The Best Starbucks Orders If You’re on the Keto Diet
If you’re on the ketogenic diet, you’ve probably already made some major morning sacrifices: no fruit smoothies, no bagels, and definitely no fluffy stacks of pancakes, even on the weekends (because ketosis has no room for cheat days, unless, of course, they’re keto-approved pancakes). But what about your morning run to Starbucks? Can you stick to the high-fat, super low-carb diet and still get your caffeine fix at this popular chain?
The short answer is yes!
We suspect this is a popular question, though. See Exhibit A: the #ketostarbucks hashtag on Instagram, which has amassed more than 18,500 posts—and a lot of photos of lengthy, modified Starbucks orders should you be inclined to copy them. Yes, there are some good ideas for modifications so that you don’t burn through your carb allowance before lunch (no classic syrup, swap in a few pumps of sugar-free cinnamon dolce, and add some cinnamon powder). But we thought it would be a better idea to turn to registered dietitians to find out which Starbucks drinks are keto-approved, as the diet doesn’t allow for much wiggle room when it comes to carbs.
While there’s no bulletproof coffee (that’s coffee with butter and MCT oil, for you non-keto types) on the Starbucks menu, there are still several options and ways to enjoy your morning cup of joe on the go.
Here’s what you need to know about sticking to keto drinks while at Starbucks.
What should you avoid at Starbucks if you’re on the keto diet?
First, an explainer: Your Starbucks drink first thing in the morning can make or break your ability to see results from keto, so it’s important to get it right, explains Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, who serves on the advisory board for Smart Healthy Living. Normally, we burn carbohydrates for energy, but a true keto diet strives to burn fat for energy. If you eat too many carbs—even a really small amount—you can move out of ketosis, defeating the purpose of the diet, she cautions.
Kostro Miller says that certain things at coffee chains can add carbohydrates, and that even a small amount of carbs can kick you out of ketosis. “The keto diet really isn’t a keto diet if you’re not in ketosis,” Kostro Miller says.
Specifically at Starbucks (and other coffee chains in general), things that can kick you out of ketosis are things like:
Also, before you order at Starbucks, know this: Many drinks have a sugar syrup added, which automatically makes them a bad choice for keto followers because the syrup can add between 5 to 30 grams of net carbs, depending on the size of the drink, says Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, one of The Nutrition Twins. Oof!
“Always request that your drink be made without sweetener, and say ‘no classic’ since the ‘classic’ has the carb-loaded sweetener they use,” says Lakatos. The flavored syrups are packed with sugar as well, so you’ll want to avoid those, too, Lakatos says.
One more warning: Most people think the whipped cream is safe because it’s high in fat, but you’ll want to avoid it as well because it’s sweetened with vanilla syrup or sugar, which is a no-go for keto, says the Nutrition Twins’ Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, who, with her sister, co-authored The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure.
“Although not the healthiest option for the gut microbiome, the sugar-free options are better in terms of the keto diet, since two tablespoons, or about two pumps, of the syrup is only one gram of net carbs,” Lakatos Shames says.
What are some good keto Starbucks drinks?
So, what can you order at Starbucks? If you’re looking at the Reddit or Instagram threads about keto-friendly coffee drinks, you’ll see a lot of creations that call for the sugar-free backups in flavors like vanilla, caramel, cinnamon dolce, or, come the holidays, peppermint. These custom-made drinks tend to add splashes of heavy cream and some spices, too. Our experts, though, err on the side of caution and say it’s best to stick with classics and not go overboard on the sugar-free syrups.
“If you’re trying to stay within your keto diet guidelines, it may be best to avoid adding anything to your black coffee or plain tea,” Kostro Miller says.
But if you want some variety, here are 5 keto-friendly Starbucks drinks that stay within the guidelines of the low-carb diet.
- Fresh brewed black coffee: “Black coffee is perfect for the keto diet—it’s got antioxidants and no carbs! Eight ounces of coffee will have 160 milligrams of caffeine, so you can still get your caffeine fix,” Lakatos says.
- Hot tea lattes: Use tea bags, hot water, and heavy cream to make your latte low-carb. An ounce of heavy cream has just under one gram of carbs. And avoid the Chai Tea Latte and the London Fog, which use a mix that’s pre-made and loaded with sugar, Lakatos Shames says. If you want to make your own keto-friendly version of London Fog, do so by skipping the milk and ordering an Earl Grey tea, and then add a splash of heavy cream and a pump of sugar-free vanilla syrup.
- Vanilla latte: “To make it low-carb, request to steam half heavy cream and half water, so you’ll still get the froth without the excess carbs,” Lakatos says. You can have a vanilla latte, but sub in the sugar-free vanilla syrup, she says. And keep in mind that you’ll get one to two grams of net carbs, and you’ll be using an artificial sweetener.
- Caffè Americano: This drink has shots of espresso and is topped with hot water, Lakatos Shames says. Short and tall Americanos each have one gram of net carbs, and a grande has two grams.
Classic brewed tea: Naturally, it has no carbs, Lakatos says, making it keto-friendly. You do want to avoid the chai and green tea lattes because the premade mixes used in them have sugar, she says, and the bottle teas have a lot of added sugar. Instead, go with fresh-brewed teas. There are lots to choose from:
- Comfort Wellness Brewed Tea
- Emperor’s Cloud and Mist Green Tea
- Jade Citrus Mint Green Tea
- Mint Majesty Herbal Tea
- Passion Tango Herbal Tea
- Peach Tranquility Herbal Tea
- Rev Up Wellness Brewed Tea
- Royal English Breakfast Tea
- Teavana Earl Grey Brewed Tea
- Teavana Organic Chai Tea
- Youthberry White Tea.
All these teas are keto-approved, according to The Nutrition Twins.
There are plenty of Starbucks keto drink options if you know what to order, and finessing a special blend with syrups and creams and spices is a bit of a tall order, so to say, yet still doable, so don’t be afraid to pop into the chain for a java fix.