The 4 Best Low-Sugar Starbucks Drinks for People with Diabetes
While popular drinks like the Pumpkin Spice Latte and the Peppermint Mocha are beloved orders for many Starbucks lovers, they aren't exactly the best choices for managing blood sugar levels. In fact, these drinks contain 50 and 54 grams of sugar, respectively, in a grande (16-ounce) cup, clocking in at over 3 carb servings—which is steep for someone with diabetes who needs to pay special attention to their carbs.
Nevertheless, even though Starbucks has a long list of drinks with a high sugar count, there are still quite a few drink options that don't provide such a high amount of sugar with every sip. For people with diabetes looking for low-sugar Starbucks drink options, we asked Lauren Manaker, M.S., RDN, to share some of the best sips to snag that won't spike your blood sugar next time you find yourself on a Starbucks line.
1. Black Coffee
If you have diabetes and are looking to reduce your sugar intake, a classic cup of black coffee is an easy go-to order.
"The OG coffee order is naturally added-sugar-free and is a source of natural antioxidants," says Manaker. "If you like your coffee black, you can continue to enjoy your favorite cup of joe, even if you are managing diabetes."
A 2019 review in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that long-term caffeinated coffee consumption could actually improve glucose metabolism.
Plus, research even shows that drinking coffee can reduce your risk of developing diabetes in the first place. A 2020 study published in Diabetes Care suggests that those who drank at least one cup of coffee a day may experience a decreased risk of developing diabetes.
The coffee doesn't have to be caffeinated though. According to a 2018 systematic review published in Nutrition Reviews, drinking caffeinated as well as decaffeinated coffee was associated with a reduced risk of diabetes.
This low-sugar Starbucks order includes both hot and iced coffees. But be sure to specify that you want your iced coffee unsweetened; the typical iced coffee order comes with added simple syrup.
2. Short Latte
If drinking coffee black isn't your cup of tea (ha!), Manaker also recommends ordering a small latte if you're looking for something fancier. A "short" latte is actually smaller than the usual "tall" size, clocking in at 8 ounces in your cup versus the usual 12.
"A latte is made with two ingredients—milk and espresso," Manaker says. "While there are natural sugars in milk, this drink does not contain added sugars."
Because milk does contain lactose, a natural sugar found in dairy products, the type of milk in the latte does matter when it comes to managing blood sugar levels.
"Sticking to 2% milk instead of skim may help manage blood sugars a bit more thanks to the additional fat," says Manaker. "For a little extra flavor, ask for a sprinkle of cinnamon on top of your drink."
3. Iced Green Tea
Not a coffee person but still looking for something refreshing? Starbucks does offer a selection of unsweetened iced teas—including green tea.
"Green tea is naturally free from added sugars, and it contains natural compounds that may offer unique benefits for those with type 2 diabetes," says Manaker.
A 2017 comprehensive review published in Nutrients confirms this, finding a link between green tea consumption and improved glucose and A1C levels.
"Sipping on this iced option offers a subtle flavor without being overpowering. If your diet includes it, feel free to add a sugar alternative (like Stevia) to your tea for some sweetness," says Manaker.
If you're not a green tea fan, other unsweetened tea options at Starbucks include black tea and Passion Tango iced tea. Hot tea is also unsweetened and can be an easy go-to if you're looking for something warm and comforting on a colder day.
4. Cold-Brew Coffee
If you're not a fan of the usual iced coffee order at Starbucks, their cold brew is also a great option for those who love a stronger sip.
"Cold-brew coffee is sugar-free and contains very few calories," says Manaker. "This drink has a satisfying richness that will leave you not even missing the added sugars."
Again, if drinking black coffee doesn't sound appealing, you can always add a splash of milk, which adds some satiating protein and fat, both known for stabilizing blood sugar levels.
The Bottom Line
The key to ordering a low-sugar drink at Starbucks is to simply keep the sugar in mind. Look for unsweetened beverages and try to steer clear of any drinks with added sugars in them—typically from various syrups and sweeteners. If you're looking for something that isn't the usual cup of black coffee or tea, adding 2% milk—or simply ordering a short latte—provides protein and fat that can help prevent a spike in blood sugar as you enjoy your drink.