What comes to mind when you think about Starbucks
A keto-friendly place to get a drink and a snack is probably not what most people think of when they see that iconic circular green logo at the end of every second street corner.
Most famous for their over-the-top sugary concoctions, it’s still entirely possible to enjoy tons of delicious drinks at Starbucks, even if you’re looking for lower-carb or completely keto-approved treats.
Since Starbucks is all about customization, let’s go over some guidelines on how to avoid carbs, and then we’ll give you some specific drink orders (we’ll let you know exactly what to ask for to ensure you get the perfect low carb drinks at Starbucks!)
Carb Traps to Avoid at Starbucks
Here are some things you’ll definitely want to avoid having in your drinks. Keep these out of your cup and you’ll be ahead of the game.
Classic Syrup: If you’re ordering a menu drink, and you aren’t sure whether it comes with a sugary syrup, it never hurts to ask. They’ll add their simple syrup to many drinks, even some drinks that don’t seem like they’d have sugar by default.
Milk: Milk has quite a bit of sugar in it, and is usually avoided by people on the ketogenic diet, at least for the most part. Can you add a splash to your coffee and be just fine? Sure. But when you get into milk-based drinks like lattes, the carbs can start to add up.
Drink Bases: Some drinks are made with a powder base instead of a syrup, and those powders are often filled with sugar. Even if you get a mocha drink without any extra syrup or sugar added, the base itself is still very sweet. Starbucks Matcha is another example, their matcha tea drinks are made using a “matcha base”, which is matcha green tea powder and sugar.
Drink Toppings: If you’ve managed to avoid the carb landmines of sweet drink bases, milk, syrups, and everything else… be careful, sometimes they’ll literally start pouring extra sugar on top, in the form of sprinkles, powdered sugar, or whip cream made with syrup.
Food Menu: From yogurt with fruits and granola, to breakfast sandwiches, and everything else in their bakery, the Starbucks food menu can look like a wasteland when it comes to keto or low-carb options. It’s true that the vast majority of their food menu is off-limits, but we’ve got a few sneaky tricks to grab a keto-approved bite to eat to go along with your drinks.
Before we get any deeper into food, I want to share exactly how you can modify just about any Starbucks drink to be keto-safe, or at the very least much lower in carbohydrates.
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Things That Are Okay
Here are some ways that you can spruce up your coffee or tea a little bit without having to worry about adding a lot of carbs. Just with the combination of heavy cream, almost milk, quarter sweet, and sugar-free syrups, you can put together a limitless amount of possibilities.
Almond Milk: While the almond milk at Starbucks is slightly sweetened, it only has about 3g of sugar per serving, so it could be a lot worse. A splash here or there is just fine, especially if you treat Starbucks as a treat.
Heavy Cream: This can be used in a lot of different drinks that would normally have milk. A combination of heavy cream and water can replace the milk in all of their different latte drinks, as one example.
Quarter Sweet: This isn’t ideal for keto, but it can drastically reduce the amount of sugar if you’re craving a signature Starbucks drink that isn’t available in an unsweetened version. This can apply to seasonal syrups like they use for the Pumpkin Spice Latte, or powder-based drinks. The downside is that you lose a lot of the drink’s unique flavor by ordering it “quarter sweet.”
Sugar-Free Syrup: Starbucks has sugar-free versions of a small selection of their syrups. We’d love to see a lot more to choose from, but the ones they do have are really what opens up the doors to getting creative at Starbucks, getting delicious drinks, and staying keto.
A Keto-Friendly Pumpkin Spice Latte? Almost…
If you really, really want to have that pumpkin spice latte in the fall, or another favorite drink from Starbucks, it’s not impossible.
A 12 ounce PSL normally has about 40 grams of carbs. If you order it with almond milk, you’ll cut that down to 31g. By ordering it quarter sweet, they’ll use a fraction of the normal amount of pumps of syrup / sweetened drink base. Here’s what you would order…
“Tall almond milk PSL, quarter sweet, no whip.”
You can get a lot of their signature drinks down to the 10g ballpark, which still gives you some breathing room for the day. Realistically speaking, you could enjoy a couple of egg bites (see below), a modified pumpkin spice latte, and still get out of there at right around 20g. Granted, you’ll need to have some eggs with avocado or something else with a low footprint for dinner, but it’s possible to indulge occasionally without breaking your keto streak.
Starbucks Keto Pink Drink Recipe
The “Pink Drink” is one of those off-menu things that trends on Instagram and drives baristas nuts when customers act like it’s a normal menu item, but if you’re feeling left out on your keto diet, here’s a simple, pretty looking “pink drink” you can order without even having to request a pink drink. Simply order:
“Tall unsweetened iced passion tea and heavy cream.”
