For many people, a trip to Starbucks is a daily ritual. Whether you're grabbing your morning caffeine fix or meeting a friend for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, Starbucks is a go-to spot for many. However, if you're watching your blood sugar, it can be challenging to find something to order that won't cause a spike or crash. In an attempt to help make your next Starbucks visit healthier, we have compiled a quick guide with blood sugar-friendly ordering suggestions.
First, let's talk about why stable blood sugar is essential. When your blood sugar levels are stable, you'll feel more energized, focused, and less hungry throughout the day. On the other hand, when your blood sugar levels fluctuate too much, you may experience symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, and mood swings. Additionally, when our blood sugar continually spikes and dives, it is harmful to our metabolic health. Over time, this can lead to conditions like metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, or type 2 diabetes. The good news is, we can prevent these conditions from happening if we control our blood sugar levels.
One way to keep your blood sugar stable is to choose beverages and snacks that are low in sugar and high in protein and fiber. Here are some options to consider:
Blood Sugar Friendly Starbucks Drinks
- Brewed Coffee or Espresso: A plain, black coffee or espresso are great options if you're looking for a low-sugar beverage. Be sure to skip the sugar and creamer, which can add extra carbs to your drink.
- Iced Coffee, no Classic, with Milk: If you prefer a cold drink, try ordering an iced coffee with milk. Milk contains protein and fat, which can help slow down the absorption of sugar in your bloodstream. Starbucks iced coffees include classic syrup by default so be sure to specify that you want your iced coffee “no classic” to avoid the syrup. If you prefer to add a touch of sweetness then ask for a pump of sugar-free syrup. Even though the syrup is “sugar-free,” each pump contains about 1g of carbohydrates so if you are on a strict keto diet then it may be best to keep the coffee black. If you prefer milk alternatives, unsweetened almond milk can be a tasty and low-sugar option.
- Caffè Latte Alternative: If the cappuccino lovers amongst us, try a modified caffè latte. The caffè latte comes with heavy cream so ask for a 50/50 mix of heavy cream and water. By reducing the heavy cream, the fat content of the drink is reduced while still preserving the creamy texture of the drink.
- Brewed Teas: Starbucks has a variety of teas from which to choose. If you want to steer clear of caffeine, then many of the herbal teas will be great options. As a word of caution, the matcha tea is an exception and is not a blood sugar-friendly option. It is made with sweetened powder.
- Chai Tea Latte Alternative: If you are up for ordering a fancy, long-winded Starbucks drink, this one is for you. Ask for a keto chai tea latte with heavy cream, no chai tea syrup, an extra tea bag, and two pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup. The extra tea bag adds flavor and the sugar-free syrup adds a bit of sweetness for only 2g of carbohydrates.
- GOOD IDEA: Even though GOOD IDEA is not available at Starbucks, it can be paired with Starbucks' food or drink to decrease the blood sugar response. Everyone’s blood sugar response to food and drink is different. If you want to try something new or an item outside of our suggestion list, take a GOOD IDEA with you. Drink 1/3 of a can of GOOD IDEA before your snack then finish the can with your food. Our clinical trials show an average reduction in post-meal blood sugar by 25%.
Blood Sugar-Friendly Starbucks Snacks
- Protein Box: If you're looking for a snack, the Starbucks Protein Box is an excellent option. There are a few different versions of the convenient boxes. However, most of them contain a combination of a protein (like hard-boiled eggs), a cheese, and nuts. This provides a good balance of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Additionally, when we consume proteins with our carbohydrates (like a hard-boiled egg with a small slice of multigrain bread) we reduce the resulting rise in blood sugar. If you are on a keto diet or are being extremely diligent about your carbohydrate intake, then you’ll need to set aside a few options in some of the protein boxes. The bread, crackers, and apples are three ingredients that may spike your blood sugar.
- Sous Vide Egg Bites: Another good snack option is the Sous Vide Egg Bites. They come in a variety of flavors and contain protein from eggs and cheese. Since these orders cannot be modified by customers, we have included the nutrition information below.
