Fall is almost officially here, which means it's just about time to start enjoying some of the year's yummiest and most anticipated autumnal treats. One of the most popular fall goodies, the pumpkin spice latte—aka the PSL—can be found at many different coffee chains across the country. But of all the PSL options out there, is there one that is considered the healthiest?
To find out which coffee chain offers the healthiest PSL pick, we talked with expert dietitian Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, and author of The First Time Mom's Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility.
"For the PSL essence without the excessive amounts of added sugar, people can hit up their local Starbucks and simply order a smaller size to limit the quantity they consume," says Manaker.
Read on to learn more about some of the helpful changes you can make to your pumpkin spice latte. Then, for more healthy eating tips this fall, check out 10 Healthy(ish) Game Day Recipes Perfect for Football Season.
What's in a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte?
Before jumping into the healthiest way to drink a PSL at Starbucks, let's look at the nutrition facts of a basic pumpkin spice latte. As a former Starbucks barista myself, I can tell you that a typical grande PSL comes with about four pumps of pumpkin spice sauce, which is Starbucks' own take on uber-thick pumpkin spice syrup, and whipped cream.
Though the Starbucks grande only 16 fluid ounces, this one pumpkin spice-flavored drink contains 390 calories, 50 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of fat, according to Starbucks nutrition information. Even though getting a PSL from Starbucks in its tall size—which at 12 fluid ounces contains three pumps of pumpkin spice sauce—can bring the drink down to 300 calories, you're still getting 38 grams of sugar and 12 grams of total fat. There are also certain Starbucks PSL ingredients that are best consumed in moderation, including the whipped cream, which contains cream, mono and diglycerides, carrageenan, as well as vanilla syrup.
At this point, you might ask yourself, "With all that sugar and weird ingredients, how is the Starbucks PSL the healthiest one you can buy?"
While this pumpkin spice latte may seem to have the makings of an unhealthy beverage, the variety of offerings provided by Starbucks gives customers the flexibility to customize their orders.
"Ask for one pump of the pumpkin spice syrup, and hold the whipped cream for a serious sugar and fat saving without compromising on flavor," says Manaker. "Then, request 2% milk instead of whole for even more calorie savings while still getting some fat for the richness you crave."
So, with a few simple modification requests—including opting for the 12 fl oz tall size—you can transform your Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte order into a healthier choice. Although you will still be drinking some sugar and fat calories with this seasonal beverage, it's almost impossible to find a PSL in popular cafes that isn't loaded with sugar. If not opting to make a PSL at home, Starbucks is your best bet to get a healthier pumpkin spice latte while on the go.
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Making healthier pumpkin spice drinks at home
If you have the time and energy to make a DIY pumpkin spice latte or any other pumpkin-flavored coffee beverage, one way to amp up the nutritional value of your drink is to use real, pure pumpkin puree in lieu of excessive flavored syrups. A single cup of pumpkin puree includes protein, fiber, vitamin C, and many other vitamins your body needs.
To make your own pumpkin spice coffee drink at home, all you'll need is brewed coffee, espresso, or cold brew, a blender or milk frother, a can of pumpkin puree, nutmeg, cinnamon, your milk of choice, and a bit of maple syrup. Mix all of your ingredients together and enjoy your drink hot or iced.
While making a DYI pumpkin spice latte with real pumpkin puree is a delicious option to help you keep things on the healthier side, on days when you're short on time and would prefer to pick up your PSL after quickly rolling by your local drive-thru, take Manaker's suggested advice for customizing your Starbucks order to get a healthier iteration of this pumpkin spice latte.