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Starbucks is a quick and easy way to get your caffeine fix while on the go. You can hit the drive-thru or even order ahead online. If you are in a rush, picking up a Starbucks drink can save the day and be simpler than brewing a pot at home.
When you are trying to make healthy choices, though, cheating on a diet with a Starbucks drink can be all too easy. That green siren on the Starbucks sign beckons us to come in for just one tasty treat and can leave us with a load of calories. However, if you don’t want to shipwreck your diet, there are several low-sugar drinks you can order off the Starbucks menu.
Black coffee and many hot teas are some menu items at Starbucks that are naturally sugar-free. Also, you can get the taste of specialty coffee drinks without going overboard on your sugar count. You will want to take into consideration how many pumps of syrup you choose, your milk option, and consider sugar-free sweeteners for a delicious low-sugar Starbucks drink.
So if you are trying to stick to this new year’s resolution or follow the doctor’s orders, here are some ways to order healthy Starbucks drinks that are low in sugar.
Ordering a Low Sugar Starbucks Drink
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming no more than 150 calories of added sugar per day for most men. To put it in more measurable terms, this comes down to 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons. For most women, the AHA recommends keeping added sugar under 100 calories per day. This translates to about 6 teaspoons or 25 grams.
Most food or drinks with 5g (or less) of total sugars per 100g are considered “low sugar.” Following this guideline, you will want to keep your total sugars under 23 grams of sugar in a grande-sized Starbucks drink.
Added Sugars vs. Naturally Occurring Sugars
In Starbucks drinks, you can find both naturally occurring sugars and added sugars.
The USDA describes added sugar as sugars and syrups that are added to your drinks or foods while they are being prepared. Added sugars can include sweeteners such as brown sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, molasses, raw sugar, and turbinado sugar among others. While they certainly taste delicious going down, these sugars can add empty calories to food and drink.
In contrast, naturally occurring sugars are found in fruits, vegetables, and milk products as sucrose, fructose, and lactose. These natural sugars include some health benefits and can even help the body fight off diseases. However, if you are trying to lose weight or have diabetes, your dietician may suggest limiting the consumption of certain fruits and milk products.
While there is a significant difference in added and naturally occurring sugars and the impact they have on the body, the nutritional fact tables do not differentiate between the two. So the grams of sugar listed in a drink can mean added sugars, naturally occurring sugars, or a combination of the two.
Ways to Limit Sugar in Your Drink:
Many of the classic Starbucks favorites contain more calories and sugar than most of us realize. For example, a grande white chocolate mocha contains 53 grams of sugar and 430 calories. While this coffee drink tastes delicious, that amount of sugar and calories can quickly throw us off a diet. The size of the drink, your milk choice, and how many pumps of syrups in your drink all influence how much (or little) sugar your drink will contain.
Here are some factors to consider to help you trim down some of the sugar in your favorite Starbucks drinks:
The size of the drink
By simply choosing a grande-sized drink instead of a venti-sized, you can cut down your sugar and calorie count. This is especially true if you are ordering an iced beverage.
While a grande contains 16oz of delicious Starbucks coffee, a cold venti-sized cup is 4 ounces larger than a regular venti size. This cold venti drink packs in 24 oz of your drink order and most also include 6 pumps of syrup. While choosing a cold venti coffee drink can give you more bang for your buck, it may also be giving you extra sugar and calories that you don’t want.
Your milk choice
Some milk options at Starbucks contain more sugar than others. Almond milk, and coconut milk are low sugar/low-cal options. In contrast, Starbucks’ vanilla soy milk actually contains more grams of sugar than whole milk. However, heavy cream and whole milk will pack in the most calories.
Here is a list of Starbucks milk options that contain the least amount of sugar up to the most sugar per 1-cup measurement.
- Heavy cream: This milk option contains no measurable amount of lactose, so sugar is not an issue. However, it does pack in the calories at 821 calories per cup. Many Keto diets accept heavy cream as it is rich in fats and protein and low-carb.
- Almond milk: Almond milk is a low-cal, low-sugar option. It contains 3 grams of naturally occurring sugar per cup. Many consider this the healthiest milk option available at Starbucks.
