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12 healthy and delicious Starbucks drinks that won't spike your blood sugar

Sanjana Gupta,Jason McKnight   

12 healthy and delicious Starbucks drinks that won't spike your blood sugar
  • Many Starbucks drinks are sneakily high in sugar, which can lead to blood sugar spikes.
  • If you have specific health goals you want to stick to, try simple drip coffee, teas, and cold brew.
  • Pick drinks that don't have a ton of syrups and added sugar, and opt for skim or plant-based milks.

Starbucks has its fair share of sugary, calorie-packed drinks, but you can also get your caffeine fix without ruining your health goals.

For example, coffee and tea can be part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation, says Eleana Kaidanian, RD, a nutritionist with her own private practice.

Moreover, both coffee and tea come with antioxidants, which - when consumed along with a healthy diet - may help reduce the risk of some diseases such as cancer.

Here are some healthy Starbucks drinks that can help you get your daily dose of caffeine. All cost and nutrition details listed here are based on the tall size Starbucks offers.

1. Caffè Americano

  • Cost: $3.45
  • Calories: 10
  • Sugar: 0 grams
  • Caffeine: 150 milligrams

The Americano is a black coffee made with espresso shots and hot water. "In general, black coffee is healthier than coffee drinks with tons of additives like milk, cream, and sugar," says Kaidanian. If you prefer your coffee chilled, opt for the iced version.

2. Decaf Pike Place roast

  • Cost: $2.65
  • Calories: 5
  • Sugar: 0 grams
  • Caffeine: 20 milligrams

This decaf roast is a good option if you want a hot beverage without the kick of caffeine, says Kaidanian. She says people who have trouble sleeping at night or those who are trying to reduce their caffeine intake may also prefer a decaf drink. However, it's worth noting that even decaf coffees do have some caffeine in them.

3. Cappuccino

  • Cost: $4.25
  • Calories: 100
  • Sugar: 9 grams
  • Caffeine: 75 milligrams

If you prefer your coffee with milk in it, opt for the cappuccino, which is unsweetened. You can add a dash of cinnamon, vanilla, or cacao powder to your drink to flavor it.

The cappuccino is usually made with 2% milk, which accounts for the higher calorie count; however, Kaidanian recommends getting it with 1% milk, skim milk, or a milk alternative to cut down on calories and saturated fat.

4. Honey almond milk flat white

  • Cost: $5.45
  • Calories: 120
  • Sugar: 18 grams
  • Caffeine: 150 milligrams

This drink pairs brewed espresso with almond milk and is sweetened with a honey blend. While Kaidanian says a homemade version made with unsweetened almond milk and a dash of honey will probably be healthier, you can make do with this one in a pinch. According to the Mayo Clinic, almond milk is a good source of healthy, unsaturated fats, as well as vitamin E.

5. Nitro cold brew

  • Cost: $4.95
  • Calories: 5
  • Sugar: 0 grams
  • Caffeine: 215 milligrams

If you like cold brews, opt for the nitro cold brew drink. Nitro coffee involves infusing coffee with bubbles of nitrogen gas, which helps make it thicker and richer without adding sugar or cream.

6. Earl grey tea

  • Cost: $2.95
  • Calories: 0
  • Sugar: 0 grams
  • Caffeine: 40 milligrams

The earl grey tea is a zero-calorie, sugar-free option. A 2016 study found that, when part of a healthy, balanced diet, black tea can help promote weight loss and fight obesity.

Teas also have approximately half the amount of caffeine as coffee drinks, says Kaidanian. She says you can adjust the amount of flavor and caffeine in your drink by taking the tea bag out early.

7. Jade citrus mint brewed tea

  • Cost: $2.95
  • Calories: 0
  • Sugar: 0 grams
  • Caffeine: 16 milligrams

If you prefer green tea over black tea, you can opt for the jade citrus mint tea. Made with green tea, lemon verbena, lemongrass, and spearmint, it is a healthy option that offers antioxidants, says Kaidanian.

Green tea may also be a better option than coffee for pregnant and breastfeeding people, who should consume no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day.

8. Iced London fog tea latte

  • Cost: $4.15
  • Calories: 140
  • Sugar: 22 grams
  • Caffeine: 40 milligrams

If you prefer your tea with milk in it, opt for the London fog tea latte. Similar to the chai latte, but with less sugar, it comes with a tea bag, hot milk, and vanilla syrup.

