Healthy Starbucks Drinks and Menu ItemsThis post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclosure.
Whether you’re traveling, commuting to work, or just going for a walk in your neighborhood — one thing is certain: you’re probably going to pass by a Starbucks! From bento boxes to coffee drinks, Starbucks is a super convenient place to buy a quick snack, meal or drink. But the problem is, most things on Starbucks’s menu aren’t actually healthy (even if they sound healthy!) The good news is, there are a few healthy items at Starbucks that are both nutritious and delicious that you can feel great about eating. This post breaks it down for you: Healthy Starbucks Drinks and Menu Items, and what to avoid on their menu!
I actually love Starbucks. It’s one of those places that’s just reliable, and I can always find something healthy on their menu when I’m on the go (like fresh fruit and tea). But most of Starbucks’ menu is filled with “fancy” drinks — all of which are packed with sugar. In recent years, the chain has tried its hardest to offer healthier options, but it can be hard to figure out what’s actually healthy vs. what to avoid when you’re ordering!
So, what are the healthiest items available on the Starbucks menu today? Below are some general guidelines to follow when you’re looking for the Healthy Starbucks Drinks and Food Items, along with my top picks for what to order to keep your diet on track.
My Top 5 Rules for Finding Healthy Options At Starbucks
- Avoid all sweeteners, syrups and added sugar! Starbucks is famous for the range of syrups you can add to your drinks. But all the regular syrups have tons of sugar (as much as soda or candy bars), and the sugar-free ones are made with artificial sweeteners and chemicals – neither of which are good for your body. Artificial sweeteners can make your body think it needs to release insulin, the way real sugar does – so it’s best to avoid all sweeteners no matter what.
- If it sounds “fun”, or if it has a “flavor” it’s probably unhealthy. Drinks like “white chocolate mocha” sound amazing, but they will run you upwards of 400 calories, 18g fat and 53g sugar. That’s the equivalent of eating more than 2.5 full sized Snickers bars! Even the vanilla latte will run you 44g sugar if you get a venti (35g sugar for a grande). Again, just think of it like you’re eating Snickers bars, not drinking your morning coffee. Where does all that sugar come from? The vanilla syrup (which goes back to #1 – avoid all syrups!). Even their smoothies are packed with sugar – so avoid those as well (make your own at home so you can control the ingredients!)
- Look for options under 100 calories. If you’re not sure – just ask and Starbucks is really good about making nutrition information transparent.
- Basic drinks are great: Black coffee, tea, espresso, cappuccino — pretty much anything that doesn’t have a bunch of flavors, sweeteners, or whip cream added are all good options. Tea or coffee with a splash of milk (even the venti size) won’t be more than 50 or 60 calories depending on how much milk you add. Even a nonfat latte is around 100 calories, assuming you stick to a tall size!
- When it comes to food, fresh and plant-based is best. Stick to anything under 250-300 calories that has either fresh fruit or veggies as part of the meal. For their salads, use salt & pepper and avoid the prepared dressing.
Healthy Starbucks Drinks: What to order and what to avoid!
My main issue with most of the drinks at Starbucks is the ridiculous amount of sugar in them. Why does sugar matter? Too much sugar can lead to weight gain, cavities, blood sugar problems/diabetes and an increased risk of heart disease, among other health conditions. So limiting added sugar is really important to overall health and wellness!
While Starbucks typically relies on a variety of sugary flavors to craft their signature coffee beverages (watch out, pumpkin spice), there are ways to have delicious drinks without these syrups. Even their sugar-free syrups are to be avoided, but if you’re really craving something like a pumpkin spice latte – get it with the sugar-free syrup once in a while and you will be able to keep your drink to around 90 calories. Definitely not something you want to order regularly though, even with the sugar-free syrup!
The most nutritious Starbucks options are devoid of sweeteners altogether.
Here are some of the Healthy Starbucks Drinks I’d recommend:
- Regular or decaf black brewed coffee (or iced coffee), which contains fewer than five calories per venti serving. Adding a dash of cream or milk will add on some calories, but if you keep the added milk to less than 1/2 cup, you’ll keep your drink under 100 calories.
- Espresso shots: Black coffee, basically zero calories!
- Brewed teas: Any hot tea or iced tea with no sweeteners added. From Peach Tranquility, to Chai, to Earl Grey, all of their brewed teas have 0 calories! You can add cinnamon and/or milk to add flavor to any drink and still keep it healthy. Many of the herbal teas are also naturally sweet which is a nice bonus.
- Cappuccino: You can even get this with whole milk and a tall will be around 100 calories for the whole drink!
- Caffe Americano: This is just water + espresso – so it’s a great option.
