It’s fall. Pumpkin is the new black.
While I do love the delicious warming flavors of pumpkin spice, it’s time for a health coach smackdown on the world’s most popular fall beverage.
A 16-ounce Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte has 49 grams of sugar – ouch! Even without the whip, it still contains 48 grams of sugar. That’s just bananas. If you haven’t heard by now, sugar completely sabotages your health.
Drinking a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is like having 2 frosted sugar cookies and a blueberry scone for breakfast.
A pumpkin shaped sugar cookie from Starbucks contains 14 grams of sugar and their blueberry scone contains 20 grams of sugar. That means drinking a 2% Pumpkin Spice Latte without whip cream is like having three and a half sugar cookies or more than two scones for breakfast. Think ordering it “skinny” or with soy makes it better? It doesn’t.
Beyond the sugar, there are also preservatives, artificial food colorings and other potentially harmful chemicals in the favorings of this drink, so it really is just something to avoid.
One thing I really like about Starbucks is that they have reverse osmosis (RO) filtered water at each location, mostly to make sure their product tastes the same no matter where you’re at. Their reason doesn’t matter; RO water is some of the best water you an drink and the friendly baristas are always happy to fill up your bottle when you order a drink. At home I stick to organic coffee only, but if I’m traveling and the hotel has a Starbucks, I at least know the water is filtered correctly.
If you do find yourself at Starbucks, order a 12 or 16 ounce Americano (just espresso and filtered water), and don’t forget to ask for an RO water fill in your water bottle, too.
Back to the Pumpkin Spice Latte. This, unfortunately, is something you need to skip at Starbucks. It’s just not worth it! That amount of sugar will pack on some serious holiday pounds and make you feel like complete crap. It can also create mental fog and fatigue, not to mention a really cranky attitude. Do yourself and the people around you a favor and skip it.
I know I can’t tell you to avoid something without giving you a delicious but healthy alternative, so try my Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte instead. The recipe below is vegan, and contains less than 200 calories and about 7 grams of sugar. The blender even makes the cashew milk froth, just like a coffeeshop latte.
Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe
Prep time: varies
- 1 tablespoon organic pumpkin puree (more or less to taste)
- 3 tablespoons raw cashews (that’s about 1 ounce), soaked, drained and rinsed*
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1 cup brewed coffee, preferably organic (or 2 espresso shots)
- 1 teaspoon raw honey (more or less to taste)
- 1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice blend** (more or less to taste)
- 3-4 drops of vanilla stevia (to taste)
- tiny pinch of sea salt
Method: Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender, like a Vitamix or Blendtec, starting on low then quickly working your way to high. Blend on high about 1.5 to 2 minutes until very smooth. If not using a high speed blender, soak the cashews for 4 hours and/or strain the latte through a fine mesh strainer if needed. Heat in a small sauce pan on the stove if necessary. Sprinkle with more cinnamon if desired.
- (*) If you can soak your cashews in purified water for at least 20 minutes, but no more than 4 hours. Drain and rinse well before using. Soaking isn’t completely necessary, but it will soften the cashews and help them blend into a creamier milk.
- (*) Be sure to use cashews that are labeled raw (i.e. unsalted and not roasted).
- (**) There isn’t actually any pumpkin in pumpkin spice. Pumpkin spice is a spice blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and sometimes ginger. You can buy it at just about any grocery store, look for organic when possible, or at least one without any fillers or preservatives. Or, you can make your own blend at home.
- FYI: Blending raw soaked cashews with water yields cashew milk. Cashew milk it the only type of nut milk that doesn’t need to be strained.
- This recipe gives you a similar texture as if you were using 2% milk. Want it thicker? Use about 6 tablespoons of raw cashews.
- If you’re using hot coffee you shouldn’t need to heat it up after you blend it. Use the stove if you need to heat it up.
- There are infinite ways to order a Starbucks drink – everyone likes it a little different. That’s why I say more or less to taste. Use 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice if you want it extra bold.
- Raw honey contains 6 grams of sugar per teaspoon. If you’re looking for a treat and want your latte extra sweet use a little more. Even if you use 3 teaspoons (i.e. 1 tablespoon) that’s still less than half of what the commercial version contains.