Ever heard of this little place called Starbucks? With nearly 15,000 outlets across over 3,000 cities in the United States alone, chances are you have. Starbucks is the go-to place for a delicious drink or a bite to eat, and long gone are the humble days of it being a simple coffee joint; nowadays, the Starbucks menu is positively bursting with options to suit any need, taste, or dietary requirement.
But here’s the rub: With all of those choices out there, how do you know you’re making the best one? While everyone deserves a treat now and again, you don’t want to be caught unawares if you’re looking to opt for something healthy. Luckily, the menu at Starbucks boasts many good-for-you options. "There are times when Starbucks is a convenient option because you’re able to find healthy choices if you know where and how to look for them," registered dietitian Marissa Lippert told Eat This, Not That. Health Digest has done the legwork for you and compiled the healthiest — and unhealthiest — Starbucks menu items.
Healthy: Tall Iced Caffé Latte with a pump of syrup
It’s hard to go wrong with the classics. A simple Iced Caffé Latte, potentially sweetened slightly with a little syrup, can be a great choice at your local Starbucks, says registered dietitian Marissa Lippert. "If I — or my nutrition clients — are looking for a lightly-sweet pick-me-up in the afternoon when it’s warm outside, I’ll suggest a small iced coffee or latte with milk or almond milk and just one or two pumps of mocha chocolate syrup," Lippert told Eat This, Not That. "No other additional sugar or sweetener necessary, and you get a bit of satisfying protein from the milk."
Made with 2% milk, a tall (12-ounce) Iced Caffé Latte will provide you with around 6 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fat, and 10 grams of carbohydrates, according to the Starbucks website. This beverage clocks in at 100 calories per 12-ounce serving before you consider the syrup pumps, which contain around 20 calories and 5 grams of sugar per pump, states Business Insider. By keeping the pumps minimal, it’s a great way to get your caffeine fix healthily.
Unhealthy: Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino
If you’re in the market for health, the Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino isn’t going to pay dividends. Coming loaded with three pumps of mocha sauce, mocha drizzle, whipped cream, and cookie crumble topping, this whopper of a drink contains 15 grams of saturated fat (75% of your recommended daily intake) and 55 grams of sugar in a grande (16-ounce) serving, according to Starbucks. The caloric cost comes in at 480 calories, with 220 of those coming from fat, largely due to the whole milk the drink’s made with.
Opting for drinks like the Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino is a nutritional no-no if you’re watching your calorie intake, Anna-Maria Volanaki, certified nutritionist, told Women’s Health. "Try to avoid ‘drinking’ your calories by ordering beverages with creamy toppings and sweet dressings," Volanaki advised. "Instead, choose drinks that are lower in calories as this will help you to avoid increasing your daily caloric intake unnecessarily and gaining weight."
Healthy: Turkey Bacon, Cheddar & Egg White Sandwich
Starbucks’ breakfast sandwiches can be things of beauty, and the Turkey Bacon, Cheddar & Egg White Sandwich is no exception — not least because it’s great-tasting and pretty good for you. "Lower in fat, but packing 17 grams of protein, this breakfast sandwich is a win because it’s on a whole grain bun with 3 grams of fiber," Amy Goodson, registered dietitian, certified specialist in sports dietetics, and author of "The Sports Nutrition Playbook" told Eat This, Not That.
Diets that emphasize higher intakes of protein and fiber have been shown to reduce appetite and improve appetite control, according to a study published by Current Developments in Nutrition. In addition, the sandwich delivers 28 grams of carbohydrates and 230 calories, with a total of 5 grams of fat (2.5 grams of them saturated), according to Starbucks. Goodson even has a suggestion of what to order with it to further boost your healthy choice: "Paired with a tall latte providing calcium, vitamin D, and 9 essential nutrients, this breakfast is sure to satisfy!"
Unhealthy: Sausage, Cheddar & Egg Breakfast Sandwich
What a difference a few ingredients makes. While Starbucks’ Turkey Bacon, Cheddar & Egg White Sandwich is lower in calories and fat, its sausage-filled sibling doesn’t quite stack up. The Sausage, Cheddar & Egg Breakfast Sandwich packs in a huge 28 grams of fat, with 41 grams of carbohydrates, approximately the same amount of three slices of bread, Dr. Cynthia Sass explained in an article for Health. All of this amounts to almost 500 calories, with 890 milligrams of sodium being delivered by the small sandwich, according to the Starbucks website.
Starbucks’ Turkey Bacon, Cheddar & Egg White Sandwich, by comparison, comes in with about 20 grams less fat, fewer than half the calories, and much less sodium, while also delivering essentially the same amount of protein and more fiber for an equal-sized sandwich. If you’re looking for something healthier, Sass stated, you could also always opt for the Egg White & Red Pepper Sous Vide Egg Bites, which deliver 13 grams of protein and carbs at just 170 calories.
