Your Favorite Pumpkin Spice Latte Contains More Fat, Sugar and Calories Than You Might Think
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Your Favorite Pumpkin Spice Latte Contains More Fat, Sugar and Calories Than You Might Think

But you don’t have to skip them this season—instead, make it a little healthier with these expert-approved tips.

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By Caitlyn Pilkington

It's that time of year again. When the air gets brisk and the leaves change, pumpkin-flavored drinks debut. It's pumpkin spice latte (PSL) season, and our favorite chains are rolling out their signature holiday drinks to warm our hearts. But what are you really getting inside that seasonal cup?

If you're watching your waistline, and even if you're not, you should know exactly how many calories and how much sugar and fat you're slurping down. Those PSLs might not be as innocent as you think. Torey Armul, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Lewis Center, Ohio, breaks down the nutrition in some of our favorites, and offers her top tips for guilt-free sipping.

Starbucks pumpkin spice latte

2 / 7 Starbucks pumpkin spice latte

A Grande PSL from your local Starbucks is made with 2 percent milk and whipped cream, and served in a 16-ounce cup.

The breakdown:
Calories: 380
Total fat: 14 grams
Saturated fat: 8 grams
Sugar: 50 grams

People often overlook the added sugar, which can lead to excess calorie intake, a big cause of weight gain, says Armul. "Added sugar is any sugar that doesn't occur naturally in the ingredients and is being added in," she says. A big source in coffee drinks: pumpkin and other flavored syrups.

Although added sugar is not listed on many nutrition labels, under the US Food and Drug Administration regulations, they soon will be, she says. Cut your added sugar intake in half by splitting your drink with a friend." A lot of times, these places will give you an extra cup. Some might even offer to ration one drink into two cups," says Armul.

Tip: A Grande pumpkin spice latte comes with four pumps of syrup; replace two with a sugar-free and zero-calorie syrup alternative, like vanilla or cinnamon dolce.

Image credit: Starbucks 

Dunkin' Donuts pumpkin latte

3 / 7 Dunkin' Donuts pumpkin latte

A medium pumpkin latte from Dunkin' Donuts is made with whole milk poured into a 16-ounce cup.

The breakdown:
Calories: 340
Total fat: 9 grams
Saturated fat: 5 grams
Sugar: 52 grams

This drink contains more sugar than you should consume in one day, Armul says. Women should consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar a day, and men, no more than 36 daily grams, according to the American Heart Association. Each pump of syrup is equivalent of 2 or 3 teaspoons of sugar, Armul says.

Tip: Easily slash sugar by asking for fewer pumps of flavored syrup. Try getting half (or less).

McDonald's McCafe pumpkin spice latte

4 / 7 McDonald's McCafe pumpkin spice latte

A medium McCafe pumpkin latte at McDonald's is served in a 16-ounce cup and made with whole milk.

The breakdown:
Calories: 340
Total fat: 10 grams
Saturated fat: 6 grams
Sugar: 48 grams

A moderately active male should consume about 2,600 calories per day; a female with the same activity level should get about 2,000 daily calories. A single PSL contains 13 to 17 percent of your daily caloric intake—and that's just for your morning coffee.

If you're gulping these calorie bombs and munching other indulgences, you run the risk of overdoing fat, sugar and calories. Be selective about your treats.

If you really want that apple and walnut scone, make your coffee at home. Making better-for-you versions of your favorites at home can also help satisfy cravings without breaking the calorie bank. Armul recommends using pumpkin pie spice to make your own seasonal cup. "The spice itself has almost no fat or sugar, and you can add it to your coffee."

Tip: If you still want something on-the-go, order a cup of drip coffee with an unsweetened flavor shot. Shops may carry different options, so ask your barista before ordering.

7-Eleven pumpkin spice latte

5 / 7 7-Eleven pumpkin spice latte

A PSL at 7-Eleven is premade with non-dairy creamer and poured into a 16-ounce cup.

The breakdown:
Calories: 390
Total fat: 12 grams
Saturated fat: 12 grams
Sugar: 55 grams

These drinks have a lot of sugar and calories, but aren’t particularly filling. What often happens: You're hungry shortly after you finish your coffee and looking for another bite to eat. These lattes also lack many of the key nutrients food like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, offer. Consider a lightened-up cup of coffee to sip with a balanced breakfast of oatmeal topped with fruit and nuts.

Tip: Some chains offer more than one pumpkin-flavored option, with varying levels of fat and sugar. Consider 7-Eleven's pumpkin spice drip Coffee instead—it has zero grams of fat and sugar, and only 10 calories.

Peet's Coffee pumpkin latte

6 / 7 Peet's Coffee pumpkin latte

A medium pumpkin chai latte is blended with 2 percent milk and delivered to you in a 16-ounce cup.

The breakdown:
Calories: 320
Total fat: 7 grams
Saturated fat: 4.5 grams
Sugar: 44 grams

Someone on a 2,000-calorie diet should have no more than 44 to 77 grams of total fat a day, most of which should be healthy, unsaturated fats.

If the coffee shop offers other milk options, Armul suggests ordering a lower-fat variety. "I'm not opposed to fat—it's essential for health and flavor—but these drinks already have a lot of it," she says. "In this scenario, I think 1 percent or nonfat milk are good options."

If you're considering a non-dairy option, like almond, coconut or soy milk, be mindful of the type of milk used. Many nut milks do offer healthy fats and protein, but can also be artificially sweetened.

Tip: Order the iced version of your favorite hot drink with less sugar, but the same flavor. They often have less of the "bad stuff,” since the ice takes up part of the cup, says Armul.

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf pumpkin latte

7 / 7 The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf pumpkin latte

A medium pumpkin latte from the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is made in a 16-ounce cup with nonfat milk.

The breakdown:
Calories: 360
Total fat: 3.5 grams
Saturated fat: 3.5 grams
Sugar: 58 grams

You don't have to totally deprive yourself this season, but do look for healthy options to satisfy your cravings. For another cold pumpkin option, consider Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's pumpkin cold brew with almond milk. A 16-ounce drink has 200 calories and no saturated fat, but still contains a lot off sugar, about 37 grams. This option might be preferable, but it should still be sipped sparingly.

Tip: Your barista is usually a good resource, so don't be afraid to ask for a recommendation for a lightened-up java drink.