Ah, the ever-popular Starbucks pumpkin spice latte. It’s a seasonal favorite for many coffee lovers and lovers of all things fall, but is it really worth all the hype? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of this fall drink that everyone seems to love.
What Is a Pumpkin Spice Latte?
A pumpkin spice latte, or PSL for short, is a coffee-based beverage made with espresso and steamed milk, flavored with the classic combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and pumpkin puree. It’s topped with whipped cream and pumpkin spice topping. It is available iced, hot, or blended.
The drink has been around since 2003 (20 years!) when it was first introduced by Starbucks, and it has become a seasonal favorite for many. The drink seems to have inspired the creation of “pumpkin spice” everything, with pumpkin showing up everywhere from yogurt to protein bars to cream cheese.
The Benefits of a Pumpkin Spice Latte
A pumpkin spice latte can be a great way to indulge in a bit of seasonal flavor while still getting your caffeine fix. The combination of spices can give the drink a comforting, cozy feel that’s perfect for fall weather. Plus, since it’s made with espresso and steamed milk, it has a bit more protein than regular coffee.
As with most things at Starbucks, you can modify the drink to your own personal preferences. You can add more or less of the sweeteners, switch up the type of milk, or cut out the whipped cream. It can be made vegan-friendly if you opt for non-dairy options like almond or oat milk.
Additionally, Starbucks offers an array of pumpkin spice-flavored beverages, such as pumpkin spice cold brew and iced pumpkin spice latte. So, if you’re not a fan of the hot version, you can still get your fix with one of these other options.
Pumpkin is a healthy addition to any diet. While the PSL was reformulated in 2015 to include actual pumpkins, how much is unclear. I would consider eating real pumpkin if you are looking for the health benefits.
Pumpkin is rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. It also contains dietary fiber, essential for digestive health. It also contains lutein, a carotenoid that supports eye health. To top it off, fresh pumpkin is low in calories and fat so you can enjoy the sweet flavor without any guilt.
The Not-So-Sweet Side of the Pumpkin Spice Latte
While the flavor and seasonal charm of the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte are undeniable, the drink also has its drawbacks. One of the main points of concern is the sugar content. A grande pumpkin spice latte made with whole milk and topped with whipped cream contains a staggering 50 grams of sugar. That’s more than the recommended daily sugar intake for an adult!
In terms of calorie content, the same grande PSL clocks in at around 380 calories. This seems quite excessive for a beverage, especially because many people pair the PSL with other seasonal baked goods.
If you’re trying to maintain a balanced diet, it’s essential to keep these numbers in mind. If it’s your absolute favorite, enjoying a pumpkin spice latte as an occasional treat rather than a daily beverage can make it easier to manage the extra calories and sugar.
Healthier Options for Fall Drinks
If the PSL just doesn’t seem “worth it” in terms of sugar and calories, there are modifications you can make to the PSL to make it a bit healthier. Ordering a smaller size can also help you save on calories and sugar. You can also make the PSL lighter by requesting nonfat or almond milk, which would cut the calories in the drink.
Also, consider reducing the number of pumps in the drink. A standard pumpkin spice latte has 4 pumps of syrup, but you could ask for just 1 or 2 pumps for a less sweet, lower-calorie option. Alternatively, you can switch to sugar-free syrup if it’s available. (Although I personally don’t like the flavors of their sugar free syrups)
You can also get a ‘Light’ version of a PSL Frappuccino; they contain fewer calories and sugar without compromising the indulgent flavor.
An iced drink also immediately cuts back on the caloric intake, since much of the cup is filled with ice. The pumpkin spice cold brew is my personal favorite. This drink combines cold brew coffee with hints of pumpkin and vanilla, topped with a pumpkin cream cold foam and a dash of pumpkin spice topping. I would recommend NOT including the vanilla syrup in the drink, as the pumpkin cold foam is quite sweet on its own.
For a lower calorie spin on the pumpkin spice latte, try the ‘Caffè Misto’, a one-to-one mix of coffee and steamed milk, with a pump of pumpkin spice sauce. It delivers the same flavor hit with fewer calories and less sugar.
Remember, it’s all about balance. If the PSL is your favorite, have one without guilt. If you don’t really mind one of the better alternatives, choose that instead. It’s up to you! You can still enjoy your favorite Starbucks fall drinks while staying mindful of your health and wellness goals.