The Healthy Truth: How not to break your diet at Starbucks

healthy-truth-1Dear Friend,

I love Starbucks. No, really, I LOVE Starbucks. I love Starbucks so much that I even made a Halloween costume of a Starbucks beverage, the infamous pumpkin spice latte. But what I don’t love about Starbucks coffee drinks is the fact that I could basically eat a Big Mac from McDonalds for the same amount of calories. This can be a real turn off if you’re watching your calorie intake.


You may think that as a trainer I could afford adding a few extra calories to my diet, but what kind of trainer would I be if I negated all those long hours working out with a calorie-laden beverage? Not a very good one, I’d say.

When you love something so much, you find ways to make it “healthier,” so you can still enjoy it without dreading the unwanted pounds.

One thing I like about Starbucks menu is how customizable it is. I cannot consume regular milk, so I usually opt for soy or coconut substitutes. And while we’re at it, there is a big misconception about full-fat milk being bad for you. In reality, skim milk and low-fat milk are actually higher in sugar content than the full-fat variety. And, as you know, extra sugar is a big no-no for any diet.

Another easy way to cut down on calories and fat is to get a tall (small) beverage. In my eyes, getting a grande or venti is a complete waste. Not only does the beverage get cold, but I find the syrup left at the bottom makes the beverage taste way too sweet – it tastes like candied milk, as I call it, gross! Starbucks is known to have stronger coffee than many other chains, meaning the caffeine content in their drinks is actually higher. Case in point, you can actually consume less coffee while still obtaining the same fix – less coffee means greater savings and fewer calories!

Let’s talk a little bit about the syrups and flavorings. You can’t get a delicious pumpkin spice latte without syrup. Many people don’t even realize that Starbucks – and other coffee chains – use these syrups to give their drinks a certain flavor. Even in a tall latte, the barista will add two pumps of syrup, which equates to 40 calories and 10 grams of sugar. If you’re accustomed to a venti, that’s an additional 160 calories with 60 grams of sugar. Ouch – I’m getting a cavity just thinking of the sweetness! The good news is, you can tell the barista how much syrup to add, whether it’s one pump or even a half, so you are in control over how many additional calories and grams of sugar you ingest.

Furthering our syrup discussion, Starbucks actually has sugar-free syrups that have zero calories, but do use artificial sweeteners, so you may wish to keep that in mind.
And what’s even worse, some of you may actually be adding additional sugar to your already flavored latte! If you are opting for syrup, avoid the extra sugar packets – I promise, it’s sweet enough.

Another great way to save calories is to eliminate the whipped topping. Sure, it’s delicious, but that whipped topping can add anywhere between 60 to 110 calories, along with up to 11 grams of fat. If you still want some frothiness on your hot beverages, ask for foamed milk instead. And for Frappucinos, you can pass on that extra whipped cream topping as the drink is already pretty dense on its own.

And then, there is always the easy route of ordering one of the three Starbucks beverages that are already zero calories. They are tall hot brewed coffee, tall brewed Tazo tea, and tall shaken cold Tazo ice passion tea (unsweetened).


I don’t believe in drinking your calories, and if you’re a Starbucks addict like me, you don’t have to. Knowing how to make the appropriate swaps will help you shave off unwanted fat and sugar, all the while enjoying your favorite beverage with no harm to your diet.

Until next week,


Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.


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