It has become more common for people to be aware of their sugar intake, and while those extra-sugary drinks at Starbucks can really hit the spot, they aren’t always the best for us.
A push for healthier living is one of the main things that prompted the range of sugar free Starbucks drinks, but which are the best ones? In this article, we will break down what exactly is sugar free Starbucks drinks and what are the best ones you can try on your next visit.
What does Sugar-free Mean?
Starbucks sugar-free drinks are sugar-free insofar as they haven’t added sugar to them. That’s not to say there isn’t any.
There’s sugar in everything: milk, onions, tomatoes, lemons, potatoes, and even grains like rye, barley, sorghum, and wheat. Starbucks doesn’t use artificial flavors or sweeteners for the most part (although they are available on request), so using real ingredients means you’re stuck with some sugar at least, although it’s usually from fruit.
The good news is that the sugar in fruit is generally much lower on the glycemic index than sucrose (processed sugar) or corn syrup. Because they’re absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream, your body gets a chance to burn them more efficiently.
It’s when your body has an excess of sugar that it has no immediate use for that it stores it away by turning it into fat.
What Does Zero Calories Mean?
Calories come from protein, carbohydrates, and fat. As a general rule of thumb, 1g of carbohydrate provides 4 calories, 1g of protein provides 4 calories, and 1g of fat provides 9 calories.
When Starbucks says that a drink contains 0 calories, they mean 0 calories from fat.
The Top 10 Sugar Free Starbucks Drinks
1. Pike Place Roast Filter
Try it black, with no milk or sugar.
If you’re imagining something that tastes bitter, you couldn’t be more wrong. The Pike Place Roast is a supremely satisfying blend of South American coffees with a delicious nutty taste and a chocolatey texture that more than makes up for the lack of milk and sugar. In fact, milk and sugar would spoil it, like mixing wine and coke or whiskey and lemonade.
Pike Place Roast with no milk or sugar is devoid of carbs, fat, protein, sugar, or calories.
For Atkins adherents, this drink has 0g of carbohydrates
2. Emperor’s Cloud and Mist Tea
Emperor’s Cloud & Mist is a green tea grown at altitude (hence the cloud and mist). It’s sweet with a nutty, spinach flavor and contains no carbs, fat, sugar, protein, or calories of any description.
Don’t be surprised if you break a light sweat.
This tea contains 0g of carbohydrates if you drink it black.
3. Jade Citrus Mint Tea
If Emperor’s Cloud & Mist is too harsh for you, or if your system is clamoring for something forbidden and fun, with a hint of decadence, try Jade Citrus Mint Tea.
It’s green tea flavored with spearmint, lemongrass, and lemon verbena. It’s sweet, even though none of its ingredients bears anything but a passing resemblance to calories.
The tea has 0g of carbohydrates.
4. Espresso Macchiato
When I crave something more substantial, I get a Doppio Espresso Macchiato: two espressos poured over the top of steamed 2% milk and 2% milk foam.
Starbucks has four non-dairy alternatives with less sugar than regular milk: almond (3g), oat (7g), coconut (8g), and soy (10g).
Fat-free dairy milk doesn’t have the additives and sucrose of the sugar alternatives, it does have essential nutrients, like calcium and protein.
To this, you can add a single pump of sugar-free vanilla syrup, Starbucks’ lowest-cal sweetener, for a grand total of 20 calories.
This contains a mere 0.8g of carbohydrates. Caffeine, by the way, is an excellent appetite suppressant.
5. Cold-Brew Coffee with Milk
It’s cold-brew coffee served over ice with a dash of 2% milk, a nice alternative to the macchiato if you’re tired of hot drinks.
Cold-brew coffee has everything: flavor, body, texture, and a mega dose of caffeine. It’s so thick and full, it’s practically a snack food. It’s made by soaking ground coffee in water at room temperature for anything from 12 to 18 hours, bringing out the sweetness and lowering the acidity.
Add a single pump of vanilla syrup for a calorie count of 20. You can also ask for cold foam which is whipped nonfat dairy milk.
You can add a sprinkle or two of cinnamon or nutmeg for extra flavor.
This cold-brew coffee has 2g of carbohydrates depending on your milk options.
6. Chai Tea
Chai Tea is one of the popular sugar-free options. It’s a hot, black, aromatic tea infused with ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, and star anise. It is the kind of drink you want to remember the next time you’ve got a cold.
Make sure you order the chai made with tea bags, not the concentrate.
Star anise is a spice made from the fruit of an evergreen tree grown in China. It has a sweet licorice flavor and is famed for its soothing, calming properties.
Add a cold-foam head of whipped nonfat dairy and a splash of fat-free or 2% milk to dial back a bit on its earthy splendor and you’ve got a drink that’ll hit the spot for a grand total of 10 calories.
Not to be confused with the 240-calorie chai tea latte.
Chai Tea has 0.3g of carbohydrates per 100g.
7. Nitro Cold Brew Coffee
Nitro Cold Brew is a slow-roasted cold-brew coffee infused with nitrogen. It’s sweet and silky-smooth, with the kind of texture and body only possible with a cold brew.
Taste it on its own before you start adding anything to it. Chances are, you won’t want to. Nitro is a 5-calorie treat that will completely fool your body into thinking that it’s just had a generous helping of sugar and fat.
8. Earl Grey Tea
Earl Grey is a hot, black Teavana tea infused with dry bergamot extract and lavender.
Bergamot is a citrus fruit. Lavender is a sort of mint. The result is a highly fragrant, aromatic tea bursting with flavor. Only a tiny bit of bergamot is used so the fruit content is minimal.
Best enjoyed with a splash of (fat-free or 2%) milk for a total of, at most, 10 calories.
9. Teavana Sparkling Unsweetened Peach Nectarine Green Tea
A premium white Teavana green flavored with peach and nectarine extracts.
Peaches and nectarines are low in both carbs and calories so the final calorie count is about 12.
For Atkinson adherents, this drink has 1g of carbohydrates. There are no calories in carbon dioxide.
10. Iced Passion Tango Tea
This is a blend of apple juice extract, water, hibiscus (for color), lemongrass, licorice root, cinnamon, and ice.
A refreshing drink with no caffeine, perfect for those blazing hot summer days when just drawing breath makes you break a sweat.
It contains a mere 10 calories despite the apple juice extract.
Important Side Note
If you’re ordering iced coffees from the app, the default setting adds a dollop of Starbucks’ Classic syrup. Make sure you delete it before hitting send.
Sugar Free Starbucks Drinks – Conclusion
Replacing your favorite Starbucks syrups with sugar-free versions goes a long way to lowering your overall calorie count. Most of them are virtually indistinguishable from the original flavors.
Since they are only there to sweeten the drink, you can safely replace them with one of the Starbucks sugar-free sweetener options like Splenda, Sugar in the Raw, Equal, and Stevia.
Don’t forget that milk also contains sugar, so adding a dash of dairy will also sweeten up your drink, but make sure that you ask for fat-free otherwise, you will get 2% which contains significantly more calories (half a calorie per gram as opposed to one-third of a calorie).