- Caffe Latte: Get this in a tall, with nonfat milk or unsweetened almond milk and you’ll have a satisfying drink that won’t break your diet. One plus on the almond milk – avoiding dairy will also guarantee that you’re not exposed to bovine growth hormones, which has been an issue with non-organic dairy.
- Flat white with nonfat milk or almond milk: Like the caffe latte but even creamier thanks to how they froth the milk!
- Nitro cold brew: Only 5 calories with no cream, milk or sweeteners. It is high in caffeine, but other than that it’s a great option.
What about food? Here are the healthiest food items on Starbucks’ menu:
- Their classic oatmeal, hands down: Ringing in at 4g of fiber and 5g of protein, the steel-cut oats offer the best in whole grains. Avoid the dried fruit that goes with it which is high in sugar, and instead add 1 tbsp nuts (that comes with the oatmeal), cinnamon, a splash of milk, and fresh fruit (which you can also find at Starbucks!) Even though oatmeal is a typical breakfast food, it’s available at all hours at Starbucks and I’ve eaten it as a quick snack or even a light lunch when I’m on the go.
- All salads (with no dressing): Just remove any dried fruit added to the salad and croutons, and use salt & pepper to season your greens!
- All fresh fruit: You can’t really go wrong here!
- Hearty veggie and brown rice salad bowl: With only 430 calories, 8g fiber and 10g protein – this is a great option for a healthy meal at Starbucks! It has all natural ingredients and no preservatives too!
Healthy Starbucks Food: Runners Up
While some of these items aren’t necessarily healthy, they are healthier alternatives to enjoy if you end up at a Starbucks and the options above aren’t available!
- The egg white, spinach, and feta wrap has recently been revamped with cage-free egg whites and a whole-wheat wrap. It has 19g of protein and 4g of fiber – and will keep you feeling full and satisfied. It does have a few more preservatives and stabilizers than I’d like, but it’s one of the better options for sure.
- Egg and cheddar breakfast sandwich: While the English muffin is made with partial whole wheat and includes flour in the ingredients, it can be a healthier alternative to enjoy when you have a craving for that traditional breakfast sandwich. This option has less sodium and only 280 calories, so it’s a decent option once in a while.
- The protein boxes! The main thing here is to eat less of the bread/crackers/etc. in the box, and eat more of the fruit/veggies + protein in the box.
What to avoid? All pastries and baked goods! Even though these options taste delicious, they’re packed with unnecessary calories and sugar. If you’re tempted to grab something a little sweeter, rely on their dark chocolate covered almonds at the register.
Even though the global wellness industry has grown (to ~$3 trillion now!), and healthier options are on most restaurant menus, you still have to be careful so that you don’t accidentally order something that sounds healthy, but isn’t. From breakfast to lunch and everything in between, I hope this list helps you to find healthier options at Starbucks!
Thank you Anjali for the information! I love Starbucks, but it can be hard to find something healthy. I usually get the cafe misto, it’s equal parts coffee and steamed 2% milk, it’s creamy and delicious!
The cafe misto is a great choice!! And I agree it is delicious! 🙂 So glad you found this post helpful!
Thanks for all this great info. I love the Starbucks lunch Bento boxes. I even took my trainer to look at them. And he was actually surprised. He was very pleased to see the different light options. His favorite was the protein box!! He said it was very balanced!!
Yes!! The bento boxes are great! The main thing to keep an eye out for or avoid with them is any dried fruit (which has too much sugar) or high-glycemic refined grains (crackers, bread, etc.) that might be added to the box.
You forgot their vegan frappucinos which are caffeine free and their hot apple cider because caffeine is very unhealthy.
Hi Cecil! Actually their vegan frappuccinos are high in sugar and aren’t a healthy option – even the decaf frappuccino is still high in sugar (as much as almost 2 candy bars depending on the size you get!) Same thing with the hot apple cider – the tall has almost 40g of sugar which is as much as a 12oz can of coke or two snickers bars! I wouldn’t recommend either one unfortunately. Caffeine is not bad for you in moderation – it’s only if you’re drinking more than 2 cups of coffee a day that it can become an issue. Hope that helps!
Great information, Anjali! I love their protein boxes (minus the bread) too. They have very few gluten-free options, which is surprising. It’s my understanding that they also make all of their bakery items on shared equipment with nuts so if you have kids with food allergies, it’s best to avoid.
Thanks Julie! That’s a great point re: allergies and you’re absolutely right, I don’t think any of their items are nut free (another reason to avoid the baked goods!) Re: gluten free – I agree it is surprising that they don’t have more options (like an easy one would be to make the oatmeal gluten free by using gluten free certified oats!)