CSPI's Nutrition Action Healthletter Offers Advice on How to Survive in Latte Land

WASHINGTON—Would you drink a Quarter Pounder with Cheese? If you order a venti (20-oz.) Starbucks Caffè Mocha, you might as well be sipping that 500-calorie burger through a straw. And a venti Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino, with 650 calories and nearly a day’s saturated fat, is a McDonald’s coffee plus 11 creamers and 29 packets of sugar, according to the watchdogs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. In the September issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter, CSPI’s nutritionists tell you how to keep your coffee break from becoming a Big Mac break.

“Most people wouldn’t consider shoehorning in a Quarter Pounder with Cheese somewhere between breakfast and lunch, but it’s perfectly possible to get 500-plus calories in a drink from Starbucks,” said CSPI senior nutritionist Jayne Hurley. “Fortunately, it’s a cinch to bring down the calories and saturated fat in many of these drinks by making a few simple changes.”

• Go nonfat. A nonfat or soy cappuccino or latte is always a calorie bargain. Ordering a grande (16 oz.) nonfat cappuccino or latte with nonfat milk instead of whole saves all the saturated fat plus 50 to 100 calories.

• Skip the whip. At Starbucks for example, whipped cream adds some 120 calories and 7 grams of saturated fat that you could do without.

• Slash the sugar. Order sweetened drinks with sugar-free syrup or get them unsweetened and add your own sugar (about 10 calories per pack) or Splenda (0 calories).

• Look for “light.” At Starbucks, grande Frappuccino Lights slash the calories to 150 to 250 by replacing half the sugar with Splenda and dropping the whipped cream. A medium (14 oz.) Dunkin’ Donuts Latte Lite keeps the calories at 100. 

Nutrition Action Healthletter article charts the calories, saturated and trans fat, sugar, and caffeine for drinks at Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and other chains using company data.


Like their fast-food cousins, Starbucks and other coffee sellers put nutrition numbers on their websites, but not their menu boards. Leglislation that would require large chain restaurants to list calories on menu boards has been introduced in more than a dozen states, the District of Columbia, and in both Houses of Congress in the past several years. None of those bills has become law yet, but CSPI is actively pushing their adoption and is encouraging other states and cities to require calories on menu boards and expanded nutrition information on printed menus.