6 Easy Swaps to Make Your Starbucks Order Lighter

There’s nothing quite like a Starbucks pick-me-up—but between the Pumpkin Spice Lattes and fruity refreshers, java chip Fraps and caramel macchiatos galore, everyone’s favorite sugary beverages aren't always the healthiest. It’s perfectly fine to indulge in a sweet treat every now and then, but the calories and sugar can add up faster than you’d imagine. Don’t worry—this doesn’t mean you have to cut off your Starbucks consumption cold turkey. We’ve rounded up some of the easiest swaps to make your next order lighter (without losing the fun)!

1. Ask the barista to hold the sweetener

Most Starbucks drinks have sugar added to them—even drinks that you might add your own sugar packets to, such as cold brew and iced coffee. There’s an easy solution to this: ask the barista for an unsweetened version of your order. This means they won’t add additional sugar packets, and you can control how much sugar you add on your own once you pick up your drink. You may not think that an iced coffee has any sugar in it—but opting for the unsweetened version is an easy way to lighten up your order.

Regular iced coffee, Grande (16oz)                                                                                                                                                                               

80 calories, 20g sugar

Unsweetened iced coffee, Grande (16oz)                                                                                                                                                                                       

5 calories, 0g sugar

2. Opt for an alternative milk

If you’re ordering a drink made with milk, such as a latte, cappuccino, macchiato, Frappuccino or even iced coffee, try asking for non-fat milk—or almond, soy or coconut—instead of the classic 2% or whole milk options.

Caramel Macchiato, Grande (16oz)                                                                                                                                                                                       

Made with whole milk: 280 calories, 33g sugar                                                                                                                                                                        

Made with non-fat milk: 200 calories, 34g sugar                                                                                                                                                            

Made with almond milk: 170 calories, 23g sugar

3. Order sugar-free syrups

The next time you ask for an extra pump of caramel or vanilla in your fave S-Bux drink, consider opting for a sugar-free version of the flavored syrups that take your drink from 0 to 100 calories real quick. That’s right—Starbucks offers sugar-free syrups in vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, mocha and cinnamon dolce. You can still add flavor to your favorite drinks, but you can do so without the extra sugar! Plus, there’s no extra cost to have sugar-free instead of regular syrups. You can also ask the barista for less pumps of syrup in your drinks, which is an easy way to keep most of the flavor while lightening the sugar load.

Related: The Definitive Ranking of Starbucks Drinks  

4. Say goodbye to the whip

One of the simplest Starbucks swaps is opting for your drink sans-whipped cream. Cutting out the whipped topping can—for some drinks—cut the calories in half, and you’ll still enjoy everything else about the beverage that you love.

Green Tea Crème Frappuccino, Grande (16oz)                                                                                                                                                                         

Made with non-fat milk, with whipped cream: 400 calories, 65g sugar                                                                                                                            

Made with non-fat milk, without whipped cream: 280 calories, 63g sugar

Hot Chocolate, Grande (16oz)                                                                                                                                                                                             

Made with non-fat milk, with whipped cream: 350 calories, 43g sugar                                                                                                                            

Made with non-fat milk, without whipped cream: 270 calories, 41g sugar

Use this quick trick for Frappuccinos, Pumpkin Spice Lattes and other drinks that typically have a whipped cream option.

5. Keep it simple with brewed coffee and tea

Half the fun of going to Starbucks is leaving with a beautifully mixed, totally Instagram-able beverage bursting with color and aesthetics—but if you’re looking to order something on the lighter side, don’t underestimate the beauty of plain brewed coffee and tea. Ask for a light, medium or dark roast coffee, and add your choice of milk for a cup o’ joe that gets the job done and is free of the sugar and calories in other menu items.

Dark Roast, Grande (16oz)                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Made without milk: 5 calories, 0g sugar

Passion Tango Herbal Tea, Grande (16oz)                                                                                                                                                                           

0 calories, 0g sugar

Starbucks also has a wide range of zero-calorie tea flavors, which can often be overshadowed by lattes and other menu items that are more complicated. When in doubt, go back to the basics!

6. Swap sugary snacks for filling foods

Aside from a menu full of yummy beverages, Starbucks is also well-loved for its cakes, cookies, pastries and paninis. If you're in a hurry and want to snag some breakfast with your coffee, you may want to think before ordering the first bread loaf you see in the glass bakery case. 

Instead of the Blueberry Scone (420 calories, 20g sugar) or the Blueberry Muffin with Yogurt and Honey (380 calories, 30g sugar), try the Fresh Blueberries and Honey Greek Yogurt Parfait (240 calories, 29g sugar). Though the sugar count in the yogurt is more than the scone (and about equal to the muffin), you'll save calories from the more filling and nutritious parfait option—and still keep the blueberry flavor!

You could also swap out a slice of Pumpkin Bread (410 calories, 39g sugar) or Iced Lemon Pound Cake (470 calories, 42g sugar) with a cup of Seasonal Fruit (90 calories, 19g sugar) and a Spinach, Feta & Cage Free Egg White Breakfast Wrap (290 calories, 4g sugar). The egg white breakfast wrap will keep you full and satisfied, while the fruit cup will add a bit of sweetness to your morning snack without the calories of a traditional bakery item.

The next time you’re waiting in line, people-watching and thinking about life (and what you’re going to order) at Starbucks, remember these easy swaps that can make the familiar coffee drinks (and foods) you know and love a little lighter. Cheers!

About The Author

Darcy Schild is a University of Florida junior majoring in journalism. She's the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus UFL and was previously a Her Campus national section editor. She spent Summer 2017 as an Editorial Intern at HC headquarters in Boston, where she oversaw the "How She Got There" section and wrote and edited feature articles and news blogs. She also helped create the weekly Her Campus Instagram Story series, Informed AF. Follow her on Twitter and on her blog, The Darcy Diaries.

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