- Oat milk: Starbucks uses Oatly oat milk. This milk choice contains 7 grams of sugar per cup.
- Coconut milk: Coconut milk is also lower in sugar and calories than cow milk options. However, it does contain added sugar. Total sugars per cup for this milk are 8.5 grams.
- 2% milk: Your drink will be made with 2% milk unless you specify otherwise. It contains 12 grams of sugar of naturally occurring sugar per cup. By changing your milk type you may have an upcharge of about 60 cents.
- Whole milk: Whole milk contains about 12 grams of sugar of naturally occurring sugar.
- Vanilla soy milk: The soy milk option at Starbucks comes with added sugar. This milk does have fewer calories than cow milk options, however, it contains the most sugar. The total amount of sugar is about 13.5 grams of sugar per cup.
You can also cut down sugar and calories by asking your barista for just a splash of your favorite milk. A “splash” of standard 2% milk will add just 25 calories and 2 grams of sugar. This can give your drink that creamy taste while still keeping the sugar and calories of your drink in check.
Flavored Syrup Choices
Starbucks syrups and mocha sauce contain 5g of sugar and 20 calories per pump. With 4 pumps of syrup in a grande drink, the grams of sugar can add up fast! You can limit how many pumps of syrup are in your drink to reduce the sugar.
Or, Starbucks also offers 2 sugar-free syrup options: sugar-free vanilla syrup and sugar-free cinnamon dolce syrup. Both of these options are artificially sweetened and contain 0g of sugar.
Unfortunately for Pumpkin Spice Latte lovers, the pumpkin spice sauce contains sweetened condensed milk. This makes it difficult to transform this drink into a low-sugar option. Even a skinny pumpkin spiced latte will leave you with 49 grams of sugar, which contains a percentage of sugar than a coca-cola.
You can also choose to forgo sugary syrups in your drink order and add your own artificial or nonnutritive sweeteners at the coffee bar. In most Starbucks stores you can find sugar alternatives such as Equal, Splenda, Sweet’N Low, and Stevia to add to your coffee drink.
Low Sugar Starbucks Drink Options
When you are in line for your drink, it can be difficult to search through each drink’s nutrition information to pick a low-sugar and low-calorie Starbucks drink that will satisfy the cravings. So, the best way to stick to your diet is to plan ahead.
Here are some tasty drink choices that can help you cut down on sugar. We’ve listed these Starbucks drinks in order from the least grams of sugar to the most. Find your favorite new addiction and order guilt-free!
|Low-Sugar Starbucks Drink (Grande Size)||Caffeine||Milk Type||Total Sugar|
|Espresso Con Panna||150mg||Whipped Topping||0g|
|Iced Passion Tango Tea||0mg||None||0g|
|Low Sugar Keto-Friendly Frappuccino||165mg||Heavy Cream||0g|
|Nitro Cold Brew with Dark Cocoa Almondmilk Foam||280mg||Almond Milk Foam||4g|
|Chai Tea Latte Cheat||40mg||Splash of Cream or Almond Milk||<6g|
|Cold Brew Coffee with Cold Foam||205mg||Cold Foam Topping||7g|
|Teavana Shaken Sweet Iced Green Tea||25mg||None||11g|
|Iced Brown Sugar Oat Milk Shaken Espresso||Oat Milk||13g|
|Very Berry Hibiscus Starbucks Refresher||45mg||None||14g|
|Skinny Blonde Vanilla Latte||170mg||2% Milk||15g|
|Flat White||195mg||Whole Milk||17g|
|2-pump Caramel Macchiato||150mg||2% Milk||23g|
1. Caffe Americano (0g sugar)
Since an Americano coffee is just espresso and hot water, it is one of the healthiest choices on the menu. You can enjoy its rich, smooth flavor, but don’t have to worry about adding sugar to your diet with this drink. It contains 3 shots of espresso to pack in 225 mg of caffeine in a grande-sized cup. This coffee drink can give you the pick-me-up you need to get your day started off right.
2. Iced Coffee (0g of sugar)
On hot days and lazy afternoons, I like to ice down my coffee drink. The cold and caffeine are the perfect combo to put the pep back into your step. If you drink it as black coffee over ice, you can keep your sugar down to 0 grams of sugar.
