- Starbucks’ holiday drink menu contains many seasonal favorites and new offerings for 2023.
- Some of these holiday drinks contain high amounts of sugar, fat, and calories.
- Making simple substitutions when you order can help improve the nutritional value of these drinks.
The holiday season usually signals the arrival of indulgent seasonal treats and you might consider holiday drinks from Starbucks as big a part of the festivities as putting up the tree and unwrapping gifts.
But as tasty as they can be, chances are you already know that seasonal drinks aren’t the healthiest choice.
Not only are they usually pretty high in sugar, fat, and calories, they’re often made with ultra-processed ingredients too.
However, health experts share that asking for these simple substitutions when you order one of your favorite items from Starbucks’ holiday menu can help improve its nutritional value.
Iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai
With 45g of sugar, 10g of fat, and 360 calories in a 16oz grande, Aliza Marogy, registered nutritionist and founder of supplement brand Inessa, says the Iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai is far from healthy but may be one of the better options on the Starbucks holiday menu.
However, she’s concerned about the inclusion of the preservative sodium benzoate.
“Although it’s deemed safe for human consumption in the amounts permitted in food, sodium benzoate can react within the body to form benzene, a known carcinogen,” she explains.
Sodium benzoate is sometimes added to syrups to intensify the flavor and increase shelf life, so one of the easiest ways to make this drink a little healthier would be to ask for fewer pumps of gingerbread-flavored syrup.
That ought to cut some of the sugar and calorie content too.
To cut the calories even further, consider ordering a tall instead of a grande. It has 70 fewer calories and 9g less sugar.
Signature Espresso Roast, steamed milk, sweet mocha sauce, and peppermint-flavored syrup, along with whipped cream and dark chocolate curls, give this drink its whopping calorie content.
You’ll find 440 calories, 54g sugar, and 16g fat in one grande Peppermint Mocha. That’s a lot, and worse still, Marogy says a drink like this is unlikely to leave you satiated. That means you’ll want to consume more calories soon after.
One of Marogy’s biggest concerns is the inclusion of the emulsifier carrageenan.
“Carrageenan has been linked with disturbance of the gut microbiome and increased inflammation in the bowel,” she says. “Even in small doses, I would avoid foods containing it at all costs.”
If you still want to enjoy a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha, there’s an easy way to cut carrageenan out.
It’s found in whipped cream so simply ask for your drink to come without the whipped cream topping.
The Peppermint Mocha is also available in short size. Choosing this option almost halves the calorie and sugar and reduces the fat content.
There are other ways to make it a little healthier too. You can half the number of peppermint syrup and mocha sauce pumps and ask for it without the chocolate curls topping.
Caramel Brulée Latte
This drink – with its blend of espresso, steamed milk, caramel brulée sauce, and whipped cream and caramel brulée bits topping – racks up 410 calories, 48g sugar, and 14g fat per 160z serving.
Around 120 calories in this drink come from fat, but you could ask for nonfat milk.
Like the Peppermint Mocha, Marogy notes that the Caramel Brulée Latte also contains carrageenan, so forgoing the whipped cream is an easy way to cut it out and lose some of the calories and fat in the process.
To skip some of the sugar, ask for your drink without the caramel brulée topping and fewer caramel brulée sauce pumps.
Choosing the short serving size will cut the sugar content in half too.
Chestnut Praline Latte
With 330 calories in a grande cup, Karine Patel, leading dietitian at Dietitian Fit, says the Chestnut Praline Latte is equivalent to a small meal.
What’s more, she says it’s very high in fat and sugar and is unlikely to fill you up for long or provide much nutritional benefit.
“Apart from the 12g of protein you get from the milk, and some of the nutrients you get from milk (calcium, Vitamin D, and other vitamins and minerals) this drink isn’t very nutritious. Add to that, the chestnut syrup and whipped cream make it a highly processed drink,” she says.
The good news? Patel says a few swaps can make the chestnut praline latte healthier.
“First, start by ordering a short size instead of a grande, and you will already cut the calories by half,” she advises. “罢丑别n remove the whipped cream, and ask them to put only one pump of chestnut praline syrup. This will help you save over 50 percent of the sugar and fat.”
Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte
Let’s start with the good stuff. With 180 calories in a grande, the Iced Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte is quite a bit lower in calories than some of the other latte options at Starbucks.
It’s also lower in fat than most other drinks with 6g of total fat.
But, warns Patel, it’s still high in sugar — containing the equivalent of seven cubes of sugar. It’s also low in protein.
“This drink has just 3g of protein due to the almond milk alternative to milk,” Patel points out.
Still want to order it?
“I would strongly recommend cutting the sugar cookie syrup pump by half by asking for two pumps instead of four,” says Patel. Doing so will significantly reduce the sugar content of this sweet brew.
If you also opt to remove the red and green topping Patel says you’ll have a drink that contains only 70 calories, and roughly 12g of sugar. Much better.
New Oleato Gingerbread Oatmilk Latte
The Oleato Gingerbread Oatmilk Latte is one of the newest additions to the Starbucks holiday menu.
It’s made with blonde espresso roast that’s infused with extra virgin olive oil, steamed oat milk, and gingerbread-flavored syrup, and topped with a dusting of ginger and citrus.
But don’t let the inclusion of oat milk fool you.
“Due to the added oil, this drink is very high in fat (20g) and calories (350),” Patel points out.
“罢丑别se ‘hidden’ calories can add up very quickly and lead to weight gain as they don’t fill you up,” she warns. “It may seem that the latte has less sugar, however, that’s because oat contains carbohydrates in the form of starch. This still gets broken down into sugars.”
According to Patel, your best bet when ordering this brew is to opt for the short size. You might also like to ask if your drink to be made without oil.
Asking for fewer gingerbread syrup shots will cut some of the calorie and sugar content too.
A balanced diet is one that includes moderate amounts of foods that are considered indulgent and at this time of year, it’s normal that you might want to treat yourself to a seasonal brew.
Marogy says she’s a firm believer in enjoying everything in moderation.
However, she says many of us choose to drink festive drinks without being fully aware of the amount of sugar and unhealthy fat contained within.
Educate yourself on what you’re consuming and you’ll be able to make healthier swaps when ordering your favorite Starbucks holiday drinks.