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A nutritionist shares the best things to order at Starbucks — and what to skip

Whether you’re out for an adventure or just out and about the city, you can be sure that you will encounter a Starbucks along the way. It’s comforting to know that you can rely on healthy eating no matter where you are. That’s the beauty of Starbucks. Still, there are a few menu options that you may want to skip. Here are the best things to eat at Starbucks and a few things you might want to eat less frequently.

What Makes a Healthy Starbucks Meal?

Restaurant meals typically contain more sodium and saturated fat and fewer vegetables, fruits, and whole grains compared to meals eaten at home. But since we all eat out from time to time, here are some sensible goals to keep in mind when eating at Starbucks:

  • The meals contain at least one serving of vegetables or fruit, or ideally even more.
  • Cereal meals and snacks include whole grains, preferably as the primary cereal ingredient.
  • The sodium content is 800 milligrams or less – just over a third of the maximum you should have in a day.

What can you order from Starbucks

If you’re hungry for a meal, here are some healthy options.

Hot breakfast

Wrap with spinach, feta and egg white

Granted, this offering contains a little more sodium than our target, but it scores points for the predominantly whole grain packaging. It also has a filling combination of fiber and protein with 20 grams of the latter. While this meal contains vegetables, it likely doesn’t contain enough to qualify as a full serving. Still, some are better than none. And you could pick up a banana at the counter to increase your product intake.

Turkey Bacon Cheddar Egg White Sandwich

Turkey bacon is processed meat, so this may not be the best choice for a regular breakfast. But if you decide between this and any of the other breakfast sandwiches, this Sammy is a better option as it has less sodium and more whole grains than the others. In addition, the 17 grams of protein fill you up. Combine it with a fruit cup or a banana to get some fruits and vegetables inside.

Classic oatmeal

This menu option is a perfect alternative for making oatmeal at home. It comes with dried fruits and nuts that, along with the oats, provide 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein to fill your tummy. It also comes with a side dish of brown sugar that you can omit or add sparingly. When you have a hearty appetite, reach for any extra nuts and fruits that you have with your oats.

Having lunch

Chicken & Quinoa Protein Bowl with Black Beans

This meal is on par with the veggie brand but exceeds our sodium goal. That is to be expected when eating. That said, we love the antibiotic-free chicken and plant-based protein combo, which provides a total of 27 grams of this filling nutrient. The bowl also has an impressive 9 grams of fiber.

Chickpea Bites & Avocado Protein Box

Sodium less than 800 mg? Check. A portion of vegetables? Check. It’s nice to find a meal that meets these healthy goals and has 13 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein. This box is likely enough for a moderate appetite, but if your appetite is bigger, have it with a fruit cup by the side.

Grilled Chicken & Hummus Protein Box

Here’s another meal that meets our sodium and vegetable needs. A small nitpick: the naan is made from refined grain (in other words processed white flour). However, you are still getting 7 grams of fiber from that lunch box. If you want a side dish, try the fruit cup or a banana.

Snacks

Siggi’s yoghurt tub, vanilla

This lightly sweetened yogurt has 15 grams of protein for just 110 calories. Enjoy it with the fruit salad for a more filling snack or a light breakfast. If you make a meal out of it, buy the nuts too. The added crunch makes your meal more filling, with more fiber and healthy fat.

Squirrel brand Classic almonds

This almond tin contains more nuts than a standard serving, but you can save half for later and combine your almonds with one of the fruit options. About 80 percent of Americans don’t get their fruit needs, but since Starbucks has at least three different varieties, it’s easy to get something to go with with your snack.

What to skip (or just move on) at Starbucks

While there are many healthy options on the Starbucks menu, there are of course some less healthy options as well. If you routinely eat nutritious whole foods – especially plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and whole grains – a sugary treat or white bread bagel is no big deal. However, if most of your meals are high in added sugars and refined grains and low in whole plant foods, it can potentially lead to health problems across the board. So eat these menu options less often, but when you do eat them stay present while you enjoy them and move on to a healthier diet for your next meal or snack.

beverages

Coffee alone is an antioxidant drink that can help you feel energized and focused. However, many of the add-ins, including the plant-based milk, are heavily sweetened, making your coffee drink more like dessert than a slight mood lift. It’s generally better to avoid these drinks as they can quickly get you near or above recommended daily sugar goals of 25 grams per day for women and 36 grams per day for men. Case in point: The Honey Almond Milk Flat White contains 24 grams of sugar. The Cinnamon Dolce Latte has 40 grams of sugar. And the Strawberry Funnel Cake Frappuccino has 51 grams of sugar. For comparison: The Chocolate Chip Cookie at Starbucks contains 31 grams of sugar.

Bakery products

Certainly a pastry here and there can be part of a healthy diet. But if a Starbucks baked good is an everyday breakfast or snack, it’s likely a habit that could use some attention. The refined grains and added sugar won’t fill you up, leaving you hungry soon after you eat them. Foods made with these types of carbohydrates are also associated with less energy and less alertness. These ingredients have also been linked to inflammation, which can promote health problems from cancer to Alzheimer’s.

It’s probably obvious, but smaller servings are preferable to larger ones. For example, the Birthday Cake Pop has 170 calories and 18 grams of sugar compared to the 480 calorie chocolate brownie with 37 grams of sugar. For an even tamer sweet treat, try the Rip Van Wafel from the packaged snack selection. According to the Starbucks website, it contains 8 grams of sugar. The vanilla biscotti with almonds is another option with a reasonable 10 grams of sugar.

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