Kale and mushroom egg bites: 230 calories, 1g sugar, 14g fat, 11g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 15g protein
Bacon and gruyere egg bites: 300 calories, 2g sugar, 20g fat, 9g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 19g protein
Egg white and roasted red pepper egg bites: 170 calories, 3g sugar, 8g fat, 11g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 12g protein
- Some Items Near the Register: A few of the packaged snacks near the register, like beef jerky, string cheese, or moon cheese are low-carb options. Beef jerky has a significantly higher protein content, but it is also high in sodium so if you are watching your salt intake then you may want to pass on this treat.
- Prepackaged Salad: The grilled chicken and cauliflower tabbouleh salad is a healthy mix of protein and fiber (390 calories, 27g fat, 15g carbohydrates (11g net carbohydrates), 4g fiber, 21g protein). If you are looking to reduce the carbohydrates even further, hold the dressing. These salads are great for a healthy snack and have enough protein to keep you feeling full until your next meal.
- Sandwiches and Wraps (but Hold the Bun): Removing the bun from sandwiches will significantly reduce the carbohydrate content. However, it does make your snack significantly messier so be sure to grab a fork. Additionally, once you remove the bun from the sandwich, you basically wind up with an egg bite. So, it may be easier to just order the egg bites in the first place. A breakfast sandwich like the bacon, gouda, and egg sandwich with the bun contains 360 calories, 18g fat, 34g total carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 5g sugars, and 20g protein. It also contains a whopping 840mg of sodium (that’s 31% of your daily value in one sandwich). Taking the bun off the sandwich will reduce the carbohydrates but, unfortunately, it will not help to reduce the sodium content of the sandwich.
The spinach, feta, and egg white wrap is another option where the removal of the wrap would be of help to lower the carbohydrate load. The full wrap includes 290g calories, 8g fat, 34g total carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 5g sugars, 20g protein, and 840mg sodium (37% of DV). Similar to the bacon, gouda, and egg sandwich, removing the wrap reduces your meal to a messier version of an egg bite, so going directly for the egg bites may be your best bet.
Just in case you forget our handy list the next time you visit your favorite coffee hangout, here are a few general rules to keep in mind.
- Skip the Whipped Cream- We know it’s tempting but passing on the whipped cream will significantly reduce the sugar content of our favorite drink. Yes, there are low-carb whipped creams available, but, at this time, they are not available at Starbucks.
- Beware of the Frappuccino- While it is one of Starbucks’ most popular drinks, one grande caramel Frappuccino comes with 50g of sugar. This is more than enough to send your blood sugar on a dramatic spike and dive. If a Frappuccino is your go-to then reduce the pumps of syrup or modify your frap to have sugar-free syrup.
- Pass on the Bakery Items- As a general rule, baked goods contain a high amount of carbohydrates. Cake pops, scones, croissants, and muffins are all calorically dense and are counterproductive for your efforts to maintain stable blood sugar.
- The Oatmeal Conundrum- This is a tricky food. Oatmeal has been shown to lower cholesterol and it does contain healthy fiber. However, there seems to be a wide range of individual variability in people’s glucose response to oatmeal. While many of us select oatmeal thinking it is a healthy option, it can actually send your blood sugar soaring. This is especially true when it is paired with dried fruits (which have a high sugar content). If you are an oatmeal fan then we suggest you test your blood sugar response yourself to be sure that you aren’t accidentally sabotaging all of your hard work to regulate your blood sugar. You can test your blood sugar response by purchasing a continuous glucose monitor (you can buy a prescription online from companies like Tastermonial) or a glucometer (you can find glucometers from companies like BioCoach).
Starbucks Takeaway Message
Choosing the right beverages and snacks when visiting Starbucks can make a big difference in maintaining stable blood sugar levels. By opting for low-sugar options that are high in protein and fiber, you can help keep your energy levels up and avoid the negative effects of blood sugar fluctuations. Remember to be mindful of the sugar content in some of Starbucks' most popular drinks and consider ordering with sugar-free syrup. With these tips, you can enjoy your favorite Starbucks treats without sacrificing your metabolic health.
Author: Dr. Colleen Gulick