How Healthy Are Starbucks’ New High Protein Cold Brews?

Written by Joey Daoud

On August 30, 2018

I was grabbing my black venti dark roast from Starbucks earlier this week when I noticed some signs advertising two new plant based protein cold brews on the menu: the Almond Protein Blended Cold Brew and Cacao Protein Blended Cold Brew.

At first I was excited to see Starbucks offering more options that seem to be more health conscious. Higher protein (so more satiating), under 300 calories, fruit based sweeteners. But how healthy are these new drinks?

The Nutrition Facts

Looking at the nutrition facts for the grande (medium) size, the almond blend comes in at 270 calories with 12 grams of protein while the cacao blend is 250 calories with 10 grams of protein.

These aren’t exactly satisfying amounts of protein. Most of the food boxes have at least 20 grams of protein. A bag of classic almonds has 9 grams.

These drinks aren’t going to be replacing any meals. So you’ll most likely have them as a snack. But here’s the sweet kicker.

Both have over 20 grams of sugar. The almond blend is a little better with 22 grams versus the cacao’s 26 grams. For reference, the WHO recommends less than 25 grams of added sugar a day.

But it’s natural sugar!

Sorry, sugar is sugar. Plus it’s not all from the fruit sweetener (which at this point is so processed it’s lost any absorption slowing fiber). If you look at the ingredient breakdown, the base drinks (coconut or almond milk) have cane sugar.

Can I Make it Healthier?

There are a few things you can do.

Swap out the liquid base with milk. While on the surface this will make the sugar count go up, that’s because the lactose from the milk is getting factored in, which is naturally occurring. In doing this you’ll be eliminating the cane sugar found in the almond and coconut milk.

Add more protein. According to Starbucks’ #ProTips, you can add more of their plant-based protein to the drink. While this won’t make it healthier, it’ll make it more filling (without adding more sugar) so you won’t want to go eat something else. There’s no breakdown on exactly how much protein this will add, but I’d guess it’s in the range of 9-10 grams.

So Should I Drink It?

I’m not passing judgement on whether this is good or bad. Is it healthier than the Cinnamon Roll Frappuccino with 83 grams of sugar? Sure!

Just be aware of what’s in these drinks and don’t fool yourself into thinking this is an everyday healthy treat.

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