 25 grams of sugar daily. For a sweet-treat alternative, order the the Iced Caramel Macchiato with only one or two pumps of syrup.
Read more: 10 Desserts That Won't Derail Your Diet
8. Cut Calories by Choosing an Iced Tea Over the Acai Refresher
As far as healthy afternoon pick-me-ups go, a Grande Strawberry Acai Refresher isn't the worst you could do. It's infused with green coffee extract to give you a kick of energy, but it's also got 20 grams of sugar that'll bog you down later. For a cleaner drink, get any one of Starbucks' Teavana beverages on ice. For a tangy, sweet flavor like the Acai Refresher, go for the Youthberry or Passion Tango blends.
9. Instead of a Turkey Pesto Panini, Go for the Turkey and Swiss Bistro Box
If you've got a hankering for a turkey sandwich, you might go for the Turkey Pesto Panini. Stuffed with fire-roasted peppers and basil pesto, it sounds like a perfectly healthy option. However, hiding beneath those folds of melted provolone is a startling 1,230 milligrams of sodium. That's about half the salt you're supposed to ingest in an entire day. But don't get discouraged — you can have the Smoked Turkey and Swiss Sandwich bistro box instead. You'll not only save yourself 190 calories, but you'll also cut your sodium intake and get a few apples and carrots to munch on.
10. Choose the Chewy Chocolate Cookie for a Sweet Treat
Starbucks' bakery case is dangerous territory when it comes to healthy eating. The loaves and pound cakes, which all come in at around 400 calories (or more), are particularly deceptive. Rather than going for a slice of Chocolate Marble Loaf Cake, which will fill you with 490 calories, 13 grams of saturated fat (65 percent of your daily value) and 43 grams of sugar, treat yourself to a Chewy Chocolate Cookie. That way, you'll stop at 170 calories and 26 grams of sugar — and still satisfy your chocolate cravings.
What Do YOU Think?
What's your go-to drink order at Starbucks? What do you love to eat there? Do you pay attention to the nutrition facts when you choose your Starbucks food or beverage items? Let us know what you think in the comments section!
- Thrillist: Every Drink on the Starbucks Menu, Ranked
- Hungry Girl: Starbucks Survival Guide (2015)
- Stack Exchange: Seasoned Advice — Emulating Starbucks Frappuccino Cream Base
- Starbucks: Coffee Light Frappuccino Blended Coffee
- Starbucks: Coffee Frappuccino Blended Coffee
- Starbucks: Vanilla Latte
- Starbucks: Iced Skinny Flavored Latte
- Starbucks: Skinny Flavored Latte
- Starbucks: Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew
- Starbucks: Narino 70 Cold Brew with Milk
- Starbucks: Sausage, Cheddar & Egg Breakfast Sandwich
- Starbucks: Ham & Cheese Savory Foldover
- Starbucks: Bacon, Gouda & Egg Sandwich
- Starbucks: Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon & Cage Free Egg White Breakfast Sandwich
- Starbucks: Bacon & Gruyere Sous Vide Egg Bites
- Egg White & Red Pepper Sous Vide Egg Bites
- Starbucks: Turkey Pesto Panini
- Starbucks: Smoked Turkey and Swiss Sandwich
- Starbucks: Caramel Frappuccino Blended Coffee
- Skinny Caramel Macchiato