Best and Worst Summer Coffee Chain Drinks

Find out which coffee drinks have the least fat and calories, and which sugary drinks to avoid
Find out which coffee drinks have the least fat and calories, and which sugary drinks to avoid

With the summer heat already in full swing, it's time to bring on the icy coffee drinks - along with the calories. While many are trying to keep their bikini bods in check, the sugary temptation of an ice-cold drink can be too much to resist. But just how fattening are these seemingly innocuous beverages? Fitness and nutrition professional Bryan Renaud shed some insight on how to get your sugary drink fix this summer without the harmful effects.

Click here to see the Best and Worst Summer Coffee Chain Drinks

In light of the recent conversation about the sugary drink ban, health officials are investigating other ambiguous beverages to determine which drinks will be affected by the ban. Starbucks Frappuccinos, for example, may qualify as milkshakes, which will not be affected by the ban.

But if the ban does eventually affect the ubiquitous Frappuccino, will the Light options still be available? That is yet to be determined, but according to Renaud, the calories and fat saved with the light option may not necessarily be healthier. "Everybody thinks it's healthier to order the skinny version," he says. "They don't count the calories, but it's the same harmful ingredients going into your body. To make something fat-free or sugar-free, it requires putting all this unnecessary stuff in there. It's the same chemical stuff, just repackaged."

The problem with these chain coffee drinks isn't just the milk, it's the sugar. Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything and New York Times columnist, agrees, calling sugar "the tobacco of the 21st century." But where should legislators draw the line? "Sugar or sugar alternatives affect your body the same way," said Renaud. So when ordering your next coffee drink, be wary of the light options, or even the teas and lemonades you think are so much healthier: sugar is sugar, in one form or another.

Click here to see Starbucks' Secret Menu: The Ultimate Guide

Consider yourself educated. If you're trying to watch your calorie intake, or are looking for a safer way to indulge, look no further. We've researched the best and worst drinks from popular coffee chains to tell you which ones to sip, and which ones to avoid. Here are a few tips on how to make your favorite drink a little healthier:

• The easiest thing to cut, but often the most dearly missed, is the whipped cream. Because of those nifty plastic dome-shaped cups, baristas can put more on top of cold drinks than on hot ones, meaning that during the summer the calories stack up.

• If you don't specify what kind of milk you want, most coffee chains will default to whole milk. "If you want to replace something, replace the milk," said Renaud. "Almond or coconut milk are great options to get some nutritional value out of your drink. If you're going to drink cow's milk, 1 or 2 percent is fine. We need some good fat in our diet."

• Eliminating pumps of syrup will save you about 20 calories and 5 grams of sugar. While there are sugar-free syrup options, the artificial ingredients in low-cal sweeteners can be just as harmful to your health.

• Remember - size matters. "If I'm going to order a coffee drink… I just order a smaller size," said Renaud. "The quantity is just completely out of control. People have no idea how much is going on in there." Scaling down from a venti size to a tall can make a huge difference in terms of fat and calories. You don't need 20 ounces of your favorite drink, or the calories and fat that come with it.

While your favorite large coffee drinks are still on the menu, take a moment to educate yourself on the most fattening coffee-chain beverages and their healthier alternatives.

*Unless specified, calorie counts are taken from a Grande size made with whole milk.

With additional reporting by Emilia Morano-Williams.

Credit: Flickr/ owlpacino
Credit: Flickr/ owlpacino


Worst: Chocolate Chip Mocha Frappé (530 calories/ 24 grams of fat]

Better: Iced Coffee (all flavors) (140 calories/ 5 grams of fat)

Best: Regular Coffee (0 calories/ 0 grams of fat)

McDonald's Chocolate Chip Mocha Frappé may seem over-indulgent, and it is. This drink manages to put 530 calories and 25 grams of fat into the single serving size. While an iced coffee would normally be a better option (it certainly is a healthier option on most menus), steer clear of the McDonald's version. With a laundry list of ingredients and a high calorie count - it comes with added milk and sugar - this drink clocks in at 140 calories and 5 grams of fat. Must go to the McCafé? Choose the regular coffee and add the milk and sugar yourself.

Credit: Flickr/ revrev
Credit: Flickr/ revrev

Caribou Coffee

Worst: Espresso Cooler (210 calories/ 4 grams of fat)

Best: Iced Northern Lite Mocha (140 calories/ 3 grams of fat)

While words like "mocha" generally indicate a high-calorie drink, the Iced Northern Lite Mocha at Caribou Coffee is one of the better options to satisfy your craving for a frosty drink. With 140 calories and 3 grams of fat, it packs less of a punch than some of their other, unassuming drinks. Despite the innocent name, the espresso cooler will give you 210 calories and 4 grams of fat for a small.

Credit: Flickr/ NeoXerxes
Credit: Flickr/ NeoXerxes

Dunkin' Donuts

Worst: Iced Caramel Mocha Latte (220 calories/ 3 grams of fat)

Best: Iced Caramel Mocha Coffee (120 calories/ 0 grams of fat)

Headed to Dunkin' Donuts to satisfy your sweet coffee craving? If it's the caramel-mocha combo you crave, the Iced Caramel Mocha Coffee is your best bet. With 120 calories and zero grams of fat, it'll satisfy your sweet tooth without destroying your diet. Ditch the Iced Caramel Mocha Latte, which, at 220 calories and 3 grams of fat for a small, will leave you with a sugar and caffeine high.

Credit: Flickr/ yoshimov
Credit: Flickr/ yoshimov


Worst: Tazo Chai Frappuccino Blended Crème (360 calories/ 15 grams of fat)

Better: Tazo Iced Chai Tea Latte (270 calories/ 7 grams of fat)

A blend of sugary chai tea, whole milk, and ice, topped with whipped cream, can set you back 360 calories. While the iced versions of these tea lattes do lower the calorie count, watch out for the hidden calories still lurking in your favorite drink. For a healthier chilled chai experience, try a nonfat Tazo Iced Chai Tea Latte, with 200 calories. It's not the healthiest tea drink on the menu, but it'll still satisfy your cravings.

Credit: Starbucks
Credit: Starbucks


Worst: Strawberries and Crème Frappuccino Blended Crème (470 calories/ 17 grams of fat)

Best: Strawberry Smoothie (300 calories /2 grams of fat)

All the milk and whipped cream added to your Strawberry Frappuccino drink cancels out any nutritional value it would have had. For a fruity flavor without the unnecessary indulgence, swap the Frappuccino for the Strawberry Smoothie and save 170 calories and 15 grams of fat. With strawberry purée, a whole banana, and whey protein inside, this smoothie satisfies even the strongest sweet tooth while nourishing your body.

Credit: Starbucks
Credit: Starbucks


Worst: Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino Blended Beverage (480 calories/19 grams of fat)

Better: Mocha Frappuccino Light Blended Beverage (130 calories /.5 grams of fat)

Best: Iced Coffee (90 calories/0 grams of fat)

Starbucks is promoting the Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino as its new summer drink, but this fat-laden Frappuccino contains roughly the same calories and fat as a McDonald's Double Cheeseburger. To get a similar chocolate and coffee frozen blend with significantly fewer calories, try a Mocha Frappuccino Light Blended Beverage and save a whopping 350 calories and 18.5 grams of fat. While it may be the best of the cold coffee beverages, just be aware that Starbucks sweetens its iced coffee when they brew it, so before you add any milk or sugar, your coffee is hitting the 90 calorie mark.

Click here to see More of the Best and Worst Summer Coffee Chain Drinks

- Skyler Okey, The Daily Meal

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