Drinks

11 Ways to Order a Healthier Starbucks Holiday Drink

The sweetest way to fill your red cup without all the added sugar.

By: Lexy Parsons

ICYMI, red Starbucks cups are back! Our true Starbucks lovers know this marks the unofficial start to the holiday season — the Starbucks seasonal drinks we know and love are taking over the menu. Hallelujah! We’ve only been waiting an entire calendar year, but who’s counting? With that said, the decadent flavor options like Peppermint Mocha, Caramel Brulée, and Cinnamon Dolce were well worth the wait. But, seeing as the average tall Starbucks Holiday Latte contains upwards of 300-400 calories and 35 grams of sugar, we’re sharing our top tips on how to order a healthier Starbucks holiday drink, so you can feel good about sipping on these seasonal favorites. 

Did you really think we were going to tell you your favorite holiday drinks were off-limits? Not a chance. In addition to the tips on how to make these holiday drinks healthier, we’re also sharing the best menu items this time of year. 

RELATED: The Healthiest Things You Can Order at Starbucks 

Which Starbucks Milk is the Healthiest?

Before we get to the good stuff (that mouth-watering holiday menu), let’s start with the basics: the healthiest Starbucks milk.

Here’s how much sugar and calories you’ll find in each Starbucks cup, based on a tall cafe latte, without added syrup or a whipped cream topping. The winner? Almond milk!

Almond Milk: 80 calories and 4 grams of sugar

Coconut Milk: 110 calories and 9 grams of sugar

Soy Milk: 150 calories and 14 grams of sugar

Oat Milk: 210 calories and 17 grams of sugar

Nonfat Milk: 100 calories and 14 grams of sugar

2% Milk: 150 calories and 14 grams of sugar

Whole Milk: 180 calories and 14 grams of sugar

The Top Trending Starbucks Holiday Lattes and How to Enjoy a Healthier Holiday Cup

We’re sad to say Gingerbread and Eggnog didn’t make the cut this year, but not to worry, the Starbucks holiday menu is stacked with a variety of delicious blends! Find out how they’re traditionally made and how to modify your order for a healthier brew. 

#1 Peppermint Mocha 

According to Starbucks nutritional information, a tall Peppermint Mocha contains 350 calories and 42 grams of sugar. To put this into perspective, that’s more than 10 teaspoons of sugar…  in their smallest sized cup. Without any modifications, this latte contains 2% milk, mocha sauce, peppermint and vanilla syrup, whipped cream, and a shaved chocolate topping. 

Try these modifications for a healthier cup:

Milk: Swap 2% dairy milk for a non-dairy option like almond, oat, or coconut milk.

Syrup: Ask for 1 pump of each flavor instead of three. 

Toppings: Another skip! Avoid the whipped cream and chocolate shavings to save on calories and sugar.

#2 NEW Sugar Cookie Almond Milk Latte

New menu item alert! And many reasons to celebrate this limited-edition flavor. In addition to sounding deliciously sweet, this is the first Starbucks holiday drink that is inherently plant-based! While other lattes can be modified into a plant-based beverage, the new Sugar Cookie latte is traditionally made with almond milk unless otherwise specified. Best of all, this simple non-dairy swap makes the Sugar Cookie latte one of the healthiest seasonal menu items. 

A traditional tall-sized latte is 140 calories and contains 20 grams of sugar. While the sugar content is still on the higher end, it contains 50% less sugar than other lattes of the same size. This latte contains 3 pumps of sugar cookie syrup and sugar sprinkle topping.

Try these modifications for a healthier cup:

Syrup: Reduce the sugar by cutting back 3 pumps to 1 pump of sugar cookie syrup.

Toppings: Swap the sugar sprinkles for a dust of cinnamon.

#3 Toasted White Chocolate Mocha

This tasty treat is a combination of espresso paired with caramelized white chocolate, steamed milk, and a whipped cream and sugar sprinkle topping. While that sounds delicious, without any modifications a tall-sized beverage clocks in at 42 grams of sugar and 330 calories. 

Try these modifications for a healthier cup:

Milk: Swap 2% dairy milk for a non-dairy option like almond, oat, or coconut milk.

Syrup: Ask for 1 pump of the toasted white chocolate mocha sauce instead of three (keep in mind, this contains dairy milk).

Toppings: Skip the whipped cream and sugar sprinkles — it’s sweet enough!

#4 Chestnut Praline Latte

Espresso, steamed milk, and flavors of caramelized chestnuts and spices, yum. Lower in calories and sugar than some of the other holiday menu items, a tall-sized Chestnut Praline latte contains 270 calories and 30 grams of sugar. Classically made with 2% milk, 3 pumps of chestnut praline syrup, whipped cream, and a spiced sugar chestnut praline topping, here’s how to make it healthier. 

Try these modifications for a healthier cup:

Milk: Swap 2% dairy milk for a non-dairy option like almond, oat, or coconut milk.

Syrup: Ask for 1 pump of the chestnut praline syrup instead of three.

Toppings: Skip the whipped cream and sugar sprinkles. Instead, sprinkle on unsweetened spices like cinnamon and nutmeg for a calorie-free kick.

#5 Caramel Brulée Latte

The name alone has our mouth watering. Let’s see what’s inside the cup! According to the nutritional information, a traditional tall-sized cup contains 2% milk, 3 pumps of caramel brulée sauce (made with dairy), whipped cream, and a caramel brulée topping.

Try these modifications for a healthier cup:

Milk: Swap 2% dairy milk for a non-dairy option like almond, oat, or coconut milk.

Syrup: Ask for 1 pump of the caramel brulée sauce instead of three and sugar-free vanilla syrup instead of the sugar-filled variety.

Toppings: Skip the whipped cream and sugary caramel brulée topping.

