ask the nutritionist: holiday coffee drinks


Starbucks always lets us know that the holidays have officially arrived with their holiday cups and FaLa Lattes. But in addition to Christmas spirit and holiday cheer, these delicious drinks bring extra sugar, whipped cream and far more calories than your morning coffee should have. But instead of being the Nutrition Grinch and telling you to skip them all together, I’ve got some suggestions to lighten them up.

  • Save them for special occasions – they should definitely not be a weekly drink
  • Order with skim milk instead of 2% or whole – this can save 50-80 calories
  • Skip the whipped cream – this can save 70 calories, and isn’t it already sweet enough?
  • Request “less pumps” – for example, if a grande pumpkin spice latte has 3 pumps, I’ll get 1 1/2
  • Request sugar-free syrups
  • Order a small!

Pumpkin Spice Latte Venti (20 oz):

510 calories, 20 grams fat, 61 grams sugar

Skim Pumpkin Spice Latte Tall -No Whip (12 oz):

200 calories, 0 grams fat, 37 grams sugar


What are your holiday drinks tips?


  1. says

    I don’t order them all too often, mostly because I try to make coffee at home or at the office since Starbucks gets pretty pricey after a while! Although, when I do go out for coffee I try to order just a flavored brew- unless it’s dessert you really don’t need all the crazy sugar!

  2. says

    Love this! I caved this year and tried a pumpkin spice latter and now I’m obsessed….I am also about to make and blog about a homemade version though so I’ll let you know how that goes!!

  3. says

    sometimes i think the coffee shop specialty drinks signal the seasonal change for me more than the weather does!

    after working at a coffee shop, i discovered that half shots of syrup are the way to go. i want my coffee to taste like coffee not sugary water! at caribou the small and medium drinks have the same amount of espresso shots. so the smalls have the same amount of caffination with less calories from milk.

  4. says

    i am thankful that i am not a sugar loving coffee fiend. i’m just a coffee fiend, therefore i prefer a regular pike with a bit of lite cream. i do admit to indulging in these little treats now and then and your tips are just perfect!

  5. says

    Great post Emily. I actually ordered the pumpkin spiced latte this past Sunday with skim milk no whipped cream and was kinda disappointed. I guess that is what I get for not being a coffee drinker!

  6. says

    Great tips! I follow all of them when it comes to the special holiday drinks. However, I have been ordering my skinny vanilla grande latte more than once a week. Not only do I need to cut down on this for the calories but the cost is pretty high too!

    • Emily says

      I’ve never thought of that one! As soon as candy canes are on the shelves, I’m trying it! (I guess they probably are already in stores!)

      • Nicole says

        What about all the sugars in the candy cane that you are now putting into your coffee? Corn Syrup, Glucose, Fructose……that can’t be good. I guess I am turning into the Nutritional Grinch!

  7. says

    I definitely second the no whip and skim milk rule of thumb. I save those drinks for a weekend treat or when I have a free coupon from Starbucks. I seriously don’t know how people order those EVERY day, that would kill me!!

  8. says

    I’m not a huge fan of overly sweet drinks so I always request no whipped cream, skim milk and only 1 pump of syrup. Otherwise I get a “too much sugar” headache!

    I always get holiday-flavored drip coffee. It’s not sweet but the aroma is there.

  9. says

    MMMM I’m a sucker for coffee. I try and make my own holiday drinks by adding a little cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, or peppermint extract (just a teeny tiny bit) to my coffee at home. This way I can still taste the holidays, but they won’t make me not fit into my jeans come January!

  10. Nicole says

    Drink more water, find a delicious non caffeinated herbal tea. Stop going to Starbucks and support a local coffee shop!

  11. Nicole says

    Emily, I love your site and really appreciate the information you provide. I also like reading the comments.
    Thanks for this venue to discuss nutrition!

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