The American love affair with pumpkin spice lattes may be relatively recent, with Starbucks leading the pack since 2003, but the practice of combining pumpkin spices with coffee seems to go all the way back to the 19th century and was particularly common in Arabic-speaking countries. The act of putting these spices in a frothy, smooth latte, however, didn't become popular until the 21st century when, following a period of coffee houses experimenting with flavors, Starbucks nailed the pumpkin spice latte we all know and love.
Importantly, what we think of as pumpkin spice didn't actually contain real pumpkins until relatively recently. Instead, it was traditionally a combination of ginger, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice. Starbucks, in fact, didn't add real pumpkin to its pumpkin spice latte until 2015, when pureed pumpkin made it into the mix. But if this all sounds delightfully wholesome, there's another side to a lot of pumpkin spice lattes, and it's that they can be surprisingly unhealthy. Some pumpkin spice lattes out there can be loaded with sugar, fat, questionable ingredients, and even sodium. And because you can't exactly ask your barista for the ingredients with a busy queue behind you, we decided we'd lay out the worst offenders right here.
Caribou Coffee has come a long way since first opening its doors in 1992 and now operates hundreds of branches across the country, with its operations mainly in Minnesota. But it couldn't let its primarily Midwestern customer base go without a version of the pumpkin spice latte, and thus, its pumpkin latte was born -- with a whole lot of sugar added in.
Caribou Coffee's pumpkin latte, in a medium size, contains a shocking 71 grams of sugar. This is a high amount in any diet and actually exceeds the amount that the average adult should be consuming in a full day, but it's especially worrying that it comes in a drink form. Unlike some foods, which are high in sugar but also contain nutrients, sugar-filled drinks are generally devoid of any significant health benefits. Although Caribou Coffee's pumpkin latte does contain nutrients from the milk it uses and some protein, it's hard to justify that enormous level of sweetness.
Sugary drinks are also troublesome as it's all too easy to sip them down without thinking about what's inside and to drink them alongside your regular diet, which may also contain sugar elsewhere. If that wasn't bad enough, Caribou Coffee's pumpkin offering also has 4.5 grams of saturated fat and over 400 calories per medium serving.
The original, and for many, the best pumpkin spice latte, is also, unfortunately, one of the unhealthiest out there. Starbucks' pumpkin spice latte is both sugary and fatty, with 50 grams of sugar and nine grams of saturated fat, with the latter giving you almost half of your daily value in one 16 fl oz drink. And while you might assume that its 390 calories will help to sate your hunger because it primarily comes from sugar, it's a short-lived satisfaction and will usually leave you craving more pretty quickly.
Don't be fooled by the fact that the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte contains real pumpkin, either -- it really doesn't have that much benefit. It's unclear exactly how much Starbucks adds in, and besides, pumpkin doesn't contain that much dietary fiber, which would otherwise be helpful to slow down sugar absorption. "It's very far removed from a coffee drink," registered dietitian Katie Ferraro says of the pumpkin spice latte on Healthline. "I really recommend to my clients that if a coffee drink has more than 25 to 50 calories, don't do it. Most people don't have room in their calorie budgets for a pumpkin spice latte. Think of it like an ice cream sundae. It's a sometime food, a dessert food."
Food giant McDonald's is never one to be left behind. And so, it makes sense that it would come out with its own pumpkin spice latte in a bid to rival the supremacy of the Starbucks version. Unfortunately, though, the McDonald's pumpkin spice latte isn't exactly a healthy choice. The burger chain's option does have a slightly lower level of sugar and calories than Starbucks' version, but its medium-sized drink still contains 300 calories and 29 grams of added sugars -- almost 60% of the total amount you should be consuming in a day.
Additionally, the McDonald's pumpkin spice latte contains an ingredient that we'd rather not see in it: Propylene glycol. This artificial additive is common in processed foods in the United States, and it has a thickening and texture-boosting effect that no doubt makes this drink even more delicious. Propylene glycol, however, is also used in products like antifreeze and e-cigarettes, and high doses have been associated with heart attacks and neurological issues like seizures, according to Healthline. Crucially, these only seem to occur when a large amount of propylene glycol is used, and in the limited quantities that exist in food and drinks, it's perfectly safe -- but it's still helpful to know what you're consuming.
