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What Nutritionists Think About Starbucks’ Three New Plant-Based Drinks

Health + Wellness
What Nutritionists Think About Starbucks’ Three New Plant-Based Drinks
A Starbucks barista prepares a drink at a Starbucks Coffee Shop location in New York. Ramin Talaie / Corbis via Getty Images

By Cathy Cassata

Are you getting your fill of Starbucks' new Almondmilk Honey Flat White, Oatmilk Honey Latte, and Coconutmilk Latte, but wondering just how healthy they are?


Celebrity chef and spokesperson for DayTwo, Devin Alexander said if you're trying to lose weight, or watch your sugar intake or the amount of caffeine you consume, staying away from these is your best bet.

"I generally don't believe it's the best idea to consume a significant number of calories via beverages," she told Healthline.

Because the American Heart Association recommends that women consume only 25 grams of sugar in a day and men consume only 36 grams, she said these drinks can put you over the limit or close to it.

The 16-ounce Almondmilk Honey Flat White contains 24 grams of sugar, the Oatmilk Honey Latte has 28 grams, and the Coconutmilk Latte has 12 grams.

As far as caffeine goes, the 16-ounce or Grande-sized drinks for all three beverages contain more caffeine than many energy drinks.

"Red Bull contains 111 mg while Rockstar contains between 160 and 240 mg of caffeine per can. Two of these three [Starbucks] drinks contain 150 mg while the other contains 195 mg," said Alexander.

Despite all this, if you still plan to try the drinks as a pick-me-up or treat, she said to go with the 8-ounce option.

Here's what nutritionists have to say about each of these new menu items.

Almondmilk Honey Flat White

The fact that this drink only has 3 ingredients is a good thing said Erin Palinski-Wade, nutritionist and author of "Belly Fat Diet for Dummies."

"You know what you are getting with this drink. Since it is [mostly] made from almond milk with a touch of honey, the added sugar content isn't very high when compared to many coffee drinks. The combination of almond milk, espresso, and honey make this plant-based drink without large amounts of saturated fat that can hide inside many similar drinks made with cream or whole milk," said Palinski-Wade.

Still, she said the honey blend adds sugar and a Tall (12 oz) drink packs 120 calories — more calories and added sugars than black coffee.

Alexander agrees, noting that there are about 16 grams of sugar in 1 tablespoon of honey.

"Based on the ingredients [listed], Starbucks is using sweetened almond milk in the drink. [Stating it has] 'a hint of honey' doesn't suggest at least a tablespoon. Though in order to taste it amidst espresso, you would need a significant amount to create a honey flavor at all," she said.

Oatmilk Honey Latte

With 200 calories and 32 grams of carbs per 12-ounce serving, this drink contains the highest level of calories, added sugar, and fat of the three choices.

However, Palinski-Wade said the plant-based drink is low in saturated fat and contains a source of fiber.

"The addition of oat does provide a source of fiber, however with just 2 grams, the filling fiber won't offset the excess calories provided by the sugar in the drink. The addition of the honey topping along with the honey blend drive up both the calories and added sugar," she said.

To cut down on the sugar level, she said opt to remove the honey topping and ask for the drink to have one Honey Blend instead of two.

Coconutmilk Latte

The 12-ounce Tall size of this drink contains only 3 ingredients and provides 100 calories.

While this drink is lower in calories than many coffee drinks and provides a vegan-friendly option for people looking to add more plant-based foods and drinks to their diet, Palinski-Wade warned the amount of saturated fat in this drink is worth noting.

"The level of saturated fat is higher than other plant-based beverages due to the coconut. Each serving contains 5 grams of saturated fat, which should be moderated in those looking to improve blood lipid levels," she said.

Because the drink contains a significant level of added sugar from the coconut milk and flavorings, she said it's best to consider it a treat versus an everyday or multiple times a day indulgence.

Alexander added that while the Coconutmilk Latte is the most sensible of the three, it doesn't add any nutritional value.

"There is virtually no protein, half the carbs come from sugar, and there are 7 grams of saturated fat [in the 16 oz]," she said.

For comparison, she notes that in her "The Biggest Loser Cookbooks," her meals needed to have 3 grams of saturated fat or under, and in her diabetes-friendly cookbook "You Can Have It," meals had a max of 2.5 grams of saturated fat.

"At least if someone who loved this combo were to order a Short (8 ounces), it wouldn't be too detrimental [with 3.5 grams of saturated fat]," she said.

Healthier Alternatives

The good news for Starbucks lovers is that the brand offers many options that are lighter in calories and sugar compared to these three drinks, said Alexander.

However, she suggested looking to beverages outside of the coffee house for truly healthier alternatives.

"There are amazing drinks out there that are sweetened with zero calorie natural sweeteners, and there are even numerous brands of honey/stevia blends and honey/monk fruit blends which would allow someone to recreate these drinks for a fraction of the calories and sugars — the sugar is my biggest concern," she said.

Palinski-Wade agreed, reiterating that the three plant-based beverages should be consumed occasionally.

"They are still sugar-sweetened beverages. However, when compared to many other sugar-sweetened beverages and coffee drinks, the Almondmilk and Coconutmilk drinks are lower in calories and added sugars," she said.

Reposted with permission from Healthline.

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