This Is the One Drink Registered Dietitians Absolutely Never Order at Starbucks—and Why

Just how much do people love Starbucks? Consider these facts: Every day, the cafe chain sells approximately 4 million coffee-based drinks. Every week, 60 million people visit a Starbucks—which is pretty easy, considering there are more than 16,000 locations in the U.S.

If you’re making a conscious effort to live a healthy lifestyle and you’re a regular at Starbucks, it’s important to think about how what you’re ordering is contributing to or taking away from your healthy habits. Many people often give more thought to their food choices than their drinks, but everything we consume impacts the body in some way. Not factoring in your drink choice would be a mistake considering that some Starbucks drinks have more calories and sugar than many meals do.

To this end, there’s one Starbucks menu item in particular that registered dietitians avoid completely. Can you guess what it is?

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The Starbucks Drink Dietitians Never Order

We asked three registered dietitians separately what Starbucks drink they would never order and all three gave the same answer: frappuccinos. “In just one 16-ounce drink, a Starbucks frappuccino can range from between 45 and 61 grams of sugar and between 250 and 410 calories,” says Christa Brown, MS, RDN, LD, a registered dietitian located in New Jersey.

There are a few frappuccino options the dietitians say are especially unhealthy. Brown avoids the matcha creme frappuccino. Sure, it's made with matcha—but that doesn't mean it's healthy! “[It’s made with] whole milk, whipped cream, three matcha powder scoops and three classic syrup pumps, coming it at 420 calories and 61 grams of added sugar [for a grande],” Brown says. Even though matcha is healthy, Starbucks matcha contains sugar, which takes away from its health benefits.

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Hayley Miller, MS, RDN, LD, a registered dietitian at Nestle Health Science R&D, says that the caramel frappuccino is another particularly sugar-loaded drink. “[A grande] has 54 grams of sugar, close to double the amount of sugar you should be consuming in one day!” she says.

Ashley Kitchens, MPH, RDN, LDN, the owner and registered dietitian nutritionist at Plant Centered Nutrition, says the mocha cookie crumble frappuccino is another drink she would avoid having regularly.

“As delicious as this drink is, a venti size contains 590 calories and 75 grams of sugar, which is 18 teaspoons of sugar or over one-fourth of a cup,” she says. “It also contains 27 grams of fat and 17 grams of saturated fat, which is about 85 percent of your recommended daily allowance. If you’re looking to avoid a sugar and caffeine crash every day, it’s probably best to save this indulgent drink for the rare occasion.”

While you won’t see a dietitian ordering a frappuccino on a regular basis, that doesn’t mean they don’t love Starbucks just as much as everyone else. They just order something different.

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Tips for Keeping Your Starbucks Order Healthy

There are a few order tweaks Brown says will automatically make your Starbucks order healthier. The first, she says, is going for a smaller size. This is a way to reduce the number of calories and sugar in your drink while still being able to enjoy it.

Next, she says to think about your milk choice. “Opt for non-fat milk or milk alternatives like unsweetened almond milk which is just 30 calories per cup and low in fat,” she says. While we’re on the subject of dairy, Brown says that skipping the whipped cream will cut down on the amount of calories and saturated fat in your drink.

If you want to order a drink that’s made with syrup, Brown recommends asking for fewer pumps or choosing a sugar-free option.

One Starbucks drink that gets Miller’s seal of approval is cold brew. “One grande cold brew with milk is only 35 calories and contains 3 grams of added sugar, an excellent choice to support your health while getting your caffeine fix,” she says.

If you want something sweeter, Kitchens recommends the soy milk espresso macchiato. “This dairy-free option offers a smooth combination of espresso and soy milk. It’s made with just Starbucks espresso roast and soy milk, giving it a lightly sweet and creamy flavor,” she says. Kitchens says that a latte is another drink option that’s healthier than frappuccinos. “Made with your choice of milk and espresso, this classic beverage still has all the flavor profile of traditional caffeinated drinks without excessive sugar or calories,” she says.

Not into coffee? Kitchens says Starbucks herbal teas (iced or hot) or Refreshers are other good options to consider. “Iced herbal teas like the Iced Passion Tango Tea contain zero grams of sugar. And Starbucks Refreshers are made with real fruit juice and lightly caffeinated with green coffee extract, for a delicious boost of energy. The Strawberry Açaí Starbucks Refreshers Beverage provides a burst of flavor while still being a healthy alternative,” she says.

The dietitians emphasize that while it’s absolutely okay to enjoy a decadent Starbucks drink every once in a while—even a frappuccino. But if you are making a Starbucks run every day, it’s best to consider one of the healthier options they recommended. That way, when you do have a sugar-laden beverage, you’ll appreciate it for exactly what it is: a delicious treat!

Next up, here's what you need to know about Starbucks' three different types of espresso.