What 12 Diet Experts Order at Starbucks
But the danger that comes with frequenting any chain restaurant is alive and well at the coffee joint: It's way too easy to fall into a calorie trap. Perfect example: a grande Frappuccino can have as many calories as some of the decadent desserts. That said, there are plenty of options on the menu that won't kill your stay-slim aspirations—or slash satisfaction. Need proof? Just look at what these 12 nutrition experts pick when they stop by a Starbucks.
"I order any drink in a short cup. Not advertised on the menu. The smaller size allows me to indulge without breaking the calorie bank." — Maria Bella, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder at Top Balance Nutrition
Sweet Greens and Lemon Evolution Fresh Drink
"When I travel, I may pick up a Sweet Greens and Lemon Evolution Fresh Drink. It's refreshing, and I like that it's cold-pressed and that it packs in greens that are more difficult to consume when I'm on the road." — Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, co-owner of The Nutrition Twins and author of The Nutrition Twins' Veggie Cure
Teavana® Oprah Chai Brewed Tea
"I love tea, and this one is delicious! The cinnamon flavor helps satisfy me and keeps me from reaching for those tempting Danishes, and the small amount of caffeine gives me a bit of a pick-me-up without overdoing it." — Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies
Grande Decaf Iced Coffee with Soy Milk
"My go-to drink this time of the year is a grande decaf iced coffee with soy milk. Typically I grab one when I am thirsty and wanting something a little sweet. It is the ideal thirst quencher for me, especially after a yoga class." — Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN, author of The Small Change Diet
Teavana® Green Tea or the Passion Tango Tea
"In the summer I'll get the iced version, and the passion tea is very refreshing and has a great sweet flavor when you have a sweet craving. I go for the green tea when I need want to relax because the theanine in it creates a feeling of calm, yet alertness. It's a great calorie-free drink!" — Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, co-owner of The Nutrition Twins and author of The Nutrition Twins' Veggie Cure
Small Iced Latte with Regular or Almond Milk
"There are times when Starbucks is a convenient option because you're able to find healthy choices if you know where/how to look for them. If I (or my nutrition clients) are looking for a lightly sweet pick-me-up in the afternoon when it's warm outside, I'll suggest a small iced coffee or latte with milk or almond milk and just one or two pumps of mocha chocolate syrup. No other additional sugar or sweetener necessary, and you get a bit of satisfying protein from the milk." — Marissa Lippert, MS, RD and owner of Nourish Kitchen + Table
Half-Caf Coffee with Whole Milk
"I love Starbucks coffee and use their beans to make coffee at home every morning, but when I go to the store, I will always get a grande half-caf. I get too speedy from a fully caffeinated drink, so I always get half decaf, half caffeinated. I add whole milk and cinnamon—no sweetener. The cinnamon adds flavor and cuts the need for a sweetener. Iced in the summer and hot in the winter." — Martha Mckittrick, RD, CDE, a nutritionist in NYC and blogger at City Girl Bites
Plain Coffee with Heavy Cream
"I keep it simple at Starbucks with a plain cup of coffee, and I ask for it with heavy cream–the good stuff that's kept behind the counter and not out with the milk. Heavy cream is a healthy fat that helps keep your blood sugar stable between meals and snacks, which means consistent energy and brain power—not to mention it makes your coffee taste decadent! Heavy cream also helps negate any potentially negative side effects of caffeine (like the jitters). The other creamer options, like whole, skim and even their new coconut milk (which is basically sugar water) can stimulate the production of your hormone insulin, which promotes weight gain and a host of inflammatory reactions. I have greater focus and brainpower and no cravings when I add heavy cream to my coffee." — Cassie Bjork, Registered Licensed Dietitian (or RD, LD) from Healthy Simple Life
Flat White – Tall, with 2% Milk
"For just 140 calories, it has a nice little caffeine boost with the added bonus of nine grams of protein and no added sugar. I also prefer the taste and richness of 2% milk (as opposed to non-fat milk), plus the fat helps keep me fuller longer." — Molly Kimball, Sports Dietitian with Ochsner's Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans
Danielle Frank, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian at Top Balance Nutrition is a fan of the frothy beverage made from steamed (soy, in her case) milk and coffee—she says it's simple, low-cal and delicious.
Cold Brew Coffee
"It's smoother and less bitter-tasting than most hot brewed or iced coffees. There's less need to add sugar or flavorings when you can taste more of the coffee's natural flavor." — Ryan Turner, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian at Top Balance Nutrition
Spinach & Feta Breakfast Wrap
"I love starting my day with veggies and lean protein, and this wrap is just what I need! It contains the perfect balance of filling protein along with whole grains to give me a natural energy boost. And the fiber in the wrap keeps me full for hours, helping to prevent those mid-morning sweet cravings." — Palinski-Wade
"I love that it's made with a fiber-rich wrap that's packed full of protein and antioxidants. Plus, it's one of the few on-the-go breakfast sandwiches/wraps that has such a great ratio of protein to carbs—just 33 grams of carbs for 19 grams of protein." — Kimball
KIND® Nuts & Spices Salted Caramel & Dark Chocolate Nut Bar
"We love that you can see the whole nuts and that it feels indulgent and tastes like a dessert thanks to salted caramel and dark chocolate, with only 5 grams of sugar. It really satisfies a sweet craving, but without the guilt!" — Lakatos Shames
Petite Vanilla Bean Scone
While she mainly sticks to the half-caf, half-decaf blend at Starbucks, Mckittrick occasionally gets a single scone if she's craving a sweet little something. "It satisfies a sweet craving for only 120 calories," she says.
Protein Bistro Box
"It offers a nice balance of protein from the hard-boiled egg, healthy fat from the cheese and peanut butter, and the apples and grapes are real food carbohydrates. You can ditch the bread—it's a processed carb that spikes blood sugars and causes sugar cravings. The rest of the Protein Bistro Box is enough to keep me full and focused until my next balanced meal or snack." — Bjork
"I also love the protein plate with egg, cheese, grapes and peanut butter," says Bella. "Calorie- and portion-controlled, it keeps me full for hours."
"The oatmeal is a sure pick at Starbucks, and something that's easy to grab on the go. I love oatmeal because it's filling and has heart-healthy fiber that's also good for promoting healthy digestion. Beware of the sugary toppings, though–it's never a bad idea to either throw some almonds in your bag to add, or purchase nuts they also have there at the checkout to add to the oatmeal. I also recommend adding a little real sugar instead of artificial sweetener, or you can add a sliced banana instead." — Isabel Smith, MS RD CDN, Registered Dietitian and founder Isabel Smith Nutrition
"If I'm running through the airport in the early morning, I'll sometimes grab a small oatmeal and a banana for breakfast," says Lippert. "It's a complex carb and is one of the healthier options offered as opposed to sugary, empty-carbohydrate pastries."
"As far as food items go, generally I only eat at Starbucks if I am traveling," says Gans. "The oatmeal with nut medley is my go-to choice, packed with fiber and some protein, it keeps me satisfied until I arrive at my destination."