Pumpkins are a legit health food. Pumpkin-flavored coffee drinks, not so much. Thankfully, there are easy ways to help you enjoy a fun, festive treat without overdoing it.
Wondering if fall's most festive flavor is giving you any benefits? Pumpkin in its natural state is a super-healthy food packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Unfortunately, autumn's sugary pumpkin-flavored baked goods and coffee drinks aren't doing your body any favors. (Psst...Here are 13 Pumpkin Recipes Perfect for Fall.)
You're not going to automatically derail your diet if you enjoy a pumpkin spice latte on occasion. But if that occasion turns into your daily coffee run, the extra calories (mostly from sugar) can easily add up. With stores rolling these items out earlier and earlier, the sugar-fest that used to stretch from Halloween to New Year's Eve now lasts even longer. Aside from providing excess calories, too much sugar in one sitting can wreak havoc on your digestion and set you up for a blood sugar spike and crash.
A 16-ounce Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks (made with the standard 2 percent milk and topped with whipped cream) will set you back 380 calories and 50 grams of sugar. Eight of the 14 grams of fat are saturated. Sure, you'll get some protein and calcium, but there are plenty of healthier ways to cover those bases. If you're going to have 380 calories, enjoy a meal that will keep you satisfied for a few hours instead of riding the sugar spike roller coaster.
Still, we know PSL cravings are a very, very real thing. Just follow these tips to hack your way to a healthier pumpkin spice latte when the PSL starts screaming your name.
Go for the smallest size, which is actually not a Tall. A Short (the 8-ounce cup you probably forgot existed) saves 170 calories compared to a Grande. All you need to do is ask.
Go slow with the syrup
Ask for only one pump of the pumpkin spice syrup to get a hint of that pumpkin spice flavor without overdoing it. Add cinnamon on top for an extra kick.
If you're ordering a drink made with nondairy milk like soy, almond, or coconut, keep in mind that many coffee shops use sweetened varieties, so you'll be getting extra sugar from that before you even add flavoring. Also worth noting: Since protein buffers the breakdown of carbs, a low-protein milk like almond or coconut might set you up for a rapid blood sugar spike and dip. Two percent milk is your best bet. Sure, switching to skim will save calories, but without the fat to buffer the breakdown of the sugary syrup, you may notice it hits your bloodstream more quickly.
Consider a cappuccino
Pumpkin Spice Cappuccino doesn't have the same #hashtag potential, but a cappuccino uses less milk than a latte, so you'll save calories without a drastic change in taste. Another option? Order a black coffee with one pump of the pumpkin spice flavor, and then add milk and cinnamon.
Skip the whip
This is one of the easiest healthy hacks. Skipping whipped cream cuts out 70 calories with minimal effort.