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This ketogenic-friendly Starbucks drink is all the rage — but is it good for you?

It's on the chain's "secret menu."
by Aly Walansky / / Source: TODAY
Starbucks keto-drink
staceynoelle28/Instagram

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People following the popular ketogenic diet are often seeking out substitutions for their favorite comfort foods and treats — and sweet blended beverages are no exception.

But if you're trying to cut back on frappuccinos, sweetened iced teas and icy vanilla lattes, Starbucks is the last place you'd go ... until now. Maybe.

A new, off-the-menu drink at the coffee chain has been showing up on plenty of social media feeds lately and, unlike the sugar-laden Unicorn Frappuccino, this beverage is actually keto friendly. But is it any good?

The Peach Citrus White Tea is a modified version of the chain's official Peach Citrus White Tea Infusion (that actually exists on Starbucks' menu), and while the original drink blends fruit and botanical flavors mixed with Starbucks' Iced White Tea, this new blend adds a splash of keto-friendly fat to the mix with cream.

The tea blend in the infusion is keto friendly because it has zero grams of carbs and zero grams of sugar, but in the blended beverage there is added liquid sugar, which is a big no-no on the diet.

The solution for sweetness? Sugar-free syrup. The Peach Citrus White Tea is made up of the following:

  • Iced, unsweetened Peach Citrus White Tea
  • 2 to 4 pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup
  • A splash of heavy cream

That's it! So far, people on Instagram are loving it, calling the drink "yummy" and like "a party in your mouth."

But how does this all break down, nutritionally?

Starbucks' Peach Citrus White Tea (unsweetened) has zero calories, no sugar and no fat, which is the same nutritional profile of its sugar-free syrups (regardless of how many pumps). But a tablespoon of heavy cream has about 50 calories and 5 grams of fat.

The original Grande Peach Citrus White Tea Infusion has 45 calories, 0 grams of fat, 11 grams of carbs and no protein in a grande size.

So the keto version is obviously very different. "When you remove the liquid cane sugar, you're removing all of the calories [and] carbohydrates," Alix Turoff MS, RD, CDN, CPT, a nutrition consultant and certified personal trainer based in New York City, told TODAY Food.

Part of what makes the keto drink more decadent than traditional iced tea is that it contains no added water, making for a creamier, more frapp-like experience.

Heavy cream may be allowed for keto dieters, but it still has a lot of fat and calories that can add up quickly (1/2 cup has 400 calories and 40 grams of fat), so nutritionists recommend keeping that "splash" small.

"It’s that splash of cream that makes it keto," Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of "Read It Before You Eat It - Taking You from Label to Table," told TODAY Food. "But if your splash of heavy cream is actually a splash and not a cup — anyone can enjoy it ... even if you’re not classifying yourself as a diet follower.

However, she cautioned, "If you buy a pail-sized cup, then you may be getting more calories and fat than you thought."

While the drink isn't on the chain's official menu, Starbucks is aware that people following a variety of diets are usually able to find something to enjoy because they have so many different types of syrups and drink bases available.

"With more than 170,000 ways to customize beverages at Starbucks stores, this is an example of the creativity of our customers to find a beverage that meets their unique taste and dietary preferences," a representative for Starbucks told TODAY Food via email. "If customers would like to order a beverage that is not listed on our menu boards, we recommend they know the recipe so that their barista can handcraft the beverage perfectly for them." To keep the drink low carb and sugar free, Starbucks customers just need to stick with the sugar-free syrups and go easy on the milk.

Of course, this trendy peach drink isn't the only way dieters can enjoy a treat from Starbucks. Turoff said a misto (drip coffee with steamed milk) is another good option. "Because espresso drinks only have a few ounces of liquid from the actual espresso shot, they need a lot more milk which adds carbohydrates," she explained. "By ordering a coffee misto, you're cutting [out] a lot of milk but you still feel like you're having a latte."

If you don't like coffee, you can also make this type of drink with tea. "I order a take on the chai tea latte by asking for regular chai tea [made from the bags, not the sweetened concentrate used in the menu drink] and then I ask for one to two pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup and I have them add steamed milk to make it frothy and thicker!"

But, of course, a lot of people crave icy beverages during warm weather seasons. Another fun hack? Ask for your drink to be blended! "You can order an iced coffee with milk, sugar-free syrup ... and ask them to blend it for you," said Turoff. "It's reminiscent of a frappucino ... without all the calories!"

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