top of page

What’s in Your Fall Cup O’ Joe?

Ah…November. Here in South Texas, November usually brings a few cool weather fronts. And for some of us, the dip in temperature and thoughts of upcoming holidays often send us to the nearest coffee joint to enjoy a special seasonal cup o’ joe.

Although indeed tasty, some people don’t realize what these warm and comforting drinks can do the waistline! The McPumpkin Spice Latte at McDonald’s (medium) has 340 calories, 12 grams of fat and 48 grams of sugar; did you realize that is more calories and fat than a McDonald’s hot fudge sundae? The pumpkin spice latte (grande, made with whole milk and whipped cream) at Starbucks will run you 410 calories, 17 fat grams, and 48 g of sugar. That’s about the same amount of sugar as 1½ cans of soda and more fat than a McDonald’s cheese burger!

But if you LOVE to treat yourself to these cozy beverages, you do have some choices. You can decrease the calories in your favorite coffee-based concoction by about 200 or so by trying the three following tips:

  • Generally speaking, you can decrease the fat and calories in these drinks substantially by asking for them to made with nonfat milk – this will decrease the calories by about 70.

  • You can drop 70 more calories by skipping the whipped topping.

  • To meet the needs of carb/sugar-conscious customers, many retailers have a variety of sugar free flavored syrups that can be substituted for the regular version.This will bring the calories down by an additional 70-80 calories.As far as I know, however, there is NO sugar-free pumpkin spice syrup (at least not at McDonald’s or Starbucks).Sad, I know it.But Starbucks does have a reduced calorie mocha sauce and a sugar-free peppermint syrup – ask for a skinny peppermint mocha for only 100 calories (tall) – SCORE!

Don’t forget that plain coffee is actually quite good for you. It is rich in anti-oxidants and very low in calories – only around 5-8 calories per mug. Enjoy the natural flavor of black coffee or lightly sweeten it with skim milk and/or a small amount of sugar/non-calorie sweetener. While this beverage may not be as decadent as the flavored lattes noted above, the simple sensation of a warm beverage on your throat can still bring pleasure. Another lower calorie, yet more “natural” way to sweeten up that coffee and/or make it creamier is to use almond milk – it has fewer calories than skim milk and can add an interesting twist to your favorite coffee beverage. (Starbuck’s currently doesn’t carry almond milk, but they mentioned on their website that if you bring in your own almond milk, they’d be happy to blend it in to whatever beverage you order).

With that, I will leave you with the following table from the Starbuck’s website that showcases 20 offerings with 200 calories or fewer. Remember that even with 200 calories, you may have to “make room” in your healthy diet/calorie budget for these drinks if you drink them regularly. It’s probably best to stick to plain coffee most of the time (decaf if you’re sensitive to the caffeine) and use these reduced-calorie beverages a “sometimes” indulgence.

Sip smart!

Annie Bell, MS, Registered Dietitian

17 views0 comments
bottom of page