Personally, I drink my hot coffee unsweet, but I like to sweeten my iced coffee drinks. To make your iced coffee sweet, creamy, and guilt-less, you can add a sugar-free syrup and a splash of milk. This will add up to just 2 grams of total sugar in a grande-sized drink.
3. Espresso Con Panna (0g sugar)
Espresso Con Panna is just two shots of espresso topped off with whipped cream. This tiny drink packs a punch with a sweet, creamy edge. Check the menu for yourself, this decadent drink contains 0 grams of sugar! Although only 1.5 oz in size, you will still get 150 mg of caffeine. This drink deserves more attention than it usually gets!
4. Iced Passion Tango Tea (0g sugar/0 cal/0 caffeine)
Water will give you 0g sugar and 0 calories when you drink it, but do you know what other drink will? Iced Passion Tango Tea! This cold drink packs in so much flavor that you won’t miss the fact that it contains no sugar. The Hibiscus Flowers, Cinnamon, Apple, and Lemongrass, give you some exotic fall and winter flavors while the licorice root and fruit extracts will trick your brain into thinking this drink is sweet. If you are looking for the joy of Christmas even in hot summer months, this caffeine-free, refreshing drink can fill the bill!
5. Low Sugar Keto-Friendly Frappuccino Hack (0g sugar)
The Starbucks frappucino base contains sugar and artificial ingredients to it is not very diet-friendly. Still, you can create a decent alternative by giving the barista your own variation. First, ask for a grande iced coffee. Then add in heavy cream and two pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup. Ask the barista to blend your drink frappucino-style. And enjoy!
This keto-friendly coffee drink can satisfy your diet and tastebuds. However, if you are on a low-fat diet, you may want to choose a nut-based milk option, instead.
6. Nitro Cold Brew with Dark Cocoa Almondmilk Foam (4g sugar)
While the Starbucks Mocha is a popular treat, ordering it as-is from the menu means you are drinking 370 calories and 35 grams of sugar. Unfortunately, there is no sugar-free mocha sauce. Also, rumor has it that Starbucks did away with a skinny mocha option which contained a reduced amount of sugar. So sad!
However, if you are craving that delicious combo of chocolate and coffee, check out this Cold Brew with Dark Cocoa Almond Milk Foam. This drink contains only 4 grams of sugar and 40 calories. That’s a big saving on your sugar and calorie count! You still get a hint of mocha sauce in this coffee drink and some added chocolate flavor in its cocoa powder topping. This cold brew can be a healthier substitute for the delicious (but diet-crashing) Caffe Mocha.
7. Chai Tea Latte Cheat (<6g sugar)
You can make the Chai Tea Latte lower in sugar and calories by starting out with a hot chai tea as a base and then adding to it. This black tea has all the spices of the chai tea syrup without the sugar. Then add in a splash of heavy whipping cream (or steamed almond milk) and two pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup. This can keep your sugar between 0 and 6 grams. Compare that to the 42 grams of sugar in a regular grande chai tea latte!
To add some body and caffeine to this altered chai tea latte recipe, make it “dirty” by adding a shot of espresso to your order.
8. Cold Brew Coffee with Cold Foam (7g sugar)
Cold brew coffee with cold foam is one of my favorite combos on the Starbucks menu. The cold foam contains a light touch of sweetness and vanilla that slowly melts into your coffee as you drink it. Not only is it creamy and tasty, but it also contains only 7 grams of sugar and 35 calories. The 205 mg of caffeine it brings to the table can keep you perky all afternoon. …Did someone say it’s time for Starbucks?
This Starbucks drink is simply brewed coffee and steamed milk. There is no sugar added to this simple drink, however, the steamed milk gives it a slightly sweet taste. The Caffe Misto can be a good choice for those who are trying to wean themselves off of using sweeteners in their coffee. The coffee flavor moves to the back burner giving the sweeter milk flavors a chance to rise to the top in this low sugar Starbucks drink.
10. Teavana Shaken Sweet Iced Green Tea (11g sugar)
If you are looking for caffeine without the espresso flavor, this Teavana Shaken Sweet Green Tea may be just your cup of tea! Besides the natural green tea flavor, this drink also includes spearmint, lemon verbena, and lemongrass. The sweet version of this drink uses liquid cane sugar for a total of only 11g of sugar. If you want to be more drastic in your sugar cut-backs, you can also order it unsweet and drink it as-is. Or, add your own artificial sweeteners at the bar for a drink that won’t cut into your daily sugar allotment at all!
