Unless you take your coffee black or shoot espresso like a champ, you’re likely consuming a few extra calories and taxing your coffee budget every time you cater to your caffeine craving. Whether you’re a Starbucks regular or simply an opportunistic customer, those visits can add up—both in terms of your health and your spending. Follow these seven Starbucks hacks to keep your gold star status without ruining your healthy eating or financial resolutions.
1. Skip the soy milk
Starbucks’ own brand soy milk contains 130 calories, four grams of fat, and 13 grams of sugar per cup (note: a tall is one and a half cups, so you’re ingesting even more than the serving size). If you’ve ever wondered why your Starbucks latte tastes sweeter than the latte you buy from that third-wave coffee shop, those 13 grams of sugar explain why. While the company loads its soy beverage with additional sugar, it goes easy on the almond and coconut milk. The shop’s signature almond milk only contains 60 calories and three grams of sugar, and the coconut option contains 80 calories and eight grams of sugar. Next time you order that chai or mocha, consider almond or coconut milk to slash those calories by half.
2. Order straight espresso
If you always cringe when you see that “+$.80” pop up on the cash register, try this money-saving hack: Order a double espresso in a tall cup and ask for a side of steamed non-dairy milk of your choice. You’ll pay the price of an espresso ($2.25) and sidestep the steep, dairy-free upcharge. Pour the plant milk into your espresso and voila—you’ve paid fifty-percent less for your daily latte. If you prefer a flavored beverage, ask for the espresso with a pump of your favorite syrup. You’ll pay $0.50 extra but it’s still far cheaper than your typical $5.55 vanilla latte.
3. Customize your flavorings
A flavored tall Starbucks beverage contains three pumps of syrup. Each pump contains 20 calories and five grams of sugar—resulting in 60 additional calories and 15 grams of added sugar in your 12-ounce pick-me-up. We’ve found that two pumps for a tall is more than sweet enough, and if you’re okay with being “that person,” one-and-a-half pumps is perfect. Next time you order, politely ask your friendly barista for a tall (soy, almond, coconut milk) hazelnut latte with only one-and-a-half pumps of syrup.
4. Avoid chocolate or mocha beverages
As much as we love a non-dairy peppermint or hazelnut mocha, these chocolatey espresso beverages contain twice the amount of syrup compared to a tame vanilla latte. For example, the peppermint mocha contains three pumps each of peppermint and mocha syrups for a seriously sweet six pumps of sugar in an innocent-looking tall. While you can request just two pumps of each, you’re still sipping 80 additional calories and 20 grams of excess sugar. Can’t escape the craving? Save these mocha-inspired drinks for special occasions or get a decaf and enjoy for dessert.
5. Ask for heavy foam
Cappuccino-lovers know that foam is the best part of any espresso beverage. When done well, it’s absolutely heavenly and far better than heavy whipped cream. Foam is aerated (non-dairy) milk—making it lighter and less calorie-dense than the liquid portion of your beverage. The more foam in the cup, the less room there is for the calorie-heavy drink. You’ll save a few calories and enjoy even more of that luscious, light-as-air frothy almond milk.
6. Leave out the ice
You might feel odd ordering an iced coffee with no ice, but you’ll win the in the long run. An iced Starbucks beverage can contain up to half the cup of ice—meaning you get less beverage and a seriously watered down espresso experience 20 minutes later. The iced coffee is refrigerated, so it’s already cold. If you’re ordering an iced latte, skip the ice, pop the cup in the freezer (without the lid) for fifteen minutes, and you’ve got yourself a perfectly chilled latte that will retain its potency to the last sip.
7. Go short
Most Starbucks customers are aware of three sizes—tall, grande, and venti. However, there’s a fourth option—the eight-ounce short. This condensed cup allows you to enjoy that sweetened espresso beverage without overdoing it portion-wise. Make your next almond milk vanilla latte a short and save on calories and change.
Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and fitness enthusiast living in Orange County, CA.