Food Trends

6 Seasonal Starbucks Drinks–and What a Nutritionist Thinks About Each

The holiday season just wouldn’t be complete without a new wintertime Starbucks specialty coffee. This year it’s a juniper latte–which has been met with mixed reactions on Twitter.

Intrigued? Before you try the new seasonal sip, here’s the lowdown on its ingredients and nutrition facts, plus how it compares to five of the chain’s other holiday selections. And just in case you’re tempted to tack a sweet treat or two onto your order, here are some tips to make those picks just a bit healthier, too.

Juniper Latte

The first thing I look at when evaluating nutrition facts–even before calories and the like–is the ingredients list. In this drink, the juniper syrup is made with a few types of sugar, along with a preservative, and the pine citrus sugar dusting provides additional sugar, along with cornstarch, natural flavors, and spices.

Unlike the PSL, there are no dairy-based ingredients in the juniper latte, and it can be ordered with any type of milk. A tall made with almond milk provides 130 calories, 21 grams of carbs with 18 from sugar (more than 4 teaspoons worth), 4.5 grams of fat, and 2 grams of protein. While I wouldn’t recommend drinking this daily, it’s not awful as an occasional treat. Just keep in mind that women should consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day, according to the American Heart Association guidelines. So make this your treat and savor it, rather than thinking of it as a beverage to pair with another goodie.

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Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha

This seasonal concoction is one of the most decadent Starbucks has to offer. A tall made with whole milk and whipped cream contains 420 calories, 56 grams of carbs with 55 from sugar (nearly 14 teaspoons worth), 17 grams of fat, and 11 grams of protein. That’s 10 additional calories and 42 more grams of sugar than an almond croissant. Ingredient-wise, the white chocolate mocha sauce contains condensed skim milk, so this one can’t be made dairy-free, even without the whipped cream.

Chestnut Praline Latte

The chestnut praline syrup, chestnut praline topping, and toffee sugar–each used to make this drink–don’t contain dairy, but they’re packed with plenty of sugar. Still, a tall made with coconut milk and no whipped cream isn’t a bad way to go for 160 calories, 26 grams of carbs with 24 as sugar, 6 grams of fat, and a gram of protein. Again, choose this as an occasional splurge, and balance it out with plenty of veggies and lean protein. For example, if you order this to start your day, eat a cup of raw veggies first (like red bell pepper strips or sliced cucumbers) along with a few hard-boiled eggs–and think of this as your dessert of the day.

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Caramel Brulée Latte

This drink’s brulée sauce contains skim milk powder, so it’s a no-go if you’re dairy-free. If you’re A-OK with that, a tall made with skim milk and no whip is the leanest way to go. This version will cost you 250 calories, 51 grams of carbs with 34 from sugar (more than 8 teaspoons worth), 0 grams of fat, and 10 grams of protein. The whipped cream adds an extra 60 calories, 3 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of fat.

Eggnog Latte

According to Starbucks, the eggnog ingredients in this drink vary by location, but eggnog is typically made from milk, cream, sugar, and eggs. The company’s website estimates that a tall made with whole milk contains 380 calories, 45 grams of carbs with 42 as sugar, 17 grams of fat, and 13 grams of protein. That’s a decent protein content, but it’s bundled with over 10 teaspoons of sugar–the amount in about five large candy canes. If you really love eggnog, consider forgoing the coffee version and enjoy the real deal at a holiday party instead.

Gingerbread Latte

There’s no dairy in the gingerbread syrup used to sweeten this specialty coffee. For a completely dairy-free version that’s not too calorific, opt for a tall made with almond milk and no whipped cream. It provides just 130 calories, 21 grams of carbs with 19 as sugar, 4.5 grams of fat, and 2 grams of protein. Even without the dairy and whipped cream, this is an enjoyable, festive treat–and it doesn’t blow your entire daily added sugar budget.

RELATED: These 5 Herbal Teas Have the Biggest Health Benefits

Seasonal snacks

If you prefer to bite into your splurge rather than sip it, this year’s sweet treat selection includes an adorable iced Snowman Cookie, the longstanding Cranberry Bliss Bar, and a new Sugar Plum Cheese Danish.

The cookie clocks in at 390 calories, 45 grams of carbs, including 23 as sugar (almost 6 teaspoons worth), 23 grams of fat, and 4 grams of protein. The bar contains 300 calories, 37 grams of carbs with 26 from sugar, along with 15 grams of fat, and 3 grams of protein. The danish, the highest-calorie pick of the trio, provides 330 calories and 42 grams of carbs, with less sugar at 16 grams, along with 15 grams of fat, and 7 grams of protein.

For a seasonal Starbucks baked good that’s less of a splurge, consider a cute Penguin Cake Pop for 150 calories, 21 grams of carbs with 15 grams from sugar, 8 grams of fat, and 2 grams of protein.

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Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.

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