Two popular fall drinks have returned to the menu as both Starbucks and Dunkin’ announced the return of their pumpkin spice lattes in recent weeks. While both may be a great fall treat, they are loaded with sugar, sodium and calories that your nutritionist would tell you to avoid.
The Dunkin’ small sized iced pumpkin spice latte is 16 ounces (oz), compared to the 16 fluid ounce (fl oz) Starbucks grande version of the iced drink. Starbucks’ drink is slightly larger – coming in at around an ounce larger than Dunkin’s, but the difference is near-negligible.
Despite the near-identical sizes, Starbucks’ drink is more loaded with unhealthy filler than its peer. It has 150 more calories, 12 more grams (g) of sugar, 10 g more of fat, more than twice the cholesterol content, 13 g more of carbohydrates and 40 more milligrams (ml) of sodium. It also has slightly more protein than its competitor.
Neither drink is particularly great for your health, and should probably be skipped by a person who is watching their weight, sugar or sodium levels for any reason.
Both drinks account for more than half of a person’s daily sugar allowance to stay healthy, according to Food and Administration (FDA) by themselves.
Starbucks brought back its pumpkin spice latte drink on August 30, a marker for many avid coffee drinkers that summer has gone by the wayside and that it is time to prepare for fall.
The drink is extremely popular, and even spawned an oft-mocked subculture in the 2010s describing the drink as ‘basic’ because of how frequently it is ordered during the short time of the year it is available.
To capitalize on the pumpkin spice-flavored craze, Dunkin’ launched its own version of the drink in 2020. It also puts it on the menu weeks before Starbucks does – aiming to capture the market in mid-August.
Despite the similar branding, the drinks have ingredient lists and nutrition labels that greatly differ from one another.
The Starbucks drink is packed with calories for such a small drink, packing 370.
Starbucks’ drink contains 45 g of sugar, meaning that those who opt for the grande size are nearly reaching their entire daily sugar allotment with only one 16 fl oz drink. The total carb content of 47 g – which includes sugar – is 17 percent of a person’s recommended daily intake.
It has high fat content as well, with its 16 g of fat accounting for more than one-fifth of what the FDA recommends a person to limit themselves at each day.
The iconic iced drink is high in cholesterol as well, with its 55 mg also making up nearly a fifth of daily contents.
It comes in at 190 mg of sodium as well, a small portion of the recommended daily intake of 2,300.
All of these figures top the equivalent metrics in Dunkin’s drink. The small 16 oz iced latte is 220 calories, down 40 percent from the Starbucks drink.
It has around a third of the fat content, with only 6 g. Dunkin’s drink only has half of the cholesterol as well, with 20 mg compared to the over 50 contained in Starbucks’.
Both the 34 g of total carbs and 150 mg of sodium are notable drops compared to their competitor as well.
For Dunkin, these are the smallest the numbers can go, though, as small is the tiniest size it has in its offerings. The grande size is generally considered to be a large at Starbucks, though, and someone who is health conscious but would still like to taste the fall drink can opt for the tall (12 fl oz) or short (8 fl oz) versions instead.
While Dunkin’s drink stacks up better than its competitor, it will be hard to find any nutritionist that would want their patients touching either drink.
‘The concept of pumpkin and spices, there are so many health benefits,’ said Kristin Kirkpatrick, a dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, told Healthline.
‘Unfortunately, that’s similar to saying apple pie is healthy because it’s apple. It’s taking a concept that’s healthy and making it more of a dessert type of drink.’
Katie Ferraro, a dietician at the University of California, San Francisco, said that does not even consider it a coffee drink because of its large sugar contents.
‘Pumpkin itself is healthy. Cinnamon and nutmeg are fine. But pumpkin spice lattes are about sugar,’ she told 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.’