#6 Cinnamon Dolce Latte 

This cinnamon-flavored beverage will keep you warm and cozy, but there’s a healthier way to enjoy it! Without modifications, a classic tall-sized latte contains 270 calories and 31 grams of sugar. It’s made with 2% milk, whipped cream and flavored with a cinnamon dolce syrup and sugar topping.

Try these modifications for a healthier cup:

Milk: Swap 2% dairy milk for a non-dairy option like almond, oat, or coconut milk.

Syrup: Ask for 1 pump of the cinnamon dolce syrup instead of three and sugar-free vanilla syrup instead of the sugar-filled variety.

Toppings: Skip the whipped cream and sugar-filled cinnamon dolce topping for a sprinkle of pure cinnamon.

#7 Pumpkin Spice Latte

We couldn’t leave out the OG holiday latte, Pumpkin Spice! A classic tall-sized Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte contains 300 calories and 38 grams of sugar. It’s made with 2% milk, a condensed milk pumpkin spice sauce, whipped cream, vanilla syrup, and a (sugar-free!) pumpkin spice topping.

Try these modifications for a healthier cup:

Milk: Swap 2% dairy milk for a non-dairy option like almond, oat, or coconut milk.

Syrup: Ask for 1 pump of the pumpkin spice sauce instead of three and sugar-free vanilla syrup instead of the sugar-filled variety.

Toppings: Skip the whipped cream, but enjoy the sugar-free pumpkin spice dusting!

#8 Apple Crisp Macchiato

This fall menu item still makes the cut because… who doesn’t want an apple pie-flavored latte?! A tall-sized order contains 220 calories 35 grams of sugar and is made with 2% milk, espresso, apple brown sugar syrup, and a sugar spiced apple drizzle topping. 

Ordering up a caramel macchiato instead? Follow the same healthy swaps as below! The only changes would be to ask for sugar-free vanilla syrup and a light caramel drizzle if any.

Try these modifications for a healthier cup:

Milk: Swap 2% dairy milk for a non-dairy option like almond, oat, or coconut milk.

Syrup: Ask for 1 pump of the apple brown sugar syrup instead of two.

Toppings: Skip the apple drizzling, or keep it very light!

#9 Irish Cream Cold Brew

According to Starbucks, this Irish Cream Cold Brew is like a cloud of vanilla sweet cream fused with cold brew, and we can’t say we disagree! And good news, it’s one of the healthier Starbucks holiday drinks! A tall-sized beverage contains 150 calories and 16 grams of sugar. Without modifications, it’s made with dairy-based Irish cream cold foam (a blend of sweet cream and sugar), sugar-based Irish cream syrup, and a cocoa powder topping.

Try these modifications for a healthier cup:

Milk: Ask for an unsweetened cold foam or a dairy-free cold foam base.

Syrup: Ask for a light pump of Irish cream syrup.

Toppings: Skip the sugar-filled cocoa powder topping.

#10 Chai Tea Latte 

Although this cozy latte frequents the Starbucks menu year-round, it’s a fan-favorite during the holiday season. But, before you splurge on a Venti Chai Tea Latte, keep in mind the pre-made chai latte mix is sweetened. A traditional tall-sized chai latte is 190 calories, made with 2% milk and 3 pumps of sweetened chai concentrate, and contains 32 grams of sugar. 

Try these modifications for a healthier cup:

Milk: Swap 2% milk for a lighter, dairy-free option like almond milk.

Sweetener: Ask for one pump of chai concentrate instead of three. 

#11 Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate season is here, and the Starbucks menu is loaded with a variety of tasty options! Our favorite? None other than the limited-edition Peppermint Hot Chocolate. A tall-sized beverage contains 330 calories and 41 grams of sugar. When ordered traditionally, be mindful that a lot of sneaky sugars are added in! This holiday drink contains 3 pumps of sweetened peppermint syrup, 3 pumps of sweetened chocolate syrup, 2% milk, heavy whipped cream, and a sweetened chocolate topping. 

Try these modifications for a healthier cup:

Milk: Swap 2% milk for a lighter, dairy-free option like almond milk.

Sweetener: Ask for one pump of each syrup instead of three.

Toppings: Skip the whipped cream and chocolate topping.

You can also choose between a traditional hot chocolate, toasted white hot chocolate, and peppermint white hot chocolate! To make these seasonal sips healthier, follow the same simple swaps as above.

Quick Tips On How to Order a Healthier Holiday Latte at Starbucks

Always Ask if There is an Unsweetened Version

Depending on your order, your latte can be made with sugar-free syrup, unsweetened non-dairy milk, or without the added syrup or sugar-filled topping.

Choose Your Dairy or Dairy-Free Base Wisely

If your belly can handle dairy milk, consider choosing skim milk over 2% milk to save some calories. Or, if you’re going for a plant-based swap, choose an unsweetened variety or one of Starbucks’ lower-calorie options like almond milk.

Order a Tall-Sized Brew

If you want to indulge in a sweet treat every now and then, don’t deprive yourself! But, find a healthy balance between indulgence and over-indulgence. Ordering a smaller-sized latte can satisfy your sweet tooth while keeping the sugar content lower than the larger sizes. And, if possible, utilize healthy swaps!

Turn Your Favorite Holiday Indulgence into a Healthier Starbucks Holiday Treat

As you can see, these Starbucks holiday drinks are full of holiday cheer, but they also come with a heavy pour of added sugar. While we’re all for treating ourselves during the holiday season, you can see how a frequent treat can quickly turn into too much of a good thing. But, being mindful about what’s in your cup can go a long way, especially if you’re utilizing these healthier Starbucks swaps. So, with that said, go ahead and soak up your favorite holiday flavors — just remember to sip smart!