Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s AfterGlo

Clean up your morning latte

Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Ah, yes, it’s fall – the season that calls for breaking out cozy socks and boots, taking long strolls to enjoy the many colors nature has to offer, and sipping warm apple cider while bundled up under a blanket.
Oh, and pumpkin spice lattes. How could I forget the PSL?!

As if acting as the gong that commences the autumnal season, the Facebook exclamations paired with a photo begin: “IT’S PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE SEASON!!”

The decade-long success of the Starbucks’ all-star initiated a pumpkin phenomenon, causing Dunkin’ Donuts to follow suit and McDonald’s to debut a similar drink earlier this month. The popularity of the drink also encouraged several other pumpkin products to hit the shelves, including pumpkin Oreos, pumpkin-pie flavored vodka and a pumpkin spice Jell-O mix. According to a March 2014 Department of Agriculture study, sales of pumpkin-flavored products in the United States amassed $308 million in 2013.

Crazy for pumpkin? Me too. But while it’s OK to indulge every now and then in a frothy pumpkin morning beverage or another coffee drink of choice, the truth is the calories, sugar and other excess ingredients in those babies add up.

Here are a few of my favorite tips for choosing wisely when you hit the coffee shop for your morning cup o’ joe – slimmed down pumpkin spice latte hints included!

Watch for sugar

The Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte packs 62 grams of sugar and the Dunkin’ Donuts version has 70 grams. To put in perspective just how much sugar that is, the World Health Organization recommends the average American consume less than 10 percent of their total daily calories from sugars. That’s about 50 grams of sugar per day. As of March 2014, the WHO is working to move that number down to 5 percent in an effort to further decrease the massive amount of sugar consumed by Americans – about three pounds of sugar per week!

But I digress. The point is, the aforementioned lattes pack more sugar than the current recommendations for daily intake. And chances are likely the latte isn’t the only sugary item you will consume all day, so you see what’s about to happen there – sugar overload!

Slim down your sugar content by requesting half the syrup, and consider sweetening other coffee drinks with a healthier sweetener, like raw honey or stevia.

Take it easy on the extras

That’s right – the caramel drizzle, whipped cream and chocolate syrup have got to go. You also might want to try opting for skim milk or a dairy-free version instead. All of these little changes can help keep the flavor while cutting down on a drink’s calorie content.

Here’s an example: The Starbucks Venti Caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream and a caramel drizzle contains 510 calories and 17 grams of fat. But when you nix the whipped cream and caramel drizzle, the beverage contains only 385 calories and 5 grams of fat.

If you want to add a little something without the guilt, try sprinkling ground cinnamon or unsweetened cocoa on top of your drink for a festive kick.

Skip the fake stuff

Skip sugar-free syrups and artificial sweeteners, because while they certainly help cut back on sugar intake, they are loaded with chemicals and are just plain gross. Artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and sucralose, have been linked to a myriad of health issues, including headaches, insulin resistance and cancer. Let’s put it this way: The popular artificial sweetener known as Splenda is processed using chlorine! Make sure to also avoid low-fat and artificial creamers, which are often made using unnatural, unhealthy ingredients, like high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

Want some ideas for how to choose wisely at the coffee shop? Opt for these healthier alternatives:

– Coffee with steamed milk: You’ll get the toasty feel that you would with a latte, minus the extra calories and sugar. This baby will clock in under 100 calories.

– A regular cappuccino: Even when it’s made with whole milk, this classic is a better choice than any other sugar-loaded kid on the block. A 16-ounce cappuccino with whole milk will have approximately 150 calories, 8 grams of fat and 13 grams of sugar.

– Regular ol’ coffee: If you are looking for a bit of a caffeine pick-me-up minus the extra junk, then this guy is a sure bet. Choose organic when you can in order to avoid harmful pesticides.

Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the author of The Gluten-Free Revolution and a certified health coach. She is also the author of the popular gluten-free blog, Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at

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