While Dunkin' made its name with its doughnuts, its coffee is its other big hitter, so it makes sense that the chain offers its own version of the pumpkin spice latte. But Dunkin' isn't exactly known for its healthy food, and its drink is no different. Dunkin's pumpkin spice latte is riddled with sugar and fat, with a whole milk medium version containing 55 grams of sugar, 36 grams of added sugar, and 8 grams of saturated fat. It also contains a hefty 420 calories, and if you were to switch to the large size, that count shoots up to 540 calories per cup.
That calorie amount is about the same as an ample meal, notes registered dietitian nutritionist Diana Sugiuchi to Prevention. But despite this, it likely won't fill you up in the same way. "Often, we don't register feeling as full when we drink something as we do when we eat the same amount of calories. You could easily have something to eat along with the PSL and not feel super full," says Sugiuchi. It's worth pointing out that part of the reason why Dunkin's pumpkin spice latte is so calorific is because of its additions of cinnamon sugar, whipped cream, and a caramel drizzle. Cutting down on these or opting for the smallest size will help keep things healthy, suggests Sugiuchi.
Krispy Kreme is the master of ultra-sweet treats, and that extends to its drinks, too, with its pumpkin spice latte. But all that flavor comes at a cost. Krispy Kreme's pumpkin spice latte is, like its competitors, full of sugar and fat. In a 16 fl oz medium drink, there are 36 grams of sugar and 7 grams of saturated fat. It should be pointed out that these quantities are slightly less than other medium-sized drinks on the market, but it's still a large amount of each of these nutrients for a drink.
The Krispy Kreme pumpkin spice latte also has a high amount of sodium in it, with 260 milligrams per medium cup. And its whipped cream topping contains a somewhat controversial ingredient -- carrageenan. This seaweed extract shows up frequently in processed foods and acts as a thickener. However, several studies have found that carrageenan could have an inflammatory effect and may produce unwanted health consequences in the gut, including ulcers and bowel conditions, according to Medical News Today. The research around carrageenan's effects is still somewhat new, though, and researchers are unclear about its exact impact on the body.
Peet's pumpkin latte is a pretty tasty-looking number, but just because it looks delicious, that doesn't mean its ingredients are healthier. In fact, the Peet's pumpkin latte appears pretty similar nutritionally to all of the other options on the market, with 49 grams of carbohydrates in its whole milk medium version, most of them presumably coming from sugar. As whole milk is relatively high in saturated fats, these show up in abundance in the Peet's latte, too -- there are 8 grams in each medium cup.
Its medium size is also pretty calorific, with 370 calories per serving. And these calories may be tricky if you're trying to lose or maintain your weight. "One reason liquid calories sabotage weight loss is all in the name: calories," says Mercy Medical Center's primary care physician, Susan Besser, to NBC News. Calorific drinks like pumpkin spice lattes can add the equivalent of an extra meal's worth of calories to our daily intake, leaving us in a surplus, which is then stored as fat. While the odd treat like a pumpkin spice latte won't do a considerable amount of harm, it's best not to restrict calories in your food so you can drink more of these sugary beverages, as they don't supply a huge amount of nutrition.
7-Eleven does a lot more than your average convenience store. And one of its most novel offerings is its hot drink selection, which includes a pumpkin spice latte. If you were expecting nutritional excellence from 7-Eleven, however, you'd be disappointed. In each cup, there are 27 grams of sugar, 6 grams of saturated fat, and 190 milligrams of sodium, the latter being 8% of your recommended daily value.
While the saturated fat and sodium content might raise eyebrows, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the 27 grams of sugar doesn't look too bad compared to other options. But this is in a serving size of just 8 fluid ounces. It's worth remembering that some companies have a tendency to advertise the nutritional information of a smaller serving size as a way to give the impression that their products are somehow more nutritious or contain fewer calories or lower sugar quantities. That smallest size, however, doesn't necessarily reflect how the food product is actually composed -- and in the case of this 7-Eleven pumpkin spice latte, it could be gone in just a few sips.
Corner Bakery Café
It's fair to say that while most coffee chains don't always advertise the nutritional composition of their pumpkin spice lattes, they also don't try to suggest that they're healthy drinks. There can be a feeling, though, that ordering a nonfat version of these lattes can help make them healthier. That isn't necessarily the case. Chicago-born chain Corner Bakery Café is one of the outlets out there that offers a nonfat pumpkin spice latte, but while it may look better for you, containing no saturated fat, it still has 33 grams of carbohydrates, all of them sugar.
