Have you ever been completely shocked by the amount of sugar in the drinks at Starbucks?! I know I have. If you have diabetes, watching your blood sugar, or just looking to reduce your sugar consumption, I promise you that you can still enjoy Starbucks – you just have to know what to look for.
I’m here to show you that there are some options at Starbucks that are low carb and teach you how to design your own personal low carb Starbucks drink.
Starbucks drinks with less than 10 grams of carbs
Brewed coffee, espresso, & cold brew
I know this is simple… but brewed coffee, espresso, and cold brew are a few super simple zero carb drink options at Starbucks at any size.
You can choose between hot or iced for both coffee and espresso. Another option is to opt for an Americano (hot or iced), which is espresso topped with water. Nitro cold brew is another fantastic option with zero carbs and a velvety mouthfeel.
If you need a touch of sweetness, feel free to add stevia, monk fruit, allulose, or your choice of sugar free sweetener, or perhaps even a pump of their sugar free vanilla syrup for some added flavor. A light splash of your choice of cream or milk also won’t add too many calories or carbs.
Unsweetened hot or iced tea
Another easy zero carb option is unsweetened iced (or hot) tea. Any size will be calorie free and has no carbohydrates or sugar.
Starbucks has many options for teas, including:
- Earl Grey (black tea with bergamot)
- Royal English Breakfast (black tea)
- Chai (black tea with cloves, cinnamon, and ginger)
- Emperor’s Clouds & Mist (green tea)
- Jade Citrus Mint (green tea with mint)
- Mint Majesty (caffeine free herbal tea with mint)
- Peach Tranquility (caffeine free herbal tea with peach)
- Passion Tango (caffeine free herbal tea with hibiscus)
To add some sweetness while still keeping your tea low carb, you can add a sugar-free sweetener to taste such as stevia or monk fruit.
If you typically enjoy hot tea lattes, you can ask your barista to add a splash of cream or your milk of choice to keep the carb count low. You can also add in a pump or two of their sugar free vanilla syrup, which pairs especially well with the black teas.
Lastly, be sure to avoid the shaken iced teas and tea lemonades, as these have added sugar or juices which can increase the overall carbohydrate content.
A grande caffè misto has exactly 10 grams of sugar. This drink is half brewed coffee and half almond milk. Again, you can add a sugar-free sweetener or a couple pumps of sugar free vanilla syrup if you want to sweeten it up. A dash of cinnamon would also be a nice touch to this drink.
Another classic option is a cappuccino, made with espresso and steamed milk. The tall size will ring you in at 9 grams of carbs which come mostly from the added milk.
With just 9 grams of carbs in a short, a flat white is another good low carb option. A flat white is made with 2 ristretto shots of espresso and steamed milk.
A macchiato is espresso topped with a small amount of steamed milk and foam. A doppio (or double shot of espresso) macchiato has just 2 grams of carbs.
Sugar free blonde vanilla latte
One of these hot in a 12 oz tall size contains just 8 grams of carbs. The iced version of the same size will have slightly less sugar due to the fact that it has less milk added to the cup.
Just make sure to specify “sugar free” so your barista adds the sugar free vanilla syrup instead of the classic vanilla syrup, and you’ll save yourself about 20 grams of carbohydrates.
Sources of carbs in Starbucks drinks
Milk and cream
One source of carbs in Starbucks drinks comes from the milk.
Per 8 oz, here is the amount of carbs each milk option at Starbucks contains:
- Cow’s milk (skim, 2%, whole) = 12 grams
- Soy milk = 16 grams
- Coconut milk = 8 grams
- Almond milk = 5 grams
- Oat milk = 16 grams
Half and half has about 1 gram of carbs per 2 tablespoons, and heavy cream has about 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon.
A tall latte will contain about 10 oz of milk when hot, and about 6 oz when iced. A grande latte has about 14 oz when hot, and about 8 oz when iced. Lastly, a venti latte will have about 18 oz of milk when hot, and 16 oz when iced.
