Alarm, check. Make it out of bed, check. Make it to class, check. Finish class and stop by Starbucks, check. It’s true, we can’t get enough of Starbucks, but frappes and other dessert-like drinks can easily veer into very high-sugar territory, not to mention how they leave everything around them all sticky.
So how can we make sure we’re getting our caffeine fix without undoing all our hard work in our classes? Knowledge is power, so if you’re fumbling, don’t be shy about getting more information about what you’re consuming. “Don’t ever feel intimidated to ask a question,” says Brooke Alpert, M.S., R.D., founder of B Nutritious. “While ordering can be complicated, it’s important to know what’s in your beverage so be sure to ask if it’s sweetened, [if there’s] syrup and more. Knowledge [equals] healthy choices.”
The healthiest Starbucks drinks are iced coffee, cappuccinos, caffe americano, shaken iced teas and skinny lattes.
Anytime you add in extra pumps of flavoring, keep in mind that you’re adding in extra calories and sugar. Most of the milks also contain added sugars, so if you’re reducing your sugar intake, make sure you avoid those. And in the spirit of dropping knowledge, here’s a cheat sheet on some of Starbucks’ healthiest drink choices.
Classics are classics for a reason, and this is one occasion where it’s completely encouraged to be #basic. “The best drink at Starbucks is the drink that start[ed] it all, coffee!” Alpert says. When you’re at the counter and searching for a healthy option, she says it’s crucial to avoid the drinks with added sugars, like frappes and smoothies. Instead, a plain coffee—iced or hot—gives you a caffeine kick sans the high calorie count. Alpert recommends adding whichever milk or unsweetened milk substitute you like, but skipping the sugar.
For those looking for a warm drink that has a luxurious and leisurely reputation, a cappuccino is your best bet. Alexandra Caspero, M.A., R.D., nutrition consultant and owner of Delish Knowledge, says it’s one of her favorite hot beverages and clocks in at about 100 calories. “It gives me the caffeine jolt that I need without any added sugar,” she says. Looking for an extra kick with your order? Top your foam off with a sprinkle of cinnamon for a bit of spice that doesn’t have “pumpkin” in front of it.
Jonesing for a serious energy boost after a late night or an uber busy week? This is the drink for you. Caspero says the beverage, which is just water and espresso, is a “potent drink, with negligible calories.” A grande size of the beverage is about 15 calories, has no sugar and will keep you wide awake throughout the work day. (Those sensitive to caffeine may want to avoid this choice.) No snoozing in your 10 a.m. meeting now.
Teavana Shaken Iced Passion Tango Tea
If you need a break from your day but aren’t in the mood for java, then this is an excellent alternative. Caspero recommends the drink, calling it a “fruity, refreshing beverage that doesn’t need any added sugar.” She suggest ordering it unsweetened and adding sugar only if you absolutely have to. As an added bonus, Alpert points out that tea is rich in antioxidants that helps battle chronic illnesses and fight against premature aging.
Very Berry Hibiscus Refreshers
In addition to an oh-so-Instagrammable pink hue, the refreshment is a winner for being one of the healthiest non-coffee picks on Starbucks’ expansive menu. A blend of tangy and sweet due to its use of blackberry and hibiscus, the drink is also served with whole blackberries, which are known for their high level of antioxidants. “The very berry flavor gives a subtle sweet flavor and the green tea extract adds a bit of caffeine for those who need the energy boost,” Caspero says.
Skinny Vanilla Latte
Don’t have it in you to say no to frappes? Have no fear, the skinny latte is here. The brew is made with nonfat milk and sugar-free syrup and is a lighter version of some other Starbucks dessert-y faves, according to Caspero. To compare, a grande skinny flavored latte has about 16 grams of sugar and 120 calories, while a vanilla frappuccino in the same size totals approximately 430 calories with about 69 grams of sugar–a major difference. “Enjoy [a skinny vanilla latte] hot or cold for a healthier take on a latte or frappuccino,” Caspero says. Gotta love options!