Healthy: Cold Brew
Sometimes you just need to keep it simple. And if you’re a fan of cold brew, you’ll be happy to hear that, at Starbucks, keeping it simple is also keeping it healthy. On a nutritional level, it’s hard to go wrong with cold brew: The drink contains zero carbohydrates or fats, and clocks in at just 5 calories, with 15 milligrams of sodium in a grande (16-ounce) serving, says the Starbucks website.
In addition, the caffeine content of grande cold brew (205 milligrams) offers a pick-me-up with some added benefits. "If it’s early in the morning, go for a cold brew. Caffeine will give you a boost, especially before work or training, and may also help you improve performance," certified nutritionist Anna-Maria Volanaki advised Women’s Health. "Current research suggests that 2-3 cups of coffee may help in boosting memory and concentration while caffeine — when consumed in the right amounts (3 mg per kg of body weight) — seems to help endurance athletes improve their performance."
Unhealthy: Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew
When served on its own, cold brew coffee is one of the simplest, healthiest drinks at Starbucks. Things start to look a little less rosy, however, when cream and syrup enter the fray, as is the case with the coffeehouse company’s Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew. In the eyes of registered dietitian Jessica Cording, "they’re taking a good product like their cold brew and adding a bunch of sugar on top" (per Women’s Health).
To be honest, it certainly looks like it from the nutritional information. The Pumpkin Cream Bold Brew contains 31 grams of carbohydrates, all of it sugar, as shown on the Starbucks website. In addition, the whipped cream and foam toppings add 12 grams of fat, with 8 grams of it saturated, which in combination with the sugar boosts this drink to 250 calories in a grande (16-ounce) serving. When compared to the virtually zero-calorie classic cold brew, it’s a fair amount of difference.
Healthy: Cheese & Fruit Protein Box
Let Starbucks take you back to being a kid with your very own snack box. This one, unlike the Lunchables of your youth, is focused on adults — and the good news is it’s a deeply healthy affair. "With a perfect blend of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, this protein box will satisfy your hunger and your tastebuds," Amy Goodson, registered dietitian, certified specialist in sports dietetics, and author of "The Sports Nutrition Playbook" told Eat This, Not That. And with a mix of Gouda, Brie, aged cheddar cheeses, grapes, apples, and olive oil crackers (per Starbucks) this is one box you don’t want to pass up.
And don’t let the calorie content (470 calories per serving) put you off. While it’s certainly true that the box delivers a fairly high fat content, with 16 grams of saturated fat, it also provides 20 grams of protein and 37 grams carbohydrates, with much of the sugar coming from fruit. As part of a balanced diet, this pack could keep you powered all day long.
Unhealthy: Glazed Doughnut
We’re sorry to break it to you folks, but that doughnut you’ve had your eye on in the ‘Bucks queue? It’s not healthy. Shocker! What might surprise you, though, is just how unhealthy the Starbucks Glazed Doughnut actually is. The fried delight will set you back for 27 grams of fat, including 13 grams of saturated fat, according to the Starbucks website. Considering that it’s recommended that you consume a maximum of 13 grams of saturated fat a day by the American Heart Association, having it knocked out in one snack is not great news.
To add to the negatives, this bakery item contains 56 grams of carbohydrates, 30 grams of which come from sugar, the equivalent of seven and a half Oreo cookies, states Men’s Health, who also rated the Starbucks Glazed Doughnut one of the five unhealthiest doughnuts in America. Instead, you may want to consider Starbucks’ Cinnamon Raisin Bagel, which can add a touch of sweetness to your day with no saturated fat whatsoever, according to the Starbucks website. The Blueberry Muffin is also on the slightly healthier side of the bakery selection — although at 320 calories and 14 grams of fat, it’s still not ideal.
Healthy: Caffé Latte with almond milk
There’s a reason why Starbucks became so famous for its coffee: It’s good. And this is most noticeable with its classic menu items, like a Caffé Latte with almond milk. "The Caffé Latte is my go-to Starbucks drink, hot or iced. The almond milk adds a little creaminess but it is still low in calories and sugar," registered dietitian Gillean Barkyoumb, founder of Millennial Nutrition, told Shape.
We can see why it’s Barkyoumb’s preferred choice from a nutritional perspective. For a short (8-ounce) serving, a Caffé Latte with almond milk contains just 3.5 grams of fat, with 2.5 grams of it saturated (per the Starbucks website). The beverage also contains just 10 grams of carbohydrates, and a surprisingly high (and welcome) 6 grams of protein, for a drink that comes in at 100 calories in total. Almond milk is also an excellent source of calcium, and has fantastic levels of vitamin E, as Medical News Today points out.
