DIY a Healthier Pumpkin Spice Latte

For some people, the crisp snap in the air and changing leaves mean just one thing—it’s Pumpkin Spice Latte season! That is, until the jeans get too tight. These delicious cups of autumn goodness pack in so many calories, sugar, and fat that if you drink too many, you might pack on some extra pounds.

Here’s what’s you’re getting in your favorite pumpkin-flavored coffee drink: A regular 16 oz. Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks with 2% milk and whipped cream contains an average of 380 calories, 13g. of fat, 52g. of carbohydrates, and 49g. of sugar. It also has 150 mg. of caffeine.

Here’s why that adds up to pounds gained: 380 calories is almost 20 percent of the calories most moderately active women need to consume in a day and almost 14% of what most men need.

How can you get this delicious autumn treat without gaining weight? QualityHealth asked Alison Massey MS, RD, CDE, LDN, registered dietician and director of Diabetes Education at The Center for Endocrinology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

Here are some of Massey’s suggestions:

  • Downsize and lighten up: Order a 12-ounce instead of a 16-ounce latte (the coffee house may even serve you an 8-ounce serving upon request), and have it made with non-fat milk or sweetened almond or soymilk instead of whole milk. Drop the whipped cream, too, and you’ll cut your calories to 200, or 240 with soymilk.
  • Cut the sugar: These smaller and lower fat pumpkin spice lattes still have plenty of sugar—37 grams, in fact. If you really want to dial down the sugar and calorie content, Massey suggests making your own pumpkin beverage at home. For a no-calorie treat, pick up some pumpkin-flavored coffee to brew in your own coffee pot. If you add a spoonful of sugar and a tablespoon of half-and-half, you’ll have all the caffeine, pumpkin flavor, and creamy sweetness you want—all for just 36 calories.
  • Get cooking: If you’re looking for something a little closer to the pumpkin-pie-in-a-cup you have at your favorite coffee house, but with fewer calories, try making your own pumpkin spice syrup. Your coffee shop’s syrup is made with lots of sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, cream, sweetened condensed milk, pumpkin flavoring, spices, and artificial flavors and colors. However, "There are lots of great options and recipes online that tell you how to make a healthier pumpkin latte using real pumpkin puree and less sugar," Massey points out. (Try searching online for "homemade pumpkin spice latte syrup," and be sure the recipe contains fresh or canned pureed pumpkin.) "My tip to is to focus on creating the pumpkin syrup ahead of time and having it ready for a Monday morning treat," Massey suggests.

How else can you enjoy the flavors of fall without adding too much sugar, fat or too many calories to your diet? Try a spicy cup of chai tea or a non-fat cup of cocoa. If only a pumpkin spice latte will do, then balance the calories in your cup with a couple hours raking leaves and you’ve got all the makings of a perfect autumn day.

Allison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, reviewed this article.


"Pumpkin Spice Latte." Starbucks. Page accessed October 2, 2014.