If you’re often torn between wanting that Starbucks drink and wanting to save calories, we have some good news. In addition to low-calorie Starbucks drinks, baristas and customers have come up with hacks that help you save calories on most any drink, sometimes even adding in some plant-based goodness, while still enjoying your daily cup.
Here are 10 ways to make your Starbucks drink healthier, including sugar-free options, milk choices, ways to make popular drinks less sugary and more—tips straight from a current Starbucks barista.
NOTE: Nutrition information is based on grande drinks and calorie counts are provided by My Fitness Pal.
10 tips for creating a healthier Starbucks drink
1. Change your milk
Plant-based foodies, rejoice! You can get milk in your drinks via Starbucks’ selection of plant-based milks, including almond, soy, coconut and oat milk. Not only are plant-based milks “healthier,” but some of them can even save you calories over Starbucks’ dairy milk choices—nonfat milk, 2%, whole milk, half and half, cream, vanilla sweet cream, and heavy cream. Here are some healthy drink tips and calorie counts:
- Your number one Starbucks milk choice is almond milk. It has the least amount of calories of any plant-based or dairy milk at Starbucks, at 7.5 per ounce.
- If you prefer drinking dairy milk and want to save calories, choose nonfat, at 12 calories per ounce. The second choice for Starbucks dairy milk drinkers is 2% milk, which has 17 calories per ounce. Fun fact: Did you know that most Starbucks coffee drinks are made with 2% milk, unless otherwise specified?
- Think that soy milk in your Starbucks coffee is super healthy? Think again. The Starbucks soy milk option includes sweetener and flavoring, and is actually the highest calorie option of all of the plant-based milks at Starbucks, with 16.25 calories per ounce.
- Starbucks coconut milk and oat milk can save you a handful of calories over soy milk, with 14.75 calories per ounce, and 15 calories per ounce, respectively.
- Starbucks whole milk has 18 calories per ounce. Fun fact: Frappuccino® drinks are made with whole milk, unless you ask for another option.
2. Pump down
If you’d rather sell your soul than give up the special flavors in your Starbucks drinks, take heart. You can still get yummy flavor by choosing fewer pumps of your beloved vanilla, cinnamon dolce, hazelnut, toffee nut, caramel, honey-blend, pineapple ginger, peppermint, liquid cane sugar, raspberry, chai, mocha, white mocha, brown sugar, Irish cream, dark caramel or classic syrup. A flavored grande coffee includes four pumps standard, but many people find it easy to cut down on the pumps without losing flavor. Choosing only three pumps will save you 20 calories, and going “half-sweet” with only two pumps will save you a healthy 40 calories. And if your barista has a heavy hand with pumps, you could save even more calories.
3. Choose sugar-free flavors
Currently, Starbucks offers two sugar-free options to maximize flavor and minimize calories in your beverages. Sugar-free vanilla and cinnamon dulce have no calories, so pump away!
4. Nix the whipped cream
We know, we know. We all love whipped cream. But is it really worth 80-120 calories?
5. Get skinny
Request the “skinny” versions of drinks, and win the trifecta of good health by reducing fat, calories and sugar. Most beverages, including espresso and Frappuccino® drinks, can be made “skinny,” meaning that they are made with nonfat milk, sugar-free syrup and no whipped cream. For example, a grande version of a standard coffee-based Frappuccino® runs 240 calories, vs. a skinny coffee-based Frappuccino®, which has 100 calories, making this a healthier drink option for those counting their calories.
6. Use no-calorie sweeteners
You’ll add zero calories and plenty of sweetness to your Starbucks drinks when you substitute sugar with Equal®, SPLENDA® or Stevia Blend from Whole Earth.
7. Create fake chai lattes
We’ve tried them, and they taste good! Did you know that a Chai Latte is made with water and 2% milk, as well as chai tea syrup, which is where a good chunk of the calories come from? Instead of consuming those 240 calories, order a grande brewed chai tea, with 0 calories, and ask for half water and half almond milk (60 calories).
If you want to be part of the cool crowd, order a “brewed chai tea misto with steamed almond milk,” which will make the brewed drink half hot water, half steamed almond milk. The healthier version is unsweetened, so you may want to add artificial sweetener.
Oh—and you can also get a wide variety of additional Starbucks brewed teas with 0 calories, including Earl Grey, Royal English Breakfast Tea, Rev Up Brewed Wellness Tea, Emperor’s Cloud & Mist, Jade Citrus Mint Tea, Mint Majesty and Peach Tranquility.
8. Add “healthier” sweeteners
If you prefer to consume “healthier” sweeteners rather than artificial and refined ones, consider adding honey or agave nectar to your Starbucks drinks. Use them sparingly, though: They will add calories and sugar (even though it’s natural!) to your drinks. Starbucks agave syrup is 7 grams and 20 calories per packet, and Starbucks honey is 0.5 ounces and 43 calories per packet.
9. Ditch the toppings
You know how you add all of those mix-ins when you go to the yogurt or ice cream shop? Well, Starbucks has a bunch of them. Except they end up as toppings. While you may not even think about calories in that drizzle of caramel (it’s actually 15), toppings such as caramel crunch and java chips can add a minimum of 15 extra calories to your beverage.
10. Add water or ice
Ask for extra water or extra ice in drinks like “Refreshers,” to cut down the amount of sugary flavor. They’ll still taste good, with fewer calories.
10 healthy Starbuck drink options
If you’re just looking for inspiration, rather than a way to make your favorite Starbucks drinks healthier, here are 10 tasty low-calorie Starbucks drinks to try on your next visit, according to Kaitlin Vogel:
- Hot Tea: Mint Majesty: 0 calories
- Black Coffee: 0 to 5 calories
- Emperor’s Clouds & Mist: 0 calories
- Cold Brew with Cold Foam: 35 calories
- Iced Passion Tango Tea: 45 calories
- Honey Almond Milk Cold Brew: 50 calories
- Nitro Cold Brew with Sweet Cream: 70 calories
- Iced Black Tea Lemonade: 90 calories
- Kiwi Star Fruit Starbucks Refresher: 90 calories
- Violet Drink: 110 calories
Now discover the healthiest low-carb Starbucks foods.