It’s Official: This is the Healthiest Way to Order a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks
Fall is here and pumpkin spice season (PSL) is in full swing. The limited-time Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is an iconic — albeit divisive — fan favorite. But if you consider the many grams of sugar, calories, and fat that goes into one cup, it becomes apparent that while the Pumpkin Spice Latte is very cozy and autumnal-feeling, it can do some serious damage to your health if consumed regularly. However, there are ways to order a healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte so you can still enjoy this fall classic without going overboard.
Here’s your guide to ordering the PSL off the menu with a few easy tweaks to better protect your health. Just request these modifications from your barista and you’ll be enjoying a healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte in no time (and it will still be super delicious, promise).
Think of Size
“An easy way to decrease the calories and sugar when ordering a pumpkin spice latte is to go with a tall vs. a grande,” says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD. You save yourself about 80 calories just by opting for the smaller size, and there’s still plenty to enjoy.
You can still get those pumpkin pie spice flavors and whipped cream if you like, but you’ll have less simply due to the smaller cup. If you want a larger drink, go with plain a cappuccino or plain signature espresso with a dusting of pumpkin spice topping or real pumpkin pie spices, or try the pumpkin cream cold brew, which comes with cold foam for a chilled pumpkin coffee drink that is lower in calories, sugar, and fat.
The Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, which was added to the fall menu three years ago, tastes like a healthy pumpkin spice latte, but because cold brew is less sweet, it doesn’t feel as over-the-top. Plus, it still has that classic, frothy texture on top: This drink is creamy and satisfying, and the pumpkin cream bold foam feels like a healthier version of whipped cream, too.
Lower the Sugar
“There are three pumps of pumpkin sauce in a grande, giving it nearly 40 grams of sugar — yikes, that’s scary even for spooky season,” says Michalczyk. “I also think it makes the drink too sweet, so ask for one pump of pumpkin sauce to take the sugar way down.”
If you ask, your barista will also use just a half a pump of pumpkin sauce if you want to get that calorie count even lower, and this choice will also help prevent a mid-morning sugar crash.
Fix the Milk
Traditionally, the PSL is made with 2% milk. Swapping that for skim will help decrease some of the fat content. Not doing dairy? No problem: Opt for almond milk or oat milk for a dairy-free Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte. “A milk alternative will also help decrease the overall fat content without sacrificing flavor,” Michalczyk says.
“Some of the dairy alternatives like oat milk will even make your latte extra creamy and delicious! The biggest thing with oat milk is that it’s dairy free and super creamy, so even if you’re skipping the milk, oat milk can give it a really nice creaminess,” she says.
Hold the Whip
“I say save the whipped cream for pumpkin pie instead of your coffee,” Michalczyk says. “Whipped cream adds calories, fat, and sugar, so opting out of topping your latte with it is a simple way to decrease all of those.” You can also just sprinkle some extra pumpkin pie spices on top, or simply take turns with yourself: order your healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte sometimes with whip and sometimes without.
Michalczyk recognizes that it is nice to enjoy the whipped cream once in a while, if you really love it. “In that case, I recommend ordering your drink with ‘light whip.’” That’s the signal to your barista to go easy on the whipped cream — a happy medium if ever we heard one.
Enjoy That Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte
The Pumpkin Spice Latte is only around for a limited time, and it’s become a classic component of fall, so if you enjoy a PSL, go for it. “I say sip it, enjoy it without guilt, and savor the season while it lasts,” Michalczyk says.
But if you want to just enjoy the flavors of the PSL without going all the way for a latte, Michalczyk has an amazing Starbucks hack for you:
“Another way to order the drink that significantly takes down the sugar and calories content is to order an americano (which is just espresso and water) and ask for half a pump of pumpkin sauce! It’s not as creamy as the real thing, but can be a good option, especially if you need your pumpkin fix everyday,” she says.
This sounds like a great, sustainable version for a daily dose of this seasonal treat: you’ll get that pumpkin flavor you desire, but for far fewer calories.
And if you want to save some cash this fall — in addition to saving calories — check out our Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipes You Can Make at Home.