Starbucks' new dairy-free drink is delicious, but there's a catch

Starbucks To Raise Prices On Select Drinks, And Lower On Simple Drinks

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Starbucks has a new dairy-free addition to its menu: the Iced Vanilla Bean Coconutmilk Latte. Sounds delicious, but how does it stand up in terms of nutrition? Turns out that it’s not so great.

Yes, it’s dairy-free, which is great news for the many people who avoid consuming dairy for a variety of health reasons. (One of the more common reasons is lactose intolerance — lactose being the primary sugar in dairy —which impacts a significant percentage of the world’s population and comes with a laundry list of unpleasant symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, cramps, bloating and gas. There might also be concern about the high levels of saturated fat many dairy-based products contain, which can result in weight gain.) However, nutritionist and author of “The Small Change Diet” Keri Gans, M.S., RDN, CDN, reminds us that diary-free options aren’t always a silver bullet.

“If someone is choosing this beverage, they shouldn’t kid themselves into thinking they are having a nutritious beverage,” she tells LIVESTRONG.COM. Bummer.

But why? According to the Starbucks website, the Vanilla Bean Coconutmilk Latte is made with coconut milk that has added ingredients like coconut cream, cane sugar and carrageenan (an ingredient derived from seaweed that has been linked to inflammation), as well as brewed espresso and vanilla bean powder.

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The Grande Vanilla Bean Coconutmilk Latte contains 140 calories, 21 grams of sugar — the equivalent of more than five teaspoons — and a single gram of protein. To put things in perspective, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a daily limit of six teaspoons of sugar for women and nine for men. So, yeah, there’s a lot of sugar in that small plastic cup.

If you feel like going bigger, the Venti will bump you up to 220 calories, eight grams of fat, 31 grams sugar and two grams of protein. In comparison, a kit kat bar has fewer calories (210) and sugar (22 grams) and more protein (three grams).

Now maybe you’re reading this and thinking: “I have a very balanced diet and just want a treat. CAN'T YOU JUST LET ME LIVE?” Trust us, we get it. Just try to be mindful and order the Tall to keep calories and added sugar in check. Alternatively, if you want to stay dairy-free and still keep calories and sugar at a minimum, swap out the coconut milk for almond milk (which shaves off five grams of sugar and adds one more gram of protein for a Grande size).

At the end of the day, the occasional Vanilla Bean Coconutmilk Latte won’t make or break your health — but keep that sugar content in mind and balance your diet accordingly.

Lecture over!

Read more: The 10 Best Starbucks Swaps to Cut Calories and Fat

What Do YOU Think?

Are you surprised by how many calories and grams of sugar Starbucks’ latest dairy-free drink has? Do you know how many calories are in your favorite coffee drink? Do you consider nutritional facts before ordering a drink? Let us know in the comments!