You can make it healthier by replacing the default 2% milk with either low-fat milk or soy milk. You can also skip the vanilla syrup, which is sugar-based, and add a dash of turmeric to your latte instead, to season it and benefit from its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

9. Teavana sparkling unsweetened peach nectarine green tea

  • Cost: $2.95
  • Calories: 0
  • Sugar: 0 grams
  • Caffeine: 16 milligrams

The sparkling peach nectarine green tea is a zero-calorie, unsweetened option that is ideal for those who prefer sparkling drinks to tea or coffee. It's also a healthier alternative to soda, which is typically loaded with added sugars.

10. Iced matcha green tea latte

  • Cost: $3.25
  • Calories: 140
  • Sugar: 20 grams
  • Caffeine: 55 milligrams

If you're a matcha fan, try the iced matcha green tea latte. Matcha is a variant of green tea that is powdered; it's therefore a more concentrated source of antioxidants and could help fight cancer and heart disease.

Since the matcha blend at Starbucks is sweetened, opting for one scoop instead of two can help you cut some sugar and calories from your drink.

11. Iced passion tango tea

  • Cost: $2.95
  • Calories: 0
  • Sugar: 0 grams
  • Caffeine: 0 milligrams

The iced passion tea is a colorful drink made with hibiscus, lemongrass, and apple, shaken with ice. Though it mentions "tea" in the name, it doesn't have any caffeine, so it's a good option if you want a refreshing decaf drink.

12. Kiwi starfruit Starbucks refresher

  • Cost $3.45
  • Calories: 70
  • Sugar: 14 grams
  • Caffeine: 35 milligrams

If fruity drinks are more your style, opt for this summery kiwi and starfruit refresher that is made with fruit juice and real pieces of kiwi. Kiwi offers nutrients like vitamins A, B, C, and K, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Tips to making healthy choices at Starbucks

If none of these appeal, and you'd like to craft your own Starbucks order, these are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Stick to basic drinks: Kaidanian recommends opting for what she calls "naked drinks," which are basically drinks like black coffee and teas that don't have anything added to them. "Stick to the basics. Be mindful of the extras," says Kaidanian.
  • Check the calorie count: Starbucks publishes calorie counts for all its products. A high calorie count can indicate that a drink has a lot of additives and is best avoided, says Kaidanian.
  • Add any extras yourself: "Add your own extras so you know exactly what you are putting in and how much. When you order drinks made by the barista, you are in the dark and do not know how many pumps of syrup, spoonfuls of sugar, or lumps of cream are going in and the calories add up very quickly," says Kaidanian.
  • Opt for natural flavors: "You can jazz up your tea or coffee with natural spices and flavorings such as cinnamon, turmeric, vanilla, unsweetened cacao powder, matcha powder, or even cayenne pepper just to name a few, all without adding significant calories," says Kaidanian.
  • Pick natural sweeteners: Kaidanian recommends avoiding all syrups and sweeteners except for ones that are 100% natural, such as maple syrup or honey; she says even these should be used in very small quantities.
  • Select low-fat or unsweetened milk: If you're opting for a drink with a significant amount of milk, Kaidanian recommends opting for 1% milk or skim milk. If you're opting for plant-based milks, she says to make sure they're unsweetened."Soy milk offers protein while most other plant-based milk alternatives do not," says Kaidanian. Apart from soy milk, Starbucks also offers almond and coconut milk alternatives. Just be aware that coconut milk is often higher in fat than almond milk.
  • Get smaller-sized drinks: Some Starbucks drinks are loaded with calories, saturated fat, and sugar, says Kaidanian. If you are going to indulge and get drinks like the caramel macchiato or chocolatey frappuccinos, limit them to occasional treats and opt for smaller sizes.

Insider's takeaway

While Starbucks has some high-calorie drinks that are loaded with sugar and fat, they also have some healthier options that can help you get your caffeine fix without jeopardizing your intentions to be healthier.

Kaidanian recommends opting for basic drinks without additives as far as possible and using natural spices and syrups as flavorings, to keep the calorie count low. If your caffeine habit is keeping you up at night, she says to stick to decaf drinks or to have your coffee earlier in the day, at least six hours before you go to bed.

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