These are the healthiest drinks at Starbucks, according to dietitians

A group of people standing around a cup of coffee
A group of people standing around a cup of coffee

Starbucks didn’t invent the caloriffic caffeinated drink — the Viennese were drinking whipped cream-topped espressos, or Einspänner, centuries ago — but they sure perfected the idea.

But somewhere between the 600 calorie wannabe milkshakes and the social feed-ready fruit drinks, so often packing more sugar per cup than some of us should be consuming in a day, the original Starbucks — the one where people went to drink better coffee, way back when — remains.

And so, what to order, when you’re trying to keep your sugar and fat levels down, but don’t want to be super boring?

Hanging at Starbucks without overdoing it on the sugar and fat can be easy, the pros say. Getty Images
Hanging at Starbucks without overdoing it on the sugar and fat can be easy, the pros say. Getty Images

Black coffee or tea, it’s nice, but you can have that at home — which is why Real Simple asked a handful of dietitians to tap the healthiest and also most interesting drinks on the Starbucks menu.

Here are the results — sorry, not one Frapp made the list! — along with tips on how to order, courtesy of the experts: Marissa Meshulam, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of MPM Nutrition, and Kristen Carli, MS, RD, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Camelback Nutrition Wellness.

Nutrition information is based on ordering a grande sized drink.

Healthiest drinks at Starbucks

Caffé Americano

Farknot Architect –
Farknot Architect –

For when you want a nice hit of caffeine without almost anything else, this brewed espresso and water combination gets a big thumbs up from both Carli and Meshulam, who praise the drink’s “bang for your buck.”


Unlike a latte, a well-crafted cappuccino should give you just enough milk to lend your espresso a nice and subtle hit of natural sweetness, Carli said. The cap of foam makes it a richer experience, without any added sugars. You’ll get 140 calories from this one, plus a nice, 9 gram hit of protein.

Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso

Yes, you can go fancy — and satisfy your sweet tooth — without overdoing it on the sugar. Best of all, as Carli points out, this drink tastes a lot sweeter than some drinks on the Starbucks menu, thanks to all that oat milk, brown sugar and cinnamon. For example — an Espresso Frappuccino has 42 grams of sugar. This little honey? Just 12 grams. That, and as much caffeine as an Americano.

Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew

Here’s another one you’d think was off-limits if you’re cutting back, but once again, you’re getting a ton of flavor and sweetness, without getting more than 14 grams of sugar. Great for those who prefer the taste of cold brew to espresso.

Iced Flat White

Christopher Sadowski
Christopher Sadowski

Did you even know this was an option? Think cappuccino, but make it Australian. Once again, Carli points out, you get a nice subtle sweetness from that steamed milk, but just 8 grams of sugar.

Mint Majesty Herbal Tea

So this one’s a little obvious, sure, but if you haven’t tried it, you don’t know what you’re missing — the blend of peppermint, spearmint and lemon verbena can be a tonic after a long and trying day. Go for this one when you want a warm beverage but don’t need the energy boost, says Meshulam. It’s also a great digestive aid after a big dinner. Or lunch, if you get to go home and take a nap, no judgments.

Green Tea

Green tea is a wonderful way to get a hint of caffeine without the jitters associated with coffee,” Meshulam said. That’s down to the L-theanine, which softens the caffeine blow, she points out, though there’s only 25 milligrams in a grande cup to begin with. Of course, green tea also just happens to be one of the most healthy beverages in the world, packed with good for you antioxidants. In summer, if you’re craving some sweetness, get your tea iced and ask for a splash of lemonade, rather than opting for any other sugars, Meshulam suggests.

How to make any Starbucks drink healthier

Prachana –
Prachana –

Do we not love to customize? Of course we do. And technically, the pros say, almost any drink on the menu can instantly become healthier with a few taps of the app.

Take your go-to order, and evaluate — how could you tweak now, and save calories for later?

Focus on the following, the pros suggest, to help you as you go healthier:

  • Milk For less saturated fat, ditch the whole milk and go non-fat, or plant-based, Carli suggests.

  • Sweeteners Ask for fewer pumps of syrup — you might be surprised how much you can live without. Try ordering one pump less every visit and see how low you can go.

  • Toppings Do we need the whipped cream, the caramel on the bottom, the drizzle on top? (Want and need are two different things.)

  • Size Try downsizing to cut back on fat and sugar — if you’re worried about getting less of a hit, just add a shot of espresso.

And while both experts were eager to say that sugar shaming is bad, it’s also worth considering whether or not a Starbucks drink is really what you want when the cravings strike, according to Meshulam, who points out that sugar is more satisfying when you chew it rather than drink it.

In other words, a cookie might satisfy more than a Cookies & Cream Frappuccino.