With each passing week it looks like Starbucks is becoming America’s largest office space broker.
Overpriced coffee, underpriced work room.
I’m in Florida now, but when I lived in New York City it wasn’t uncommon to see an entire store filled with people working on their laptops shoulder-to-shoulder.
If you’re one of the millions of people who spends 4+ hours a week punching away at your keyboard while sipping domed drinks, use this as a primer to avoid the nutritional boobie traps that await you at Starbucks (and in most coffee shops).
Because believe me, they’re there.
Nutrition Information of Different Drinks
For this article we’re going to skip the canned drinks you can buy. You can just read the labels.
As you might expect, the “plain” drinks like coffee and tea have very few calories, typically somewhere between 0-30 depending on your size and if you add milk or sugar. See below:
If you want to be a Starbucks Junkie and keep your figure, it’s generally best to stick to these drinks.
Where things get complicated is the drinks with long names, milk ingredients, and different flavors.
With these drinks caloric content can range anywhere from 80 to 500 calories depending on size, flavor, and type of drink.
I’m no coffee snob and am frequently confused by the byzantine menu options offered. I don’t know the difference between a mocha and macchiato. For me, trying to memorize the menu is futile, but I’ve found you can use a few simple rules that are good guides for determining the relative caloric content of different menu items.
How to Choose the Best Drink
In terms of caloric content, drinks usually work like this:
- cappuccino, macchiato, caffe < latte < mocha
- vanilla < cinnamon, caramel, other flavors < chocolate, white chocolate, mocha
- iced drinks < hot drinks
- flavor combinations add up cumulatively
Cappuccinos, macchiatos, and caffe’s typically have between 80-120 calories in them, and you often have the choice of ordering a drink with the suffix latte or mocha.
For example, here’s the caloric content of a medium cappuccino, caffe latte, and caffe mocha:
Now let’s look at flavors.
Take a look at this menu for an example. An iced vanilla latte has slightly less calories than a dolce latte:
But an iced peppermint mocha tops both of them significantly
And while the iced dolce latte has 200 calories, the same drink served warm has 260 calories:
We can also see that mixing flavors causes calories to go up in a stepwise manner.
White chocolate mocha:
Peppermint white chocolate mocha:
Nutritional Guide for Starbucks Food
For some reason many people have the impression that food served in coffee shops is good for you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of it’s high calorie crap.
The Secret Killers: Banana Bread, Scones, Pound Cake and Muffins
For the most part, none of the food options have any nutritional value, so it’s best to think about what foods you’d be best off to avoid.
And at starbucks, like many other restaurants, the worst culprits are dense “comfort foods.” Here are the caloric figures for Starbucks banana bread, scones, pound cake and muffins:
(And in case you didn’t know, these foods are always terrible for you. Avoid them at all costs!)
If you’re going to order a starch, it’s best to use two rules:
- They’re all bad for you, so smaller is better
- Go with less dense foods, even if the food choice doesn’t seem healthy
Most of the time, this will mean ordering their “Petites” menu options. They’re all terrible for you, but they have the benefits of small portion size:
And if you don’t go that route, it’s best to order treats that are light in weight. Rice Krispie treats work best.
Sandwiches and Wraps
Things get a little better here. There’s less variation in caloric density, and because the menu choices contain ingredients besides sugar, flour, and butter you actually have a shot at doing something good for your body.
You’ll want to pay more attention to what goes on inside the sandwich, and not the bread choice.
Stick with items with veggies and hummus, avoid cheese and anything that has the word “salad” in it. (Egg salad, tuna salad, etc.)
For example, here’s the caloric difference between a chicken and hummus bistro box and a fruit and cheese bistro box:
Despite its chic persona, Starbucks doesn’t have a lot of great menu options for the light eater.
The only benefit I find to eating there is that the paucity of hearty, healthy menu options often causes me to forsake eating there altogether and just eat at home when I’m done with my work.
2 thoughts on “The Health Nut’s Guide To Eating At Starbucks”
Great article! Up here in BC, Canada we have a blueberry oat bar that I used to eat mindlessly at Starbucks believing (naively) that if there were blueberries in it it must be lower in cals than other bars. Well the whole square (and not that big a square) was 480 – you could have knocked me over with a feather.
One thing I would suggest for eating at Starbucks is to go with a biscotti – they’re typically 160-190 depending on the flavour (vanilla almond is the lowest and my favourite flavour anyway!) or their packaged shortbread biscuits, especially the Owl and Pussycat Vanilla Biscuits. haha you feel a bit like a kid eating them but they satisfy a sweet tooth for 120 cals. Can’t go wrong with that!
Thanks Anna! I’ve always found that in “chic” places it’s very easy for certain packaged foods to brand themselves as healthy, but when you look under the hood, things are not at all what they seem.
Good call on the biscotti. I know down here in the US they’ve also added fruit and veggie puree packets which are a good bet, as well as fruit bowls….but they’re also filled with peanut butter and sugary yogurt.