Starbucks: 5 secret hacks to make your drinks healthier

Want to know a secret? You can order drinks from Starbucks without sacrificing your diet, and it’s not as complicated as you might think.

Ah, Starbucks. It’s not everyone’s favorite place to get coffee, but that doesn’t make it any less popular. Chances are, wherever you are in the United States, there’s a Starbucks not too far away from your home. And resisting temptation isn’t always possible.

Over the years, Starbucks has developed a wide variety of “sweet drinks.” Lattes, Frappuccinos, mochas — it’s not just black coffee or a shot of espresso with milk anymore. And then there are the colors. Who in their right mind could say no to a purple drink?

This has earned the franchise a reputation among health experts for serving a plethora of unhealthy menu items — especially considering how customizable these items can be. The good news? You can use coffee sho’s seemingly limitless customization options to keep even your most colorful drinks as healthy as possible. Here’s how:

Mind your milk

At Starbucks, the default for most drinks (that require it) is 2 percent milk, sometimes called reduced-fat milk. This is healthier than whole milk in terms of its fat content — if you’re looking to stick with a reduced-fat latte, for example, stick with the default.

But the default isn’t your only option — and soy isn’t your only alternative, either, though it does have its benefits. There are also several milk alternatives to add to your drinks.

  • Soy milk has about the same amount of protein as cow’s milk but fewer calories and less fat and carbs — and it’s plant-based.
  • Almond milk is lower in calories, protein, fat, and carbs and tastes slightly sweet.
  • Coconut milk also contains fewer of all the above nutrients and calories. However, most of its calories come from saturated fat, which is the less healthy kind of fat.

Depending on your health-focused goals, choosing the default option might suit you best. Each milk alternative has separate benefits. But don’t choose a different type of milk just because you think it’s healthier only to add more sugar to it later to compensate for the difference in flavor.

There’s one size shorter than a Tall…

It’s called a Short! Instead of the smallest size listen on the menu — a Tall dink is 12 ounces — a Short is only 8 ounces. So if you just need a quick drink and want to cut down on calories without altering the flavor or composition in any way, ask your barista for the smallest size possible.

Get the Iced version

For some people, one of the most frustrating things about ordering an iced drink from Starbucks is the ratio of ice to…well, everything else. There’s just too much ice! And not enough drink! Who wants to pay $4 or more for a cup of coffee-flavored ice?

You can use this common annoyance to your advantage, however. Because the more ice that’s in your drink, the less room it leaves for excess sugar and calories. So if flavored sweet coffee is your thing, you can actually do yourself a favor by technically ordering mostly ice. Just don’t compensate by ordering a larger drink.

Ask for less syrup

The way many Starbucks drinks are flavored involves various “pumps” of sweet syrup. This is, as you can probably guess, pure sugar — which is, of course, fine in moderation. But you can actually cut down on the sugar in your drink by controlling how much syrup your barista adds to it.

Each Starbucks drink made with various flavored syrups has an automatic number of pumps added to each drink. That is, unless you ask for something different.

Technically, you can ask for however much syrup you want and they’re obliged to give it to you. You could fill half your cup with syrup if you wanted to. Some people do. But use your freedom as a customer to your advantage here in a healthy way. Ask for only one or two pumps of syrup in your drink. It’s not a drastic change, but every small effort counts.

Don’t always go for the Skinny

A Skinny drink is just a drink with skim milk, which contains no fat. People often just ask for their drink of choice with skim milk — it’s the same thing. But is it necessary?

There is one major downside to ordering your go-to Starbucks drink with fat-free milk: Its texture and even its flavor can turn out much different than you’re used to. This results in many people asking for more flavored syrup or adding their own sugar or other sweeteners to achieve their desired flavor profile.

If you don’t want to sacrifice flavor for fewer calories and fat, stick with regular reduced-fat milk (the default option). It’s not going to hurt you. And it’s worth it if it makes you less likely to add more excess sugar than necessary.

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What’s your go-to Starbucks order? How often do you mix things up (pun intended)?