Nutritionists Reveal the Healthiest Ways to Hack the Starbucks Menu

Updated: Mar. 30, 2022

Nutritionists share their tricks on how to hack the Starbucks menu for healthier drinks without sacrificing flavor.

iced coffee with straw
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How to order healthier drinks at Starbucks

If you’re a Starbucks addict, you probably know all about the “secret menus” (hello, Skittles Frappuccino) where you can order things that few people know about. You probably also know not everything on the Starbucks menu is particularly healthy. So, how do you strike a balance between your love of coffee and staying healthy? The good news is you can order your favorite coffee and drink it with some modifications.

To help us decode the Starbucks menu looking for healthier options, we spoke with nutritionists who offer their hacks to enjoy drinks without extra sugar or calories.

sugar in a spoon
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When in doubt, go half

“A grande mocha has 35 grams of sugar in it,” explains Erica Giovinazzo, a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian. “That’s eight teaspoons of sugar! Some of it comes from the milk itself but not that much. If you’re getting any kind of sweetener, go with half the number of pumps.”

frappuccino
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Skip the Fraps altogether

“Sorry to burst your bubble, but a regular Frappuccino on the Starbucks menu has way more sugar than you think,” says Giovinazzo. “Would you eat two Snickers bars?” She says that you can easily hack your craving for cold, sweet coffee by opting for a grande iced vanilla latte to cut the sugar content by more than half, while still slurping a sweet, refreshing drink with a caffeine boost.

iced coffee
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Add ice to just about everything you order.

“Having your drink iced is an easy way to cut calories,” shares Stephanie Greenspan, a registered dietitian from Teaneck, New Jersey. “The space for ice takes away some of the milk and automatically cuts down on the calories.” Plus when it melts, it adds the extra bonus of slow hydration, which is great for counteracting some of the negative side effects of caffeinated drinks.

fresh fruit
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Add fresh fruit

It may sound odd, but you should consider adding some fresh fruit to your usual Starbucks blended beverage when they’re available. “They typically have fresh strawberries and lime available to be added to certain drinks,” says Greenspan. This can increase the nutrient and fiber content of your favorite drink while cutting back the need for refined sugars and added fats.

cappuccino
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Cappuccino is a better choice than a latte

“Get a cappuccino rather than a latte,” explains Greenspan. “With the extra foam you can easily cut 40 calories off your drink, and that adds up.” (Here are some other simple swaps to help cut the calories and up the healthy quotient.)

barista and customer
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Be wary of secret orders

Sure, all those secret menu items are interesting and tasty, but to make healthy drinks a reality, Greenspan suggests watching the number of syrup pumps in your drink. “Rather than getting a syrup-sweetened drink, either get one to two pumps (at 20 calories a pump) instead of the usual four.” If you’re ordering some type of magical unicorn mocha off the secret menu, just know that you could be ordering hundreds of unnecessary calories.

whipped cream on coffee
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Just skip the whip

No one likes to pass up the creamy goodness, but whipped cream will jack up the numbers, fast. “Whipped cream easily adds 50-100 calories per drink,” explains Greenspan. (Check out these dairy alternatives, if you want to skip cow’s milk.)

people with two coffee cups
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Pack more into a smaller cup

For cappuccino and latte lovers who love a grande or venti, try going down a cup size but order the same number of shots. That decreases the milk and sweetener, says Michelle Goldberg, an Equinox personal trainer with a degree in nutrition. “I take two shots in a tall latte.” This little trick will still give you the caffeine jolt you crave while shaving calories.

stevia sweetener in bowl
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Starbucks offers a zero-calorie natural sweetener

Want to limit the calorie load but keep the sweetness? Leery of the artificial sugar world? Goldberg suggests swapping your normal sugar for the Stevia-based sweetener on the Starbucks menu.

Next, read the 11 ways to make your coffee habit healthier.