I cringe at being the bearer of bad news.  But, alas, I’m going to be a buzzkill.  Maybe a total downer to your day. But don’t quit reading.  It will be worth it for your health and waistline.

sad truth

It seems like we have come upon fall season, which should probably be re-named “pumpkin season”.  This time of year I feel like everything has pumpkin added to it, just so we will buy in great excess.  I’m just waiting to see an ad for pumpkin-scented clothing detergent and pumpkin potato chips.

I feel like the epitome of pumpkin-themed items is the Pumpkin Spice Latte, namely the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.  Brilliant idea for any coffee business.  Throw some pumpkin and spices in a cup, charge $5 bucks (or more) for it, and only offer it a limited time, people can’t stop themselves.

pumpkin spice lattePhoto Via Starbucks Website

I tried a pumpkin spice latte last year and found I really don’t like them.  Don’t hate me….I have plenty of other unhealthy vices, but the pumpkin latte isn’t my favorite choice.  The Salted Carmel Mocha is a also a popular choice, marketed right next to the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Salted Carmel MochaVia Starbucks Webiste

The Salted Carmel Mocha does not even taste like a coffee beverage…more like a milky sweet ice cream, with a hit of salt on the top.  Knox sampled an iced one at a Target Starbucks the other day….love at first taste.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

It may not look like love, but let me tell you, it was love.  I couldn’t get it away from him.  I had to perform some sneaky mom-distraction tactics to avoid a full-on tantrum in the middle of Target.  I mean, what’s not to love?  It’s sweet whipped cream topped with some sea salt, and gives you the salty-sweet flavor, and somewhere deep inside, maybe a little bit of caffeine is lurking.  The Starbucks tagline hits the nail on the head: “The Sea Salt Sugar Topping is Just the Beginning”.

You better believe it’s just the beginning.

That bad-boy Salted Carmel Latte has 450 calories in a Grande size (medium).  Upgrade to a Venti?  560 calories, and 71 grams of sugar.  Y’all, that’s a lot of sugar.  That’s a lot of calories.  That’s a lot of pounds over the course of a winter of lattes.

The Pumpkin Latte does not fare much better:  Grande has 420 calories and 49 grams of sugar, the Venti has 510 calories and 62 grams of sugar.

In order for you to understand the severity of those numbers, I’ll share some comparisons:

According to the Mayo Clinic, a 160lb woman would burn

  • 533 calories in one hour of high-impact aerobics
  • 606 calories in onbe hour of running at 5mph
  • 365 calories in one hour of weight-training
  • 204 calories walking at 2mph

Do you realize you would need to walk for almost THREE HOURS to burn off your latte?  Is that worth it?

Maybe it is.  Maybe every once and awhile you need to enjoy a treat.  Maybe you meet a friend for coffee and you want to enjoy your time.  The problem is, most of the time, we mindlessly order a latte, drink it along our merry little drive to work (or wherever), and it does not satisfy.  We still eat breakfast, we still eat lunch, we still snack.  We just happened to add an additional 550ish calories to our day.  

The general thought is that it takes about 3500 additional calories to gain a pound.  6 lattes = 1lb.

Six.  Six of those little drinks can equal one additional pound around your waistline.


And we’ve not even talked about the massive amount of sugar.  Do you realize you could have had a piece of pumpkin or apple pie that has a third of the sugar as the latte?

Friends, a Pumpkin Spice Latte is the equivalent of putting about 16 teaspoons of sugar in your coffee.  That’s 1/3 of a cup of sugar. 


Ok, so now that I’ve given you such sad numbers and you hate me for ruining your day, here are some alternatives.

  • Order your latte “Skinny”: with non-fat milk, and skip the whipped cream.  You can knock the venti down to 330 calories (still a lot of sugar, though, so I wouldn’t recommend this every day)
  • Order a regular coffee and have them do half, or a fourth latte.  You get the flavor of the latte without the insane sugar and calories.
  • If you just can’t tolerate anything but the normal latte, then consider limiting the amount you consume.  If you are currently drinking 1-2 per week, cut down to 2 per month, etc.
  • Make your own versionThriving Home Blog has a great recipe for a crock pot pumpkin spice latte and the entire recipe has just a little more sugar than one glass of the commercial stuff (plus, you avoid a lot of the added junk that is in a commercial latte).
  • Drink tea.  Are you laughing at me?  Sometimes all we need is a hot liquid, and there are tons of flavored teas out there that may fit the bill of satisfying you with warm liquid and zero calories.  Plus, there are lots of fruit-infused balsamic vinegars that you could use to flavor your tea to give it an exotic flair.
  • Along the tea note, you could steep a pumpkin spice chai tea bag in hot milk for a very very similar flavor.  If you wanted it to be sweet, you could add a teaspoon or two of sugar, and still be down significantly from the 16 tsp. that are in a latte.

Are you wondering what gives me the authority to preach at you about food?  I don’t really have much “professional” authority.  But I do have years of experience.  Someday I’ll tell you about my weight loss journey, but for now, just know that my knowledge comes from years of trial and error, reading, and experience.

Remember, your healthy life and body are a series of small choices that equal big change.  Your life won’t change for the better (or worse) because of one latte, but a series of good choices, accumulated over a week, or a month, or a year can make big changes for your life and body.

Do you have any hacks to satisfy your pumpkin spice craving without all the calories?


Smashing Pumpkins: The Sad Truth Of The Pumpkin Spice Latte

9 thoughts on “Smashing Pumpkins: The Sad Truth Of The Pumpkin Spice Latte

  1. Totally a guilty pleasure of mine! I already knew just how guilty of a pleasure they are, but I really loved the alternatives you offered. I hope you stick with the blogging because I’m really enjoying it.

    • Thanks so much, I am so glad to hear you enjoy reading the blog. I think it is great to enjoy something that’s a guilty pleasure, as long as you realize it’s a guilty pleasure and not your average coffee!

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  3. i do love pumpkin everything, but hate paying $$$ for it! love the idea of tasty balsamic vinegars in tea, NEVER HEARD of this before, and i actually have some yummy flavors. totally ‘mind blown’ moment. thanks

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  5. Ok, so I’m a little late to the game, but I do have a good hack that works for any of the flavored, overly sugary Starbucks drinks. I’ve found that I really don’t like things to be as sweet as I did a few years ago. When I splurge on Starbucks (which isn’t very often because the prices just KILL me), I always get a “skinny” and I ask for just 1 flavor pump. For most grande drinks, I think they use at least 4 pumps of flavored syrup. This cuts the sugar down a lot. You can also get unsweetened whipped cream. There’s still fat, but at least the sugar is gone.

    Love your blog, by the way!

    • Good idea, Carli! I don’t think anyone has mentioned this one yet. Several posted thoughts on Facebook when it was a new post, but I don’t remember this one

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