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Starbucks for Weight Loss

Frappuccino, Skim

At the office yesterday, I was approached by a co-worker while holding Starbucks cup in my hand.

“Do you drink Starbucks every day?” she asked.

“Almost!” I replied with an energized smile.

“But you’re thin! How do you do that?”

My response was that Starbucks drinks don’t have to be high in calories. In fact, my Grande Cafe Americano weighs in at about 5 small calories. It’s true that loading up on mochas and Frappuccinos every day (especially in the larger sizes with whipped cream) can really pack in the calories. However, Starbucks drinks can be enjoyed for little to no calories, and yet still be very filling and satisfying.

A few years ago, when the Atkins diet was all the rage, a co-worker of mine ordered a Venti Breve latte from Starbucks, because breve (which is a type of cream) contains fewer carbs than skim milk. What she didn’t realize was that her “diet-friendly” drink had over 400 calories.

The following tips are specifically focused on Starbucks, but other coffee shops such as Caribou or Greenberry’s have similar offerings and carry similar nutritional information. Starbucks is now heavily marketing its personalization options for coffee. You’re paying a premium for Starbucks quality, so you should get the maximum value by having the Barista make your drink exactly how you like it.

Zero-Calorie Options
There are plenty of zero or close-to-zero calorie options at Starbucks. My personal favorite is the Cafe Americano, which consists of espresso and hot water. There is no milk or sugar (unless you choose to add that yourself). You can even add a sugar free flavor shot such as sugar-free vanilla or sugar-free hazelnut to sweeten your drink for no added calories. You can also order just a plain drip coffee, which has virtually no calories. Starbucks hot teas also contain zero calories and have some added health benefits, like the Green Tea. These warm drinks keep you energized and full throughout the morning without making you gain an ounce of weight.

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Syrup Modifications
Each pump of Starbucks syrup has 20 calories. A tall beverage has 3 pumps, a grande 4, and a venti 5. You can save on calories by asking for fewer pumps. For example, you could ask for a “grande 2-pump gingerbread latte” and you will have saved 40 calories. Additionally, Starbucks offers sugar-free syrups in vanilla, hazelnut and Cinnamon dolce. Due to the popularity of the sugar-free cinnamon dolce, I predict that the company will soon introduce more sugar-free flavors.

Milk and Foam Modifications
Lowering or eliminating the fat content of the milk will go a long way in saving you calories. Your best option for calorie control is ordering skim milk. Also, it’s useful to note that a cappuccino has fewer calories than a latte because it contains less milk. The milk is in foam form, filling a greater portion of the cup a less condensed form of the milk. Ask for your cappuccino “dry” and you will get more foam and less milk, further reducing the calories.

If you like your lattes, you can order an “extra foam” latte to reduce some of the milk calories. Finally, you can order a “half water” latte, which is essentially a watered down latte that might taste more like an Americano. You will save half of the calories you would have gotten from the milk. For example, a tall skim latte has 120 calories. If you order a tall skim “half water” latte, your drink will only contain 60 calories.

And this probably goes without saying, but skip the whipped cream. The whipped cream adds approximately 90 calories to the drink.

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Size Matters
This might be a no-brainer, but the larger the drink, the more the calories. Except, of course, if you are going with one of the zero-calorie options. I sometimes like to get a Venti Americano for virtually zero calories which allows me to enjoy the coffee all morning long.

The Light Frappuccino
The light Frappuccino is amazingly delicious and has very few calories for the taste. It’s mainly crushed ice and some sweetened coffee blended together. A tall only has 110 calories for the “coffee” flavor. The light versions of the caramel and mocha have slightly more calories, but if you’re really craving it, it’s a nice treat. You can also add a sugar-free flavor shot to the light Frappuccino so that the drink remains at 110 calories.

The Pastry Case
Avoid it. Even the “reduced fat” options are still quite calorie. Note that the term “reduced fat” does not mean low fat, but rather less fat than the original version. Some of the pastries pack in over 400 calories and they aren’t even very satisfying. You could have four tall coffee light Frappuccinos for the same calorie amount as just one muffin. If you are really craving something bread-like to go with your coffee, grab a biscotti for just 90 calories.

Best Bets:
Tall Coffee Frappuccino Light: 110 calories
Tall, skim, dry sugar-free vanilla cappuccino: 60 calories
Tall, skim, half water latte: 60 calories
Venti Green Tea: 0 Calories

Venti Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino: 750
Venti White Chocolate Mocha (with whipped cream): 630
Venti Hot Chocolate (with whipped cream): 550

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Be sure to check out the nutritional information on the Starbucks Web site (link posted below) so that you have an idea of the calories you are consuming. As my co-worker pointed out, I have a Starbucks beverage every day and my waist line has remained slim. Unfortunately, so has my pocketbook!