Zero-Carb Iced Tea at Starbucks
Starbucks’ passion tango iced tea is filled with flavor, and when you order it unsweetened, it doesn’t have any carbs. It’s so zesty and refreshing that you’ll swear it’s got a hint of sweetness to it, but it doesn’t. Make sure that you ask for it unsweetened, and if they offer to mix in lemonade or anything just say no thanks, since the lemonade is made with a sugary base. This is the same as the “pink drink” above, but without the cream.
If you’re looking at any other iced tea drinks, make sure you double check about whether they’re sweetened or not. Some are, some aren’t, so your best bet is just to ask.
Low-Carb Food at Starbucks
Want a snack to go with your drink? If you’re on a strict keto plan that has you under 20 carbs, you’ll definitely have to sacrifice a chunk of your daily allowance to eat at Starbucks, but it’s still doable.
Starbucks sous-vide egg bites are a delicious and relatively filling option. At 9 grams of net carbohydrates for the bacon gruyere flavor, and 12g net carbs (13g minus 1g of fiber) for the egg whites and red pepper flavor, the bacon bruyere doesn’t just sound tastier, it’s also better for keto. The new ham, cheddar, and pepper recipe comes in at 11g net carbs. Obviously, these aren’t super low-carb options, but it’s still a way to get some somewhat keto-friendly food at Starbucks.
Protein Boxes and Bowls
In some areas, Starbucks has introduced a series of different bowls and boxes. Most of them have a wrap, a bun, or quinoa and rice. A few of them, however, are pretty close to being a perfect keto snack, at least if you don’t finish them… Here’s what I mean:
Eggs and Cheese Box: This one comes with cheese, eggs, grapes, apple slices, bread, and a peanut butter and honey dip. It’s too bad they had to blend the honey and the peanut butter together, since if they just used a natural peanut butter it would be a perfect fat bomb on the side. You’ll also want to avoid the bread, ditch the apple slices, and just have a grape or two if they’re super tempting, otherwise avoid those as well.
Cheese and Fruit: Here’s another one where you can eat some of it, but not all of it. The cheese is all fair game, but you’ll have to skip the fruit and the crackers. It seems kind of wasteful to get this whole box just for the cheese, and it is, but sometimes you’ve got to sacrifice to make it work. This isn’t something you’d eat every day, but it works in a pinch.
Others: There’s a smoked turkey protein box, chicken BLT, and a chicken wrap. Any of these are workable into your keto diet if you’re willing to just eat the meat from inside the wrap and toss the bread. You’ll get a bit of sauce on the meat which can have some carbs in it, but for the most part you’ll be okay, all things considered.
Unfortunately, to get the lowest carb food at Starbucks (eggs, cheese..), you’ll have to toss the other half of your meal. It’s far from ideal.
Final Thoughts: The HARDEST Part About Being Ketogenic…
When you’re at home, with your fridge fully equipped to live the keto life, it’s surprisingly easy, right? Most people notice that all of the food cravings they used to have for sweet and carby things more or less go away. From there, it becomes more of a logistics issue than a self-control issue.
Starbucks is such a common place to meet friends, business associates, and to go on dates, so having a few tricks can help keep you on track.
Many people find that the toughest part of keto is when you’re trying to accommodate it while you’re out and about in public. It’s easy to be hungry, tired, and envious of the big starchy meal your friend’s enjoying right next to you.
Being able to work in a few keto hacks to your Starbucks trip means you can still indulge a little bit, without having to blow the whole diet up, leave ketosis, and start over. It’s really just a matter of being a little more careful throughout the rest of your day.
Is it surprising that most fast food places make it easier to order low-carb than Starbucks does (by offering lettuce wrapped burgers)? Even though it’s gaining ground, and we’re seeing more and more products in the supermarket labelled as “Keto Friendly”, this diet is still a somewhat fringe way of eating.
It will be a while until more corporations catch up and offer at least a few things that are suitable for people who don’t want to load up on bread, starch, and sugar… especially places like Starbucks. While SB likes to present themselves as a healthy, sustainable place that’s a great positive addition to the neighborhood, at the end of the day they’re slinging sugar-water and microwaved frozen food.
So you’re not missing out on that much when you avoid them…
And for the rest of the time? There are plenty of drink options if you’re willing to customize, and enough food options to get you through.
Another thing you need to know about Starbucks: Being kind to your baristas and being a familiar face with a smile can go a long way. Starbucks baristas have to put up with so much nonsense from rude, entitled customers constantly. As such, they start to truly appreciate their regulars, and asking nicely if they could prepare a protein box with extra eggs and cheese, and without fruit and bread, could be your ticket if you want to make this a regular thing.
You might be surprised how far they’re willing to go to get you what you need, especially if they aren’t in the middle of a rush, and you’re kind about it.
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