Starbucks' iconic Pumpkin Spice Latte returns - here's what nutritionists want you to know

·4-min read

It's that time of year again - when Starbucks brings back its beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte. The iconic hot drink, first created by the café chain an incredible 19 years ago, has become a firm autumnal staple alongside cosy jumpers and crunchy leaves.

The #PSL - as it is often shortened to online - is due to become available in branches once more from Thursday, September 1st. However, while we're all for balance, there's a few things you should know about the sweet beverage from a nutritional perspective before you start making it your daily order.

Indeed, if you've got healthy, sustainable fat loss on your mind then the PSL has the potential to impact negatively on your efforts. We've called on nutritionists to serve up their expert verdicts on the warming drink, and how it can be enjoyed in the most nourishing way...

What is in Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte?

The PSL recipe is the stuff of legend, with people's homemade attempts generating over a hundred million views on TikTok.

According to Starbucks themselves, it features a delicious combination of their own-brand 'Espresso Roast' coffee, pumpkin pie-flavoured sauce and steamed milk. It is then topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spices. Yes, we get it.

Is the Pumpkin Spice Latte healthy?

This entirely depends on your wellness goals. But first, let's get the facts. A 'grande' order of the drink will provide you with 361 calories, along with 17g fat, 36g sugar, 4.1g fibre and 9.4g protein.

Photo credit: Starbucks
Photo credit: Starbucks

Aside from its lack of nutritional value, Eva Humphries, a BANT-registered nutritionist highlights the sugar content as something to be aware of. 'A "grande" Pumpkin Spice Latte has more sugar than most cakes available at Starbucks,' she notes. 'Ideally, it should be treated like dessert. If you aren't inclined to have dessert every day, then reaching for one of these shouldn't be a daily thing either - but more of a treat from time to time.'

This is particularly important if you are aiming to change your body composition. 'Excess sugar can really mess with our capacity to mobilise fat which may negatively impact both weight loss and maintenance goals,' explains Humphries. As a reminder, the NHS recommends adults have no more than 30g of free sugar total per day.

On top of this is the temptation to swap out your regular coffee for a PSL with breakfast in the AM. 'Studies suggest a large amount of sugar first thing in the morning may ramp-up sugar cravings for hours to come,' warns Humphries. 'This may then impact on our ability to make healthy choices for the rest of that day.' Plus, leave you vulnerable to an unpleasant sugar crash (think: headaches, fatigue and irritability).

The takeaway? As always, enjoy, but in moderation.

Photo credit: AnnaPustynnikova - Getty Images
Photo credit: AnnaPustynnikova - Getty Images

Are there Pumpkin Spice Latte alternatives to sip on?

Tere are some simple tweaks you can make to your order to swiftly bring down the calorie count. 'Swap to a "short" or "tall" size,' advises Lauren Helen Marsh, nutritional therapist and health coach at holistic wellness platform Able. 'Also, try asking for less syrup, and lose the whipped cream.' Similarly, opting for skimmed fat milk can help.

If you're WFH, why not take the DIY approach? 'Homemade versions made with pumpkin purée and spices, which are balanced with some whey protein would make a better alternative,' suggests Humphries. In fact, why not give a pumpkin spice protein shake a go for after your workout.

If you're still after a season-appropriate fix on the move, then try upgrading your regular caffeine order instead. 'If the grab-and-go situation is the only option, then adding the pumpkin spice topping or cinnamon to a regular coffee could provide all the autumn vibes without the extra sugar,' recommends Humphries.

What are the health benefits of pumpkins?

But let's not forget that pumpkins - the star ingredient - are in and of themselves a nutritional powerhouse that you should be enjoying all autumn long (and not just to carve as decor). Perhaps as part of a veggie roast or blended into soup.

'Pumpkins are a great source of beta carotene, an orange pigment responsible for their vibrant colour,' points out Humphries. 'This is part of the vitamin A family, known for its capacity as a skin-protecting antioxidant.'

The fruit is also loaded with fibre, which may benefit our gut health. 'This is also an essential nutrient which can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and certain cancers,' explains Marsh. She notes that pumpkin seeds, which are packed with good fats, likewise make a great snack.

Spookily good!

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