The pumpkin spice latte also contains 190 milligrams of sodium, making it pretty salty for such a sweet drink, and no fiber, vitamins, iron, or even calcium. While it does contain 11 grams of protein, that only amounts to 44 of its 190 calories, with the rest of them coming from the sugar content. It's worth remembering, too, that when things are marketed as nonfat or seem to be healthier, we tend to feel as though we can consume more of them than we usually would -- and this could mean that we end up eating or drinking more sugar or calories than usual.
There are pumpkin spice lattes, and then there's the Biggby Coffee pumpkin spice latte. This beverage is one of the unhealthiest out there, with sugar, fat, and calorie amounts that are pretty shocking. In a large version of Biggby Coffee's pumpkin spice latte, you'll find a grand total of 76 grams of sugar. For reference, this is almost 300 calories' worth.
Drinking this amount of sugar will not only cause you to have a serious mood crash shortly afterward, but it could also put a surprising strain on your cardiovascular system. A study conducted by Vanderbilt and the University of Alabama at Birmingham looked at the impact of drinking super-high-sugar drinks and found that doing so reduces the heart's production of a hormone called ANP, which helps to keep blood pressure down.
To add to this, Biggby Coffee's pumpkin spice latte has a massive 12.4 grams of saturated fat, well over half of your daily recommended value, and 554 calories total. Although you can reduce all of these quantities by going for a smaller size, even going for a 10 fl oz cup will provide you with 38 grams of sugar.
Tim Horton's may be a Canadian staple, but it's also made an impressive mark in the United States, with 629 locations in 2023, concentrated predominantly in the upper Midwest and Northeastern states. And as such, there's plenty of opportunity to try its pumpkin spice latte. Just don't expect it to be healthy -- this drink is high in sugars and fats and has a surprising amount of sodium. Each large serving of a Tim Horton's pumpkin spice latte has 380 calories and 11 grams of saturated fat. This is roughly the same amount of saturated fat that 1.5 tablespoons of butter has. Unlike butter, though, this drink also has a high level of sugar, with 46 grams in every large cup, contributing significantly to its calorie count.
The Tim Horton's pumpkin spice latte also has 210 milligrams of sodium per large serving, almost 10% of the 2,300-milligram limit recommended each day. While this sodium, presumably, comes mainly from the milk in every cup, it's still worth keeping in mind when you're drinking it. It can be easy to lose track of sodium intake when it comes to drinks, especially sweet drinks, but it all adds up.
While some coffee chains commit wholeheartedly to offering a pumpkin spice latte, others put their own twist on the classic drink -- but still, essentially, offer it in all but name. Such is the case with the Dutch Bros. Caramel Pumpkin Brûlée Breve, a latte-style drink made with half-and-half and infused with pumpkin flavors, with a kick of salted caramel for good measure.
Sadly, though, all of these delicious-sounding things make an impact nutritionally. This drink is absolutely laden with calories, containing 490 in its small size, 640 in its medium size, and an astronomical 720 in its large cup. Pick the largest, and you'll be drinking over a third of your recommended calorie intake in one go.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, due to its combination of sweet flavors, it's also packed with sugar, 47 grams in its medium size, and just a few grams less at 43 grams in a small cup. The Dutch Bros. Caramel Pumpkin Brûlée Breve is also high in sodium for a beverage, with 340 milligrams in a medium size, and to top it all off, it also has a high level of cholesterol, containing 115 milligrams per medium cup. This could be more than half of the maximum amount that you should be consuming daily if you have a pre-existing risk of cardiovascular disease, according to UCSF Health.
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Since starting in Southern California in 1963, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has projected an image of making and serving carefully crafted, artisanal drinks. This doesn't mean, though, that it's immune to the whims of customers craving their sugary fall fix of pumpkin spice. Its pumpkin latte is the answer to this, promising authentic pumpkin flavor and topped with a classy dusting of spice-laced topping.
What it's slightly less forthcoming about, though, is the high amounts of sugar in each drink. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's pumpkin latte contains 56 grams of sugar, a very high amount for such a simple-looking drink. As well as this, it'll set you back 350 calories per serving and will provide 3.5 grams of fat -- even in its nonfat version. For those looking to keep their calorie and sugar count down, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf does offer a "no sugar added" version of its drink. But even this is high in sugar, containing 40 grams per cup, with the no-sugar version simply skipping the dusting of sweet topping that adorns every glass.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.