Yes, you can lose weight on the keto diet, if that’s your goal — but it’s far from a well-rounded, or even healthy, style of eating. “Originally designed to help patients with epilepsy, a strict keto diet guides you into ketosis by eliminating significant food groups that you may normally enjoy on a daily basis, including healthy carbohydrates that are part of a balanced diet,” explains Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, deputy director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab and GH’s registered dietitian. “While keto dieters may lose weight, it can come at the expense of a sudden surge in ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which can be harmful to your heart.”
In fact, the messaging that “carbs are the enemy” is longstanding diet language that’s outdated and worth rebranding — because carbs are actually your body’s preferred source of fuel, and it’s okay and important to eat them, Sassos says. The key is to focus on nutrient-dense carbs like fruits, vegetables and whole grains that offer fiber, antioxidants and more nutrition benefits.
Editor’s note: Weight loss, health and body image are complex subjects — before deciding to go on a diet, we invite you to gain a broader perspective by reading our exploration into the hazards of diet culture.
But if you do follow the keto diet for medical reasons or under the care of your physician, it can definitely be challenging to navigate the world of eating out. That’s because choices are limited to avoid sugars and carbohydrates, so your body can maintain a state of ketosis. This can be especially difficult for those who can’t live without a daily caffeine fix. Caffeine itself isn’t off-limits for keto dieters, but there’s a very good chance that your favorite iced coffee or tea is loaded with ingredients that contain sugars and carbohydrates… especially if Starbucks is your go-to coffee hotspot.
Unless your go-to order in the morning is a simple cup of black coffee, you’ll have to hack your way through Starbucks’ menu to enjoy something completely devoid of sugar. While there are thousands of creative videos found on sites like Instagram (#KetoStarbucks racks up 47,000 posts alone!) and more on TikTok, there’s nothing better than being reassured by a professional on which keto-friendly drinks are 100% safe to enjoy.
Brierley Horton, MS, RD, a registered dietitian has spent quite a bit of time decoding the keto diet and says it’s a good first step to consult Starbucks’ master nutritional list before ordering. Then, use these tips from Sassos and Horton for ordering keto-friendly beverages at Starbucks.
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How to order a keto-friendly drink at Starbucks:
- Start with black coffee for all coffee-centric orders. “Carb allowance is so limited on the keto diet that you want to save up for carb-rich items that also have a strong source of fiber and other nutrients,” Horton says.
- You have the option to add heavy cream at Starbucks to meet your fat macronutrient goal for the day, but keep in mind that heavy cream is primarily saturated fat, says Sassos. “Just one tablespoon of heavy cream can have roughly 4 grams of saturated fat, and it’s likely that you may be adding more than that to a drink, which would put you well over the daily limit considered healthy by the American Heart Association,” Sassos adds. Whole milk still has saturated fat, but less than heavy cream, Sassos says, and it will also get you a little bit of protein.
- If you’re opting for an alternative milk, you’ll want to rely on substitutions like coconut milk or soy milk, as these add-ons have fewer carbohydrates than traditional milk, says Horton.
- Lastly, you’ll need to swap your sweeteners and syrups for low-sugar varieties instead, Horton says. Starbucks offers three different sugar-free syrups (including vanilla, Cinnamon Dolce, and Skinny Mocha) that do not contain additional carbohydrates and are made with sucralose, which is also known as Splenda. If you’re angling to add a touch of sweetness to any drink without adding actual syrup, reach for stevia, which Starbucks’ offers to customers as a custom drink option.
With these tips in mind, you can decode many of the pre-made beverages at Starbucks and replace individual ingredients with keto-friendly supplements. Speaking of, here are some nutritionist-approved options to try now:
Iced Café Mocha
Swap heavy cream for milk, and ask for a light mocha drizzle, which only adds about 1g of extra carbohydrates overall, Horton says.
