Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Starbucks Effect

My sister and I were reminiscing back to a simpler time . Back before there was a Starbucks on every corner. Back before "coffee drinks" were part of the everyday vernacular. Back in the late 8o's and early 90's we'd drive up to New Hampshire and have lunch at The Weathervane and then go to Fox Run Mall. There was a place in the mall called Gloria Jean's that had sweet and creamy coffee drinks that we'd have as dessert. So delicious!

Things are different now. Gloria Jean is no more and Starbucks has seeped into every day life tempting us with coffee drinks and baked goods, making them easily accessible with drive-thrus and one in every mall and Target store. I have no doubt that Starbucks has played a role in the ever widening waistlines of the people in this country. Not that I think Starbucks is completely to blame, after all, my local barista didn't hold me down and pour all those coffee drinks down my gullet.

I love a sweet coffee drink and a frosted maple or pumpkin scone, and the fall is when I get particularly vulnerable. The call of the Pumpkin Spice Latte and all the fall themed tasty cakes comes through loud and clear as the leaves fall along with my serotonin levels. I'm living my life differently now but didn't want to give up coffee drinks altogether. How can Starbucks (and coffee drinks in general) play a role in my healthier lifestyle? Getting a bit of information is a good place to start. I found on their website that Starbucks doesn't use trans fats or high fructose corn syrup in their food offerings. This is good information, though I definitely tend to stick to coffee over pastries unless I've made the trip a planned indulgence. Starbucks website also has a fantastic tool that breaks down the nutritional information of all of their beverage offerings. I can see that a tall Pumpkin Spice Latte with 2% milk and no whip has 240 calories. That's a lot for 12 ounces of drink. How many calories does your favorite drink have?

I keep my Starbucking to a minimum these days but I order thoughtfully when I'm there. I always get the tall (a grande PSL carries an additional 70 calories, the venti an additional 160) and I always ask for 2% milk vs. whole milk. I can't get used to nonfat milk, don't like it and probably never will. I ask for a double shot of espresso. Because it comes in the same size cup it means less milk so fewer calories. Most importantly, I ask for just one pump of syrup which means much less sugar without sacrificing the flavor of the drink.

Coffee drinks are pretty easy to make at home and I sometimes treat myself on a Saturday or Sunday morning. I made myself a lovely maple spice coffee drink this morning for a fraction of the cost and calories of a trip to Starbucks. I'm no barista but I thought it was pretty good.

Maple Spice Coffee Drink

6 ounces organic 2% milk
6 ounces strong Kona coffee or a shot or two of espresso if you have a maker
1-2 teaspoons grade B maple syrup
pinch of cinnamon
fresh nutmeg

Steam milk in a small saucepan, add maple syrup and cinnamon. Pour prepared coffee into your favorite mug. Whip milk mixture with a whisk until it gets a little foamy, then pour it in the mug. Grate a bit of fresh nutmeg over top of drink. Slurp!

Losing weight, or just living to be fit and healthy doesn't mean we have to give up all the treats we love. But treats are just that, an occasional indulgence to brighten up long week or a fun time to catch up with friends. So if "treat" yourself in a smart way you may find that enjoy it so much more!


  1. I just downgraded from a Grande Non-Fat No Whip Mocha (220 calories) to a Tall, which is only 170 calories in an effort to get a little healthier. I love it too much to give it up, but I find the milk to be really filling, so I make it my breakfast. As long as I have a healthy snack at 10:30 or so, I'm good until lunch. :)

  2. My favourite Starbucks drink has got to be their Frappuccino chocolate blended cream. It's basically a big tub of ice cream that you suck through a straw.

    However I'm a fan of most coffee drinks, and will be giving your recipe a try. Thanks!

  3. Good post :) I have definitely revised my coffee orders since trying to live healthier. I think the first time looking up the nutritional info was such a shock!! Luckily, little changes can make a big difference.
    And your maple drink sounds yummy!!!

  4. That sounds really delicious! You can make healthy stuff at home for a fraction of the calories AND price! I remember Gloria Jean’s too! Is it really gone? I could of sworn I’d seen one recently.