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What does a dietitian drink at Starbucks?

Posted on Jun. 28, 2018 ( comments)

The "pink drink" is a secret menu item at Starbucks featuring the strawberry acai Refreshers® beverage mixed with creamy coconut milk. The grande size (16 ounces) is 140 calories and has 24 grams of sugar.

By Chelsey Lindahl, RD, CSSD, CD
and Bev Utt, MS, MPH, RD

The hot days of summer don’t stop most of us in the Pacific Northwest from drinking a cup of joe. Summer is the perfect time to venture into other types of coffee or tea drinks, especially ones served over ice.

For those who don’t like to drink their calories, there are quite a few lower-calorie options. Here are a few favorites — dietitian approved.

Chelsey’s Starbucks drinks

  • Nitro cold brew with sweet cream

Cold brew coffee is one of my favorite treats for a midday pick-me-up. The method of cold brewing involves soaking coffee grounds in cold water over an extended period, then extracting the liquid (think French press). The finished product lends a naturally sweet flavor and lower acidity, thanks to the lack of heat in the brewing process. And that lower acidity makes it a great option if you struggle with acid reflux.

Customize it by adding a finishing touch of cream, sweet cream or dairy-free milk — or try one of Starbucks’ newest drinks, the cold foam cascara cold brew (cold brew topped with sweetened cold foam that lends a brown sugar flavor). My favorite? Nitro cold brew topped with sweet cream. Cold, creamy, delicious.

Grande nitro cold brew with sweet cream: 70 calories, 1 tsp sugar (4 g), 325 mg caffeine
Grande cold foam cascara cold brew: 80 calories, 4 1/4 tsp sugar (17 g), 190 mg caffeine

  • Flat white with almond milk

I recently discovered the flat white beverage, and it has become my go-to. What makes the flat white special is its use of ristretto shots. Ristretto is a short shot of espresso brewed with a finer grind and less water than a traditional shot. The shorter extraction time (less water) creates a more full-bodied, less bitter shot, with a sweet finish — a flavor that I find to be just right.  

Flat whites can be ordered hot or iced with any milk. Personally, I prefer non-dairy milks and I also do my best to limit added sugars. For that reason, I order mine with almond milk, because it has the least amount of added sugar in the Starbucks non-dairy lineup (almond, coconut and soy milks). I am most likely to order this drink hot early in the day, or when I want a cozy pick-me-up.

If you do want to sweeten it a bit, you could add one to two pumps of vanilla or another syrup.

Grande flat white with almond milk: 100 calories, 1 1/4 tsp sugar (5g), 195 mg caffeine

  • Pink drink

One of Starbucks’ “secret” items that you won’t find on their menu board. Bonus: You’ll sound super hip and trendy when ordering. The pink drink is a fun treat and, you guessed it, it’s pink. The pink drink is the strawberry acai Refreshers® beverage topped with creamy coconut milk. As a wellness dietitian, I try to limit my added sugars, so this one is a special treat. Vibrant and refreshing and perfect for a hot summer day!

Grande pink drink: 140 calories, 6 tsp sugar (24 g), 50 mg caffeine

Bev’s go-to Starbucks drinks

  • Starbucks Doubleshot® on ice

This drink sips like a mocha. Poured over ice, it feels more decadent than it is, saving more than 100 calories compared to a mocha. Doubleshots can be purchased in a can at Starbucks or a local market.

Grande mocha with 2 percent milk: 290 calories, 8 1/2 tsp sugar (34 g), 175 mg caffeine

Canned doubleshot (6.5 oz): 140 calories, 4 tsp sugar (16 g), 110 mg caffeine

  • Americano with soy foam

For some, an Americano is just too bold. The perfect solution to tame this drink is to ask for soy foam on top. When made correctly, the foam tastes like a melting marshmallow.

Grande Americano with soy foam: 28 calories, ~1/4 tsp sugar (1 1/2 g), 225 mg caffeine

  • Teavana Shaken Iced Passion Tango™ tea infusion/lemonade

It’s a perfect color-infused, herbal summertime drink. Hibiscus, lemongrass and apple give it flavor. Lightly shaken and served over ice, you may have visions of lounging beside a pool in the tropics with your favorite drink, complete with umbrella.

Grande Teavana Shaken Iced Passion Tango™ tea infusion: 45 calories, < 3 tsp sugar (11 g), 0 mg caffeine

Grande Teavana Shaken Iced Passion Tango™ tea lemonade: 90 calories, 5 1/2 tsp sugar (22 g), 0 mg caffeine

Chelsey Lindahl, RD, CD, is a wellness dietitian program manager at the MultiCare Center for Healthy Living, which helps educate children and families in Pierce County about healthy lifestyle choices

Bev Utt, MS, MPH, RD, is a wellness nutritionist and health educator with MultiCare's Center for Healthy Living. 

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