Syrups and sweeteners
Starbucks loves to sweeten their drinks to pretty insane levels. Did you know that if you order an iced coffee with milk through the Starbucks app, they automatically add 4 pumps of their classic syrup? Each pump has about 5 grams of carbs… so this equates to 20 grams of carbs, which is 80 calories just from simple sugars… Pretty crazy right?
They also have a plethora of flavored syrups that they add to both their seasonal and classic drinks. While most of these syrups also have 5 grams of carbs, some of them are even higher. The mocha syrup has 6 grams of carbs per pump and the white mocha syrup has 11 grams of carbs per pump.
In their standard drink recipes, Starbucks adds 2 pumps of syrups for a short, 3 pumps for a tall, 4 pumps for a grande, and 5 or 6 pumps for a venti. This means that you could be getting anywhere from 10 to 30 grams of carbs from the syrups alone.
The good news is that there is a sugar free vanilla syrup, so you can always ask to substitute this syrup for the others. The sugar free vanilla syrup has a mere 1 g of carbs per 4 pumps. Unfortunately, there aren’t usually many other sugar free syrup options. Sometimes you can find sugar free cinnamon dolce, hazelnut, peppermint, and mocha. Just be sure to ask your barista.
Many people might see a green matcha latte and associate its green color with it being “healthy.” However, Starbucks uses sweetened matcha powder to make their matcha drinks, which will provide you with 20 grams or more of sugar just from the powder.
How to customize your Starbucks drinks
Now that you know the carb sources in Starbucks drinks and how much milk/sweetener they typically add in for each size, you can design your own personal low carb beverage using this information.
Starting with the milk, your best option in terms of carbohydrate content is actually almond milk, which has just 5 grams per cup. Half and half also has very little carb content, but it is higher in calories and saturated fat, so I wouldn’t recommend this option.
Another option would be to ask for half heavy cream and half water in lieu of milk, if you want something that tastes a little closer to milk than almond milk does but has far fewer carbs. The main downside with this is that you will also be adding in quite a bit of fat and calories if you choose heavy cream. If you’re watching your fat or calorie intake, this is probably not the best option for you.
There’s nothing wrong with choosing dairy milk in your beverage, such as low fat milk. But keep in mind, 12 ounces of low fat dairy milk contains about 17 grams of carbohydrate, so it will increase the total carbs more than almond milk.
If your Starbucks has multiple sugar free syrup options, you can also play around with these to try to imitate other classic Starbucks drinks.
If you want to reduce the carbs in a seasonal drink, keep in mind that the regular syrups have about 5 grams of carbs per pump, so in order to keep it low carb you will have to use only 1-2 pumps and opt for almond milk or half and half/heavy cream with water.
Examples of custom low carb drinks
One example of a low carb formula using cold brew as your base could be: grande cold brew, with 2 pumps of any syrup flavor, with a splash of half and half or heavy cream. You can add a pump or two of sugar free vanilla syrup or a packet of stevia if you prefer it a bit sweeter.
You can also use the same formula above but with a caffè misto made with almond milk as your base.
Another example of customizing a low carb drink is that you could ask for a low carb frappuccino by ordering a tall iced coffee with almond milk or a splash of half and half/heavy cream along with a couple pumps of sugar free vanilla syrup and extra ice, blended. If there are other sugar free syrup flavors, you can add 1-2 pumps of another flavor to spice it up.
Feel free to experiment. Part of the fun of Starbucks is that the options are nearly infinite. Get creative… you may just find your newest go-to low carb drink!
Caffeine and Blood Sugar
In addition to lowering the added sugar in your favorite Starbucks drink, remember that caffeine can also have an impact on blood sugar. For some people with diabetes, a caffeinated beverage even without added carbs can cause blood glucose levels to increase. So always be sure to test your blood sugar to guage your individual response. And if needed, choose decaffeinated options.
The bottom line
Starbucks beverages are typically packed with large amounts of added sugar and carbohydrates.
Luckily, there are many options for people who want to reduce their sugar intake.
You can strategically order off of the classic menu, or you can experiment a bit to create your own personalized low carb drink based on the carb amounts of the various milks and syrups.