This idea became popular on Reddit after one user suggested that Starbucks’ secret menu hack of asking the barista to make the drink “skinny” could be an easy on-the-fly order. A grande iced “skinny” macchiato can be made with almond milk and no caramel drizzle, but still come in way below keto-appropriate carbohydrate levels, Horton explains.
Iced Chai Tea Latte
Made with whole milk and 2 to 3 pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup, this espresso-enhanced tea drink is a great way to switch things up.
Since it’s a dark coffee, you can add heavy cream and certain Starbucks-ready spices, like cinnamon or nutmeg, as these flavorings are free of sugar.
Even “light” blended Frappuccino drinks contain upwards of 20g of carbohydrates, whereas a classic tall vanilla Frapp clocks in at a whopping 48g. If you can’t live without one, Horton says to order a tall “skinny” vanilla Frappuccino made with almond milk or heavy cream, which should contain just under 15g of carbohydrates, the most any keto dieter should be having in a day to maintain ketosis.
Keto Pink Drink
Order a Passion Iced Tea base with an optional scoop of dried strawberries and a whole milk infusion (if you’re dairy-free, opt for the alternative milks we listed above). Sugar-free vanilla syrup sweetens the deal.
Cinnamon Dolce Iced Coffee
Start with a black coffee base, add your preferred milk, and go with the sugar-free Cinnamon Dolce syrup. Or, go with sugar-free vanilla syrup and ask for cinnamon powder.
Creamy Chai Tea
Order this one hot or iced, both will coat your tastebuds in spicy, creamy goodness. Add a little Stevia or Splenda if you like it sweet. And bonus: You’ll also sip up some of chai’s anti-inflammatory power.
Iced London Fog Tea Latte
This tea base is so flavorful (citrus-y bergamot with a hint of lavender) that you won’t mind these mods. Swap in sugar-free vanilla syrup and go with whole milk or our greenlit alternative ones such as coconut or soy.
Iced Passion Tango Tea
When you’re in the mood for something refreshing and fruity that still fits the keto bill, try this tangy drink. It features hibiscus, lemongrass, and apple, and comes unsweetened with no milk add-ins (aka no carbs), but you can add a little Stevia or Splenda if you do need a hint of sweet.
Blonde Vanilla Latte
Enjoy this classic with sugar-free vanilla syrup and whole milk or soy. Since it’s a latte with a larger milk to coffee ratio, opting for heavy cream would definitely be way too much saturated fat for one sitting. Order it iced and with fewer sugar-free pumps to cut back on saturated fat.
For that latte vibe with a little more balance, try this option. It’s a more even espresso-milk ratio, and you can even ask for half steamed milk and half hot water.
Nitro Cold Brew
Consider this iced coffee kicked up a notch. It’s a small batch variety that’s infused with nitrogen to impart a naturally sweet flavor without actual sugar.
Honey Citrus Mint Tea
Here’s something for the indecisive Starbucks fan. It’s a blend of Jade Citrus Mint green tea and Peach Tranquility herbal tea, so you’ll get a medley of flavors with each sip. Ask for it with no honey and no lemonade to eliminate those sugar-based carbs, and you don’t have to worry about which milk to choose because it’s ideal without any.
Iced Black Tea
Sometimes there’s nothing more refreshing than a nice cold iced tea. If you need a little sweetness, go with Stevia or Splenda.
Zee Krstic is a health editor for Good Housekeeping, where he covers health and nutrition news, decodes diet and fitness trends and reviews the best products in the wellness aisle. Prior to joining GH in 2019, Zee fostered a nutrition background as an editor at Cooking Light and is continually developing his grasp of holistic health through collaboration with leading academic experts and clinical care providers. He has written about food and dining for Time, among other publications.
Alyssa is a senior editor for the Hearst Health Newsroom, where she has written research-backed health content for Prevention, Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day since 2017. She has more than 13 years of reporting and editing experience and previously worked as research chief at Reader’s Digest, where she was responsible for the website’s health vertical as well as editing health content for the print magazine. She has also written for Chowhound, HealthiNation.com, Huffington Post and more.
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