7 Ways to Order Your Vegan Starbucks Drinks Healthier

If you’re not taking your coffee black or shooting espresso like a champ, you’re probably consuming some extra calories and taxing your coffee budget every time you satisfy your caffeine craving. Whether you’re a Starbucks regular or just a opportunistic customer, those visits can add up to both your health and your spending. Follow these seven Starbucks hacks to maintain your Gold Star status without ruining your healthy eating or financial goals.

What are Starbucks drinks made of?

Specialty Starbucks drinks—handcrafted by your barista with any flavor ingredient beyond coffee or espresso and your choice of milk—include syrups, sauces, pre-mixed bases and/or powders. Sorry to steal some of the magic from your favorite whimsical-sounding latte or shaken espresso.


We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of which of these flavor ingredients are vegan, but for a refresher: the syrups are vegan, the sauces are not, and the chocolate malt powder is surprisingly free of animal ingredients.

How many calories are in a Starbucks drink?

The amount of syrup or sauce depends on the size of your drink. A standard tall (12 oz) syrup has three pumps, a grande (16 oz) has four pumps, and a venti (20 oz for hot drinks, 24 oz for ice) has five and six pumps, respectively. Most flavors (Vanilla, Toffee Almond, Raspberry, Hazelnut, Cinnamon Dulce, Peppermint, and Caramel) contain 20 calories per pump. Outliers are Irish Cream Syrup (40 calories per pump) and Frappuccino Caramel and Brown Sugar Syrup (10 calories per pump).

The total number of calories in any given Starbucks drink also depends on the milk, but for reference, a tall-flavored oat-based drink reads around 230 to 290 calories, while an almond-based signature drink ranges from 80 (for an iced shake espresso) to 140 ( a hot sugar cookie almondmilk latte).

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1 Avoid oat (and possibly soy) milk

Starbucks uses the Oatly Barista version for its oat milk substitute. Although consumers were excited about its launch in 2020 (to the point of some major out-of-stock issues), this non-dairy milk is the most calorically dense option, weighing in at 140 calories per cup, with seven grams of fat and seven grams of sugar compared to Starbucks’ soy milk at 130 calories. Four grams of fat and 13 grams of sugar per cup aren’t far behind, though soy provides plenty of protein — eight grams versus oats’ three grams.

If you’ve ever wondered why your Starbucks latte tastes sweeter than the latte you bought at that third-wave coffee shop, those 13 grams of sugar explain why. While the company loads its soy drinks with extra sugar, it goes easy on almond and coconut milk. The store’s signature almond milk has only 60 calories and three grams of sugar, and the coconut alternative has 80 calories and eight grams of sugar. Next time you order that chai or mocha, consider almond or coconut milk to cut those calories in half.

2 Order straight espresso

If you see “+$0.80” pop up at the cash register, try this money-saving hack: Order a double espresso in a tall cup and ask for steamed non-dairy milk of your choice. You’ll pay the price of an espresso ($2.25) and avoid the steep, dairy-free upcharge. Pour plant milk into your espresso and voila-You paid fifty percent less for your daily latte. If you prefer a flavored drink, ask for an espresso with a pump of your favorite syrup. You’ll pay an extra $0.50 but it’s still a lot cheaper than your usual $5.45 vanilla latte.


3 Customize your taste

A flavored tall Starbucks drink contains three pumps of syrup. Most pumps contain 20 calories and five grams of sugar—adding 60 extra calories and 15 grams of sugar to your 12-ounce pick-me-up. We find that two pumps are more than sweet enough for tall, and if you’re okay with being “that person,” a pump and a half is perfect. Next time you order, politely ask your friendly barista for a tall (soy, almond, oat, or coconut milk) hazelnut latte. One and a half pumps of syrup.

4 Avoid chocolate or mocha drinks

As much as we love a non-dairy peppermint or hazelnut mocha, these chocolatey espresso drinks contain twice as much syrup as a tame vanilla latte. For example, a tall peppermint mocha has three pumps of peppermint and mocha syrup for a seriously sweet six pumps of sugar. Even though you can request just two pumps of each, you’re still taking in 80 extra calories and 20 grams of extra sugar. Save these mocha-inspired drinks for special occasions or have a decaf and enjoy as a dessert.


5 Ask for heavier foam

Cappuccino-lovers know that the foam is the best part of any espresso drink. Done well, it’s absolutely heavenly and so much better than heavy whipped cream. Foam is aerated (non-dairy) milk—making it lighter and less calorie-dense than the liquid portion of your drink. You’ll save some calories and enjoy more of that delicious, light-air-fothy soy milk.

6 Leave the ice

You might feel weird ordering an iced coffee without ice, but you’ll win in the long run. Ice can take up half the room in your cup—meaning you drink less and experience a seriously watered-down espresso 20 minutes later. Iced coffee is refrigerated, so it’s already cold. If you’re ordering an iced latte, skip the ice, pop the cup in the freezer (uncovered) for fifteen minutes, and you’ve got yourself a perfectly chilled latte that will hold its strength until the last sip.


7 Go short

Most Starbucks customers are aware of three sizes—tall, grande, and venti. However, there is a fourth option – eight ounces smaller. This concentrated cup lets you enjoy that sweet espresso drink without overdoing it by portion. Cut back and save the sugar on your next soy milk toffee nut latte and switch.

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