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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

8 Low-Cal Pumpkin Spice Drinks at Starbucks

GettyImages-856503922Pumpkin season is officially here, and I am SO excited! Call me “basic”—you would not be wrong. Starbucks has launched their pumpkin drinks. Food bloggers, including myself, are basically turning their kitchens into giant pumpkins. It is a whole thing.

Here is my hiccup with pumpkin season and all the yummy beverages: THEY ARE FULL OF SUGAR AND CALORIES. Basically, we drink this little serving that takes up a huge portion of our daily calories yet contributes very little to improving our satiety. When you combine no fiber, little protein, and minimal volume you get “hangry” feelings and a higher risk of overeating later in the day. This makes weight-loss attempts and health goals harder to accomplish.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I am one who believes all foods and beverages can fit into a healthy nutrition regimen, even the high-sugar drink from time to time. However, I also believe in finding alternatives that are lower in sugar and calories when possible. Don't worry, these “alternatives” I speak of MUST taste yummy or else I would just stick with having the “real deal” in moderation.

Here are 8 DELICIOUS Starbucks Pumpkin Spice drink orders that won’t take up the bulk of your calorie budget and are low in sugars.

Hot Options

Pumpkin Spice “Latte”

Order: Grande blonde coffee with 1 pump pumpkin sauce, 2 pumps sugar-free vanilla, 2 shots espresso, and 1 cup steamed almond milk (or about half-full of steamed skim milk)

Nutrition Facts: 95 calories, 14g carbs (9g sugar), 4g fat, 3g protein

Pumpkin Spice Americano

Order: Grande blonde caffe Americano with 1 pump pumpkin sauce, 2 pumps sugar-free vanilla, and light splash of half & half. Ask to put in a venti cup to allow room for the add-ins.

Nutrition Facts: 75 calories, 12g carbs (7g sugar), 2g protein, 3g fat, 255mg caffeine

Pumpkin Chai Tea “Latte”

Order: 1 venti brewed chai tea. Add steamed skim milk, 4 Splendas, and 1 pump pumpkin sauce

Nutrition Facts: 65 calories, 12g carbs (12g sugar), 4g protein, 0g fat

Pumpkin Spice Coffee

Order: Grande blonde coffee with 1 pump pumpkin sauce, 2 pumps sugar-free vanilla, and light splash of half & half. You can add Splenda for a little sweeter taste with no additional calories.

Nutrition Facts: 65 calories, 9g carbs (7g sugar), 2g protein, 3g fat

Cold Options

Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte

Order: Grande iced coffee with no classic syrup. Add 1 pump pumpkin sauce, 2 pumps sugar-free vanilla, 2 shots espresso, and 1 cup steamed almond milk (or about ½ full of steamed skim milk)

Nutrition Facts: 95 calories, 14g carbs (9g sugar), 4g fat, 3g protein

Iced Pumpkin Cinnamon Coffee

Order: Grande iced coffee with no classic syrup. Add 1 pump pumpkin sauce, 2 pumps sugar-free vanilla, and a light splash of half & half.

Nutrition Facts: 65 calories, 9g carbs (7g sugar), 2g protein, 3g fat

Pumpkin Cold Brew with Cinnamon Almondmilk Foam

Order: Grande Cold Brew with Cinnamon Almondmilk foam. Add 1 pump pumpkin sauce and 1 pump sugar-free cinnamon dolce syrup.

Nutrition Facts: 65 calories, 14g carbs (12g sugar), 1g protein, 1g fat

Pumpkin Cold Brew with Dark Cocoa Almondmilk foam

Order: Grande Cold Brew with Dark Cocoa Almondmilk foam. Add 1 pump pumpkin sauce and 1 pump sugar-free vanilla syrup.

Nutrition Facts: 65 calories, 13g carbs (10g sugar), 1g protein, 2g fat

Extra Hacks

Want more pumpkin? You can certainly add another pump of the pumpkin sauce. One pump of the pumpkin sauce is an additional 25 calories, 6g carbs (6g sugar), 0g fat, and 0g protein.

Want more sweetness? You can add a packet or two of Splenda for a noncaloric sweetener. No, this will not cause cancer. Research does not support that claim. So, if you want Splenda to help sweeten your beverage, add it.

Want more cream? Have them add a creamy milk, such as oat milk or almond milk. Both are fairly low calorie. Skim milk is great and offers more protein, but it is not as creamy.

Those are my tricks. And if you’re still hungry for pumpkin and that other fall treat, apples, check out these recipes. I hope you enjoy these drinks and ultimately have a great PUMPKIN SEASON while still reaching your health goals! Enjoy!

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: calories weight management sugar caffeine coffee fall pumpkin spice

Nutrition and Healthy Habits: How Much Caffeine Do You Consume?

Many people depend on early-morning caffeine to “jump-start” their bodies. Others consume caffeinated beverages throughout the day when they are stressed or tired to keep their bodies alert and functioning. However, caffeinated foods and beverages should not replace the healthy habits of regular, balanced meals and snacks or adequate sleep.

ThinkstockPhotos-5146474021.jpgAlthough caffeine provides an “energy boost,” the stimulant can also cause anxiety, restlessness, constriction of blood vessels, and an elevated heart rate. For these reasons, limit caffeine to 400mg a day.

Below are some common beverages, foods, and over-the-counter medications that contain caffeine. Caffeine content in coffee varies widely depending on the variety of coffee bean and the method of preparation used.

Caffeine Content in Milligrams (mg) for Common Foods and Medications

Coffee (8 oz.)
(The amount of ground coffee per cup is a key variable.)
Brewed: 65–120mg
Instant: 40–110mg
Decaffeinated (instant or brewed): 2–4mg
Starbucks Coffee (12 oz.): 279mg
Coffee drink with one shot of espresso (12 oz.): 113mg

Chocolate (1 oz.)
Dark: 5–35mg
Milk: 1–15mg

Cola Beverage (12 oz.)
30–60mg

Coffee/Chocolate-Flavored Dessert (1/2 cup)
Ice cream: 18–126mg
Frozen yogurt: 0–25mg

Tea (8 oz.)
Brewed: 20–90mg
(The longer it steeps, the higher the caffeine content.)
Instant: 24–31mg

Cocoa (8 oz.)
Average: 80mg

Chocolate Milk (8 oz.)
Serving: 2–8mg

Caffeine-Containing “Energy Drinks” (8.3 oz.)
Serving: 3–32mg

Caffeine-Containing “Energy Bars” (68g)
Average: 50 mg

Stimulants (per tablet)
Vivarin or NoDoz
Average: 100–200mg

Pain Relievers (per tablet)
Average: 32–65mg

Other Ways to Stay Awake During the Day

If you find yourself reaching for over 400mg of caffeine per day to stay awake and energized, try some of these healthy alternatives to caffeine:

  • Do not underestimate the power of a quality night's sleep. If you generally feel well rested in the morning, you are likely meeting your slumber needs. If not, be sure to turn the TV off before falling asleep and avoid looking at bright devices that can keep your brain waves stimulated. 
  • Another key is to maintain a consistent sleep/wake schedule even on the weekends.
  • Exercise is another way to ensure a good night’s sleep and being more awake during the day.
  • Try more natural ways to wake up.
  • Finally, go outside for brief sunshine breaks. Exposure to bright light helps regulate your body's rhythms.

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This blog was written by Angie Scheetz, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS nutrition healthy habits hydration sleep caffeine coffee milk dietitian