The “pumpkin” drink with more sugar than pumpkin is back on the menu at Starbucks. You can do better.
This year marks an early return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Starbucks fan-favorite seasonal drink that first debuted in 2003. How sugary is it? Plenty.
A grande (16 oz.) hot Pumpkin Spice Latte made with 2 percent milk has 380 calories—more than a Starbucks Chocolate Croissant (340 calories).
But only about half of the Pumpkin Spice Latte’s 380 calories come from the milk and espresso you’d get in a regular latte (190 calories). The rest comes from pumpkin spice syrup—with more sugar and condensed milk than actual pumpkin purée—vanilla syrup, and whipped cream.
All told, the PSL packs 50 grams of sugar. Some of that sugar occurs naturally in the latte’s milk. But we estimate that about 7 teaspoons (29 grams) are added sugar, from the PSL’s syrups and whipped cream. That’s more than half a day’s max.
The new Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, with 250 calories and an estimated 6 teaspoons of added sugar in a grande, isn’t much better. (Scroll down for our tips on ordering a lower-sugar cold brew with cold foam.)
Dunkin’s new Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Signature Latte is worse.
At Dunkin’, a medium (14 oz.) Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Signature hot latte made with whole milk—the chain offers only whole or nonfat—packs 420 calories and 55 grams of total sugar. Of that, we estimate, roughly 8½ teaspoons (36 grams) are added sugar from the “pumpkin flavored swirl syrup,” “caramel flavored swirl syrup,” sweetened whipped light cream, and “cinnamon sugar topping.” That’s more than 70 percent of a day’s max.
And if you thought “pumpkin flavored swirl syrup” meant pumpkin, think again.
There’s no pumpkin in Dunkin’s latte. As for the pumpkin “flavored” syrup, it’s sweetened condensed milk, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, water, brown sugar, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, potassium sorbate, mono- and diglycerides, disodium phosphate, and salt. Yum!
In search of some real pumpkin to celebrate the impending arrival of autumn? Start with our post on cooking with fresh pumpkin or purée.
Our tried-and-true tips for ordering healthier lattes and other coffee drinks
If you couldn’t care less about pumpkin or its spice, keep in mind that the best drinks mix coffee or espresso with milk, water, or ice, not sugary syrups, cream, or whipped cream.
Here’s a quick rundown of our picks, with numbers for Starbucks’ grande size:
- Espresso, Americano, or coffee: Each has next to no calories (roughly 5). A packet of sugar adds 10 to 20.
- Iced coffee: Go unsweetened to skip the syrup’s 5 teaspoons of sugar.
- Cold foam: Try the regular Starbucks Cold Brew with Cold Foam. It’s 35 calories’ worth of cold-brewed coffee topped with cold nonfat milk foamed with a little vanilla syrup. That beats the 80-calorie Cascara Cold Foam (about 3 teaspoons of added sugar) and the 230-calorie Salted Cream Cold Foam (about 4 1/2 tsp.).
- Cappuccino, misto, or latte: A cappuccino’s espresso plus foamed nonfat milk means just 80 calories and a nice dose of calcium (255 milligrams) and protein (8 grams). It’s about the same as a nonfat misto (coffee with steamed milk). A nonfat latte has more milk, calcium (450 mg), protein (13 grams), and calories (130).
- Skip the whip: It adds at least 70 calories of cream and sugar.
Photos: Starbucks (Pumpkin Spice Latte), Kaamilah Mitchell/CSPI (Cold Brew with Cold Foam).
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