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Your Favorite Fall Coffee Drinks, the Skinny Way


Calorie-heavy fall drinks made skinny

By Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RDN


If you're a fan of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, you're not alone. During the fall, #PSL enthusiasts tweet about the beverage on average 3,000 times per day. (That’s a lot of love!) But at a whopping 380 calories in a standard 16-ounce size, this famous fall drink also comes with a side of serious #CalorieShock. No need to cry in your steamed milk, though. Here are some tips to rescue your favorite fall beverages from the diet danger list and make them sippable all season long. (We’ve focused on popular beverages, but these tweaks will work just as well at your corner coffee shop.)  


Hot Coffee Drinks

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (16 ounces or Grande size)

Calories: 380

Fat: 13 g

Saturated fat: 8 g

Sugar 49 g

The scoop: This über-popular drink is not actually made with real pumpkin. Instead, baristas use a sugary flavoring developed to mimic the taste of the spices (like cinnamon and nutmeg) often paired with pumpkin in pies, muffins and breads. Just be aware that the comforting treat packs twice as many calories (and just as much sugar) as a can of soda!

Make it skinny: Ask for nonfat milk instead of the default 2% to save 50 calories. If you skip the whipped cream, you’ll rescue another 70 calories, making your drink 260 calories total. To cut another 90 calories, change your order to a nonfat caffé latte and dress it up with real cinnamon and nutmeg, available where you’ll find the milk and sugar (these spices add a bonus antioxidant boost, too!).


Starbucks Salted Caramel Mocha (16 ounces or Grande size)

Calories: 430

Fat: 16 g

Saturated fat: 9 g

Sugar: 56 g

The scoop: There’s no mistaking this one for a treat. It’s made from steamed milk, espresso, toffee nut flavored syrup and mocha sauce, and topped with whipped cream, caramel drizzle, sugar and sea salt. This doozy packs more calories, sugar and saturated fat than three Twinkies.

Make it skinny: Skipping the whipped cream saves you 90 calories, since that also means dropping the caramel and sugar/salt topping. And just as with the Pumpkin Spice Latte, switching to nonfat milk saves another 50 calories. But if indulgence is your mission, how about trading in a 16-ounce “Grande” for an 8-ounce “Short”? You’ll cut the calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar by close to half, and still feel like you’ve splurged.  


Ice-Blended Drinks

Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino (16 ounces or Grande)

Calories: 420

Fat: 16 g

Saturated fat: 9 g

Sugar: 64 g

The scoop: When made with whole milk and peppermint and mocha syrups and topped with whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings, this blended beverage has more calories than a cup and a half of vanilla ice cream.  

Make it skinny: Ask for nonfat milk and skip the whipped cream to save 150 calories and 9 grams of saturated fat. Downgrade to a 12-ounce cup (“Tall”) to spare another 70 calories, for a total of 200 calories — not bad for a drink that is more like dessert!


The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Black Forest Ice Blended (16 ounces)

Calories: 490

Fat: 10 g

Saturated fat: 8 g

Sugar: 76 g

The scoop: With a calorie and sugar count that sounds like that of a hefty serving of its namesake cake, this chocolate-cherry delight is not your average ice-blended drink. This beverage is made with coffee extract, Coffee Bean’s Special Dutch chocolate powder, milk, chocolate-covered espresso beans, maraschino cherries and ice, then topped with whipped cream.

Make it skinny: Skip the whipped cream and have it made with Coffee Bean’s “No-Sugar-Added” powder instead, and you’ll save 160 calories. If you get a small with soy milk, you’ll save 290 calories and 51 grams of sugar! At a local store with blended drinks, ask for half the syrup or concoct your own blended coffee drink with a dairy alternative and sugar-free syrup.  


Non-Coffee Drinks

Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice (16 ounces or Grande)

Calories: 360

Fat: 8 g

Saturated fat: 4.5 g

Sugar: 68 g

The scoop: “What’s so bad about apples?” you’re probably wondering. Well, nothing! But when you remove the blood sugar-stabilizing fiber to get just the juice, then add in cinnamon syrup, caramel sauce, and whipped cream, the fruit’s nutrition power gets squashed.

Make it skinny: Ditch the whipped cream and you’ll save 80 calories. You can also opt for a (perfectly sweet on it’s own) steamed apple juice, for a total of 220 calories, and add in your own cinnamon and nutmeg (again, available where you’ll find the milk and sugar).


Jamba Juice Pumpkin Smash Smoothie (16 ounces)

Calories: 390

Fat: 4 g

Saturated fat: 2.5 g

Sugar: 12 g

The scoop: Made with a dairy base, pumpkin, spices, and frozen yogurt, one serving of this healthy-sounding but indulgent smoothie can set you back as many calories as 50 pieces of candy corn.

Make it skinny: Choose the “Make it Light” option for the same pumpkin, spices, and frozen yogurt, but a lightened dairy base that helps decrease the calories and sugar by a third. At your local smoothie joint, ask if you can switch the frozen yogurt with nonfat yogurt or skim milk.


Save the Best For Last

If these calorie-slashing tips aren’t satisfying your fix, why not save your Pumpkin Spice Latte or Peppermint Mocha for dessert? If your drink of choice contains caffeine, just ask the barista to make yours decaf. Not a dessert eater? Indulge in your favorite beverage every Friday as an end-of-the-week treat. Remember: Even when you’re on a diet, it’s OK to indulge in moderation!



Published October 27, 2014.

Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RDN is a New York area–based nutrition writer, educator and counselor and author of the book The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian.


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