Unhealthy: Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino
The fall season is when Starbucks comes into its own. Its pumpkin spice flavors are the stuff of legend, and the Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino is a sweet, creamy, pumpkiny delight … that also happens to be pretty scant on nutritional value. As registered dietitian and author of "The Little Book of Game-Changers: 50 Healthy Habits For Managing Stress & Anxiety," Jessica Cording told Women’s Health, "You’re getting a lot of calories, especially calories from sugar."
How many calories? A whopping 350 for a grande (16-ounce serving), according to Starbucks. The combination of whole milk, whipped cream, frappuccino syrup, and pumpkin spice sauce all contribute to this, leaving you with a cup that contains 48 grams of sugar and no fiber, 15 grams of fat (9 grams of it saturated), and somewhat surprisingly for such a sweet drink, 270 milligrams of sodium. The milk also delivers some protein, with a grande providing you with 6 grams per serving — but we’d wager that there are slightly healthier ways to get your protein intake than this sugar bomb.
Healthy: Petite Vanilla Bean Scone
Turns out, good things really do come in small packages. The frankly adorable Petite Vanilla Bean Scone is the perfect accompaniment to your coffee and, what’s more, it won’t set you back too much on a nutritional level. "While they’re not super high in added sugar like many other pastries in the café, they’re still sweet enough to enjoy, and won’t derail your coffee order either," Stefani Sassos, certified dietitian nutritionist and the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab’s registered dietitian, told Good Housekeeping.
In fact, the Petite Vanilla Bean Scone only contains 8 grams of sugar, a very reasonable amount for a sweet treat, according to Starbucks. With just 4.5 grams of fat and 2 grams of saturated fat, the snack comes in at 120 calories. It’s worth pointing out that at 33 grams per serving size, this is a fairly small scone (hence the name). Nevertheless, if you’re looking for something healthier to munch on while you sit in the window and watch the world go by, this could be the choice for you.
Unhealthy: Pumpkin Scone
Okay. Here we go. For pumpkin-lovers out there, we have some bad news for you: the Pumpkin Scone from Starbucks may well be the most unhealthy thing on their menu. In fact, Business Insider rated the Pumpkin Scone the unhealthiest thing on their menu out of fifty options.
Why is this the case? For starters, its sugar content is pretty jaw-dropping. A single Pumpkin Scone contains 46 grams of sugar, according to Starbucks. That’s roughly 11 teaspoons of sugar, and almost double the amount recommended for daily intake for women and also exceeding the 36 grams per day recommended for men by the American Heart Association. If that’s not enough, it clocks in with 70 grams of carbs in total, 14 grams of saturated fat (approximately 75% of your recommended daily intake), just 4 grams of sugar, and, somewhat wildly, 450 milligrams of sodium. All of this for a grand total of 500 calories. While we’re big believers in treating ourselves, the Pumpkin Scone really takes the (unhealthy) cake.
Healthy: Matcha Tea Latte with almond milk (hold the syrup)
The distinctive tastes and energy-providing qualities of matcha provide a unique alternative to your Starbucks coffee, and so if you’re a fan you’ll be pleased to hear that a Matcha Tea Latte with almond milk is an excellent choice on the health front. "I love the slow, steady, non-jittery energy that matcha provides. Since the matcha powder they use is sweetened, I get this drink without any added vanilla syrup, which is typically automatically included," registered dietitian Willow Jarosh, co-owner of C&J Nutrition, told Eat This, Not That. "I also love Starbucks’ almond milk, which has a hint of sweetness. It pairs really well with the green tea."
Going for this drink in a tall size will provide you with a drink that’s got just 3 grams of fat and 9 grams of carbs, with 8 grams of sugar, according to Today. It also contains one gram of fiber and delivers 70 calories per cup. And one more bonus? That awesome green color. (It’s the little things in life.)
Unhealthy: Matcha Crème Frappuccino
The word "matcha" in any recipe conjures images of health and wellness, but be careful ordering just anything thinking that it’ll be healthy because it contains it. The evidence for this is never clearer than with the Matcha Crème Frappuccino from Starbucks, a drink that could potentially take the crown for one of the unhealthiest things on their menu. "This is basically a green-colored milkshake masquerading as tea with a venti [size] clocking in at 520 calories," registered dietitian nutritionist and author of "The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club" Lauren Harris-Pincus told Indy100. "[It has] almost 3 days’ worth of added sugars and over half the daily value of saturated fat."
Ouch. Harris-Pincus isn’t wrong, though: The Matcha Crème Frappuccino has a jaw-dropping 79 grams of sugar per venti serving. For scale, that’s nineteen teaspoons, and a huge amount more than is recommended per day. What’s more, the drink delivers 11 grams of saturated fat, largely due to the whole milk and whipped cream the drink’s made with. While the green color might have you convinced it’s a health drink, don’t be fooled: This beverage is anything but.