Wellbeing Wednesday: Smarter choices for your caffeine fix.

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Smart Switches for your Caffeine Fix

As summer ends and the crisp air of fall glides in, it’s time to put down the iced drink for a hot cup of your favorite latte. The Pumpkin Spice Latte has built up a serious following as the fall drink of choice, but at 380 calories for a 16oz Grande with 2% milk and whipped cream, it’s more of a decadent dessert than a caffeine pick-me-up.

As a general rule, the more that’s added to your coffee drink, the more calories you’re going to get. Espresso, drip coffee, and the various teas are more trustworthy sources for your daily caffeine, while specialty lattes, frappuccinos and mochas are drinks to beware of. These will give you the caffeine boost you need, but expect a load of sugar and the calories of a small meal. Look below to find a list of Starbucks Grande drinks that weigh in under 150 calories.

Smart switches to make to your drinks:

You are craving that fall-flavored PSL, but trying to be conscious of the extra calories and sugar that your body just doesn’t need right now. Here are some easy options to make that decadent choice just a little bit better.

1.     Choose a smaller size: Without sacrificing any of the flavor you love, you can trim down your drink by over 170 kcal just by taking a short (8oz) or tall (12 oz) size instead of a Grande (16oz) size.

2.     Ask for the ‘skinny’ version: This tells the barista to use nonfat milk, no whipped cream or foam, and sugar free syrup. This could take a mocha from 360 calories down to 160 calories.

3.     Ask for half the pumps of flavored syrup: Some flavored syrups don’t have a sugar free version, or maybe you think the sugar-free version just isn’t the same. You can still cut back on sugar by asking for fewer pumps of flavoring.

4.     Avoid the extra whipped cream and foam: Just taking the whipped cream off a drink can cut it back by 70 to 100 calories.

5.     Ask for a different milk: Skim milk is the easy choice to cut back on calories while keeping all the flavor and protein, but maybe you have a milk intolerance or just want to make a lighter choice.  Coconut milk, soy milk, and almond milk are all available options.


I have nothing against getting a delicious specialty latte once in a while, (in fact I tried the s’mores frap this summer and it was to die for!) but it’s good to know what you’re getting. To keep in line with your goals, be smart about your choices or try to make a few little adjustments in other parts of your day; you might take an extra little jog or forgo the deep-dish pizza for dinner. Let’s put these sweet indulgences into the “occasional treat” category rather than the “daily necessity”.

To try a special fall flavored drink at home, click to view these recipes courtesy of Starbucks:


Candace Garner is an RDN with a Master’s in Kinesiology through the University of Wyoming. She obtained her personal trainer certification through ACE and also teaches the Group Training and Boot Camp classes at Purenergy Fitness. She finds her inspiration from those individuals who are willing to put in the work to see real results, especially those who start from the bottom. She believes that you are capable of more than you realize, and that you are worth the investment in yourself and your future. She is very excited to be starting work with Purenergy because she believes it is a great platform to influence others in a positive way.

To find a Registered Dietitian near you, you can use the ‘Find an Expert’ tab on the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics http://www.eatright.org/. Skip the gimmicks and the easy way out that never works.  For lasting, sustainable results, rely on a registered dietitian to help you make the positive lifestyle changes you need.

Candace Garner, MS, RDN


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