11. Cappuccino (12g sugar)
The cappuccino is a classic drink that contains only naturally occurring sugars. The creamy steamed milk foam gives this drink a hint of sweetness which can satisfy your palate’s desire for something sweet. The grande size comes with 2 shots of espresso. Grab a soft seat near the window to savor this coffee drink in true European style.
12. Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso (13g sugar)
While this drink sounds like it is full of sugar, it is surprisingly one of our low-sugar options. This Starbucks coffee drink is made with oat milk and contains 4 pumps of brown sugar syrup and 3 shots of espresso. It is shaken with a bit of cinnamon for a refreshing blend of flavors. Fun fact: Brown sugar syrup pumps are always measured in half-pumps at Starbucks.
13. Very Berry Hibiscus Starbucks Refresher (14g sugar)
The Very Berry Hibiscus Starbucks Refresher sneaks in a bit of coffee without you even realizing it’s there! This drink uses some green coffee powder to give your drink 45 mg of caffeine. The berry refresher base comes sweetened with grape juice concentrate and sugar adding up to 14 grams of total sugar. You will even find cute little blackberries floating in this refreshing drink! This can be a great choice to perk you up on a sunshiny day.
14. Skinny Vanilla Latte (15g sugar)
While the vanilla latte is always a popular choice, you can drastically reduce the amount of sugar in your drink by asking for a skinny vanilla latte. This means your drink will come with non-fat milk, no whip, and sugar-free vanilla syrup pumps. With this simple order alteration, you can cut out at least 20 grams of sugar and 80 calories in one fell swoop. Fun fact: This drink is made using blonde espresso shots, which will give you some added mg of caffeine in your cup.
15. Flat White (17g sugar)
Unlike most Starbucks drinks, the Flat White is made using whole milk. Also, it comes with ristretto shots which are essentially concentrated espresso shots. Since the amount of milk used in this drink dilutes the coffee flavor, Starbucks adds in a third shot of ristretto for balance. The whole milk adds in more calories, but also adds a delicious richness and texture to the drink. We say that for 17g of natural sugar, this drink is worth a try!
16. 2-pump Caramel Macchiato (23g sugar)
The Caramel Macchiato has been a Starbucks top-seller that has never gone out of style! You can still enjoy this classic drink as a low-sugar option by simply asking for half the pumps of syrup. By choosing to add two pumps of caramel syrup instead of four, you can bring your sugar count down to a reasonable 23 grams of total sugar.
What does “skinny” mean at Starbucks?
When you order a skinny drink at Starbucks, your drink will be made with nonfat milk, without whipped cream, and a sugar-free syrup option. Keep in mind that not every syrup comes in a sugar-free version. You can ask your barista if there is a sugar-free syrup for your drink, and if not, you can consider substituting for a different flavor option that is sugar-free.
Which Starbucks flavors are vegan?
If you are looking for vegan-friendly drinks at Starbucks, you will want to look at your flavor options as well as your milk choice. Vegan syrups include vanilla, peach syrup, simple syrup, hazelnut, Irish crème, and mocha sauce among others. However, some of the Starbucks sauces such as white mocha, pistachio, and pumpkin spice do contain dairy, as well as some of the drizzle toppings.
How many pumps of syrup come in a grande-sized drink?
Most grande-sized drinks include 4 pumps of syrup and 2 shots of espresso (if it is a coffee drink). Most grande hot teas will come with 2 tea bags and will be unsweetened. However, hot tea lattes also contain 4 pumps of syrup if you are ordering a grande. For more about cup sizes at Starbucks check out our article What are the Cup Sizes at Starbucks?
If you are starting off a new year with a healthy focus in mind, we congratulate you. Luckily, choosing a low-sugar diet doesn’t mean you have to close your eyes every time you pass a Starbucks. With a few simple tweaks to your Starbucks order, you can satisfy your cravings and get your caffeine pick-me-up in a healthy, diet-friendly fashion.
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