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What's the healthiest Starbucks drink? Dietitians share their No. 1 picks

Tips to order the healthiest drinks at Starbucks and top picks for food to go with your morning coffee.
Starbucks
/ Source: TODAY

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A daily stop at Starbucks can give you the extra pep in your step you need to get through the day. Not only does the popular coffee chain have a wide array of caffeinated beverages, but it’s also home to many high-calorie and sugary drinks. Some of the drinks at Starbucks have as many calories as a snack or meal. That’s why it’s important to enter the coffee shop armed with the knowledge of how to choose the healthiest Starbucks drinks. 

We asked two registered dietitians to choose their favorite healthy drinks at Starbucks. And don’t worry — you can order more than just black coffee. Their responses spanned from teas to espresso drinks and even included a sweet treat or two. 

What to look for in a healthy Starbucks drink

Dietitians agree that certain elements determine the nutritional value of a drink at Starbucks.

“I tend to choose those that include a greater portion of black coffee versus creamers, milks and syrups,” says registered dietitian and author Elizabeth Shaw. She adds that these drinks supply a caffeine fix without overdoing it on calories, saturated fat or sugar. (Examples of drinks that have more calories and sugar include Frappucinos and lattes with syrups or whipped cream.)

Registered dietitian Mandy Enright agrees, adding, “Anything that comes in a ready-to-mix powder, such as the matcha or chai, is also one to watch out for because these tend to have sugar mixed into the powders, making it much harder to customize and remove those sweeteners.” Enright also points out that the Starbucks website and app are transparent with their ingredients and nutrition info, so use these tools to assess your favorite drink. In addition, look for opportunities to make customizations that can reduce calories, saturated fat and added sugars.

What is the healthiest drink at Starbucks?

It’s safe to have up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day (or about four cups of coffee daily). As a matter of fact, drinking coffee can be beneficial for your heart, brain and waist. In addition, tea is rich in compounds that fight inflammation and reduce blood pressure. That's why the top healthy picks include coffee and tea drinks.

Caffè Latte

A latte combines espresso with milk, so it offers a little more than just a caffeine boost. “I love a latte because half of it is milk, so you’re getting a good source of protein and some nutrients, like vitamin D and calcium, along with a caffeine jolt,” says Enright. She recommends opting for low-fat milk to keep calories down. If you follow a plant-based diet, choose soy milk for a similar protein content. As a bonus, the protein in this coffee drink can help keep you full in between meals.

Iced Passion Tango Tea

This zero-calorie and unsweetened iced tea combines hibiscus, lemongrass and apple, giving it a hint of sweetness. Enright says the hibiscus supplies antioxidants that ward off inflammation. Plus, hibiscus is an herbal tea with zero caffeine, so drink it any time you need something refreshing and tasty.

Other healthiest Starbucks drinks

Caffè Americano

This is Shaw's staple order at Starbucks. “It gives me the caffeine fix I crave first thing in the morning,” says Shaw. She adds a splash of oat milk and one pump of sugar-free vanilla syrup to create a creamy and sweet drink with fewer than 30 calories.

And there’s no harm in jazzing up the Americano, Shaw says: “Some people aren’t a fan of the sugar-free syrups since they contain the non-nutritive sweetener, sucralose, but there is no danger or concern in consuming this ingredient in moderation.” 

Green Tea

Try a hot or cold green tea for a slightly lower caffeine boost than coffee. Green tea has L-theanine, an amino acid with calming effects, and polyphenols that have anti-inflammatory benefits, says Enright. This refreshing beverage is naturally unsweetened and calorie-free.

Peach Green Tea

Another option is the iced peach green tea, which is sweetened with a juice blend. It has 60 calories and 12 grams of sugar, so it's better to save this as a refreshing treat on a hot summer day, rather than an everyday item.

Nitro Cold Brew

Nitro cold brew is slow-steeped for 20 hours and infused with nitrogen as it comes out of the tap. Shaw points out that it has more caffeine (265 milligrams) than a typical cup of coffee, so she recommends making sure it aligns with your normal caffeine intake. Although it has a creamy texture, the nitro cold brew has just 5 calories.

Vanilla Sweet Cream Nitro Cold Brew

This creamy cold brew is slightly sweetened with vanilla cream to satisfy your tastebuds and offer a caffeine fix.

“Unlike the other sweetened beverages, this has just 4 grams of sugar and only 70 calories, so it’s a fun beverage to incorporate into your meal plan without wreaking havoc on your blood sugars,” says Shaw. 

Healthiest Starbucks foods

Looking for breakfast to go with your morning coffee run, you may want to grab one of Starbucks many delicious-looking pastries or breakfast sandwiches. But this is another area where you should be careful what you order and lean on the nutritional info on the Starbucks website or in the store.

Some of the healthiest fast foods at Starbucks include rolled and steel-cut oatmeal and the egg and cheddar protein box, TODAY.com previously reported.