New year, new Starbucks! The coffee giant is kicking off 2020 with not just one new beverage, but three new drinks for coffee fanatics to wrap their hands around. The retailer has decided to double down on it’s initiative to bring more plant-based milks to its menu, and you’ll be excited to hear that one insanely popular non-dairy milk may be coming to a café near you. Plus, it seems these new menu additions could actually be some of the best better-for-you options we’ve seen from Starbucks in a while, in terms of sugar counts and overall nutritional value.
Whether you’re enjoying a vegetarian diet or simply looking to ditch dairy this month, Starbucks announced this week that it’ll be adding oat milk to its permanent menu. There’s a small catch: For now, the insanely popular nut-free alt-milk will only be available in 1,300 different Starbucks stores across the Midwest region, mainly Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, but it’ll be provided by fan-favorite brand Oatly. Brierley Horton, MS, RD, who has experience reviewing plant-based milks rigorously for their nutritional value, says that the inclusion of Oatly’s product on Starbucks’ menu may possibly be the only alt-milk free of added sugars available to customers.
If you’re one of the lucky ones living in these areas, you’ll get to add oat milk to your custom Starbucks order — and you’ll also be able to sample Starbucks’ new Oatmilk Honey Latte. Blending a few shots of blonde espresso with steamed oat milk, the new latte is also infused with a honey syrup, which is also free of dairy (according to nutritional records posted by the brand). You’ll find the “Almondmilk Honey Flat White” and “Coconutmilk Latte” on Starbucks’ permanent menu across the entire United States, however. The almond-milk infused espresso also features honey syrup, whereas the coconut-milk option is finished with Starbucks’ cascara syrup, which supposedly adds hints of brown sugar and maple flavoring into the mix.
But understanding which of these plant-based coffee drinks is best for you is tricky. Horton says each beverage offers its own set of distinct advantages; a dieter may be able to skimp on calories with one, whereas a vegetarian may be able to enjoy more fiber and healthy fats with another. Here’s what you need to know about Starbucks’ latest coffee offerings.
Which of Starbucks’ plant-based milks is best for you?
At their core, these three alternative milks are vastly different—in a single eight-ounce serving, skim milk actually offers more protein than almond, oat, and coconut milks. But if you’re trying to save on calories, almond milk is your clear winner; a single eight-ounce serving has just 36 calories, which is vastly less caloric than actual milk, Horton says. “But if you’re goal is to eat healthier overall, personally, I might advocate for oat milk because there’s a much higher fiber count in it, as none of the other alternative milks have naturally occurring fiber,” Horton says. “A lot of us don’t get enough fiber in the day; it’s an easy, slash sneaky, way to get more in when you’re not really trying.” While it’s unclear if Starbucks will charge customers extra for creating coffee drinks with oat milk, Horton says that ordering the new oat milk latte may be more cost effective at Starbucks than any other coffee shop (“It could be another boon for me because most other places upcharge,” she says).
Horton says that coconut milk is in the “middle of the road” when it comes to Starbucks’ alternative milks. It may have less calories than oat milk, but the payoff is a much larger serving of saturated fat, and it’s highest in sugars overall. “I wouldn’t recommend ordering the coconut milk latte every day, because it’s too easy to rack up the saturated fat counts,” Horton says, adding that there is some evidence that suggests plant-based saturated fats may be less harmful than fats found in animal products like steak or whole milk. “If you’re vegetarian or vegan, and not sourcing many other saturated fats in your diet, this option may be safer for you.”
How to order the new oat or almond milk drinks:
A grande-sized oat milk latte at Starbucks has 2g of fiber and 1g of protein, which is something to note, but not worth celebrating, Horton says. There’s about 270 calories in the drink at this size, which isn’t alarming, but the 28g of sugar and 42g of carbohydrates overall may be more of a strain on your daily diet. If you do try Starbucks’ oat milk latte, Horton says you may be able to make the drink marginally healthier by removing the toasted honey topping, which should lower its sugar counts. “If you’re new to oat milk, you’ll want to keep the honey syrup in it — in my personal opinion, you’ll need time for your palate to adjust to oat milk that has no added sugar in it,” Horton advises. “If you’ve been drinking oat milk for a while, ask them to remove the honey topping as well as the honey syrup, as this will drastically lower the sugar counts in your drink and make it a better choice overall.”
But if you’re on a strict diet for the month, a grande almond milk flat white drink is the best choice to maintain weight loss. Horton says her first tip is to remove the added honey syrup here, since the almond milk is already sweetened when it’s added to your coffee, and most of the 24g of sugar in this drink is added. “This drink isn’t offensive at 170 calories, which is equal to a decent sized snack or a portion of your breakfast, especially if you pair it with a lower-calorie option at mealtime.”
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