Starbucks' menu, as selected by a nutritionist
Kermit Williams Jr. | 11/15/2016, 8:14 p.m. | Updated on 11/15/2016, 8:14 p.m.
(CNN) You can't go too far these days without running into a Starbucks. The chain is so ubiquitous, it's almost like having an outsourced pantry staple available within a 5-mile radius (or a few city blocks) all day.
You can always count on it for coffee, tea and some tasty bites to fuel you up in the morning or to tide you over until lunch or dinner.
But if we can count on Starbucks to be "there" for us, what are the most nutritious options among so many different beverages, mini-meals and snacks?
Starbucks makes it easy for us, especially when it comes to deciding what to drink. One of the most appealing aspects of Starbucks' menu is that you can customize your beverage to your liking. To order even a simple drink at Starbucks is to participate in some level of customization, when you take into account the size, temperature (hot or iced) and fat content of the milk. We really like this level of personalization, considering we all have different nutritional needs and preferences.
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When it comes to calories in Starbucks beverages, the count varies greatly. The lowest-calorie options at Starbucks include unsweetened coffee and tea. For example, a tall (12 ounce) brewed coffee has 5 calories, and the same size brewed tea has zero calories. The same size nonfat cappuccino has only 60 calories, mostly from the milk.
In general, if you want to enjoy some sweetness in your beverage but don't want to over-consume calories, you can ask for less syrup (i.e. fewer "pumps": Most hot espresso beverages contain three, four and five pumps of syrup for tall, grande and Venti, respectively).
Even better, order your beverage "skinny," which means it will be made with nonfat milk and sugar-free syrup and without whipped cream. For example, a grande (16 ounce) vanilla latte with whole milk has 290 calories and 11 grams of fat (6 grams saturated). But the skinny version, with nonfat milk and sugar-free syrup, has 120 calories and 0 grams of fat.
Other lighter cold beverages include a tall Teavana Shaken Iced Passion Tango tea or an iced coffee, which are lightly sweetened and contain only 60 calories (both have zero calories if you omit the sweetener).
Finally, if you are not willing to part with syrups or whipped cream -- or full-fat milk, for that matter -- choose the smallest size. A Venti (24 ounce) mocha Frappuccino containing whole milk, whipped cream, syrup and mocha sauce contains 520 calories and 10 grams, or about half a day's worth of saturated fat. But the mini size (10 ounce) version contains 190 calories and 4 grams of saturated fat. Still not dietetic, but significantly skinnier.
Though you can customize a beverage to your liking at Starbucks, the same does not hold true for the chain's food. You can ask a barista to take something off of a sandwich -- bacon, for example -- and bagels and oatmeal are customizable with toppings and spreads. But that's about it when it comes to personalizing meals and snacks.