The Healthiest Things to Eat at Starbucks, According to a Dietitian

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: The Kitchn)

We’ve all been there: You need something to eat besides that stale, smooshed granola bar in your bag and you’re A) in traffic on the freeway, B) rushing through an airport, or C) at the office on a dangerously empty stomach. Enter: Starbucks.

Yes, our friends with the Frappuccinos have been wading ever deeper into the world of quick meals, and it turns out you can have some pretty tasty and reasonably healthy dishes there (just look away from the coffee confetti concoctions).

The thing is, they’re actually offering so many options these days, it can make you want to just grab a muffin and run. No need. I talked with Marisa Moore, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Atlanta, and she broke it down for us. “I’ve found myself in Starbucks’ line early in the morning,” she says, so she’s giving it to us for real, not just from the labels.

Note: Starbucks’ offerings vary seasonally and by location, so your choice may or may not be available at, say, a hospital or airport location. The good news is they have a thorough listing of all their nutritional data on their website; read it if you dare!

What to Eat from Starbucks in the Morning

(Image credit: Starbucks)

“I love that they have oatmeal there, and they have the toppings on the side,” Mariss says. With nuts, dried fruit, and brown sugar available, “you can decide how sweet you want it, if at all. It’s an easy way to get in some fiber and protein.” Oatmeal options elsewhere have the sugary stuff already added to it, so thank you, Starbucks, for letting us take back oatmeal from the candy-bar-in-a-bowl it too often is.

While these little bites (currently a hot DIY item) might not have quite as many calories as you’d like to start your day with (the veggie version, anyway), they offer a nice bump of protein, a bit of vegetables, and in fact, would be great to have alongside the oatmeal, Marisa says.

(Image credit: Starbucks)

With any fast food, Marisa reminds us, “you’re going to end up getting a significant amount of sodium — you need to be mindful of that, especially if you’re traveling.” But not everyone is sodium sensitive, so as long as you balance out a salt wallop at one meal, you can go for a solid choice like this filling breakfast wrap.

What to Eat from Starbucks in the Afternoon or Evening

“As adults it’s fun to have little compartments,” Marisa says, and she’s right on. Maybe not the sexiest name for a grown-up lunch box, but these are winners in her book. “Especially if you’re pressed for tine, they provide a nice filling lunch or snack.” Marisa opts for the egg and cheese box, which gets her thumbs up for being a balanced dish and including fruit: this sub-500 calorie variety pack contains hard-boiled eggs, sliced apples, grapes, white Cheddar cheese, muesli bread, and honey peanut butter.

This colorful and bountiful bowl of lentils, butternut squash, roasted tomatoes, brown rice, lemon-tahini dressing, and sunflower seeds is loaded with fiber and protein, and will keep you full, Marisa says. It’s also vegan.

What You Should Avoid at Starbucks

Just say no, no, no to bakery items, Marisa says, which are overloaded with sugar. And avoid the sandwiches, too, where the bread is often the culprit in sky-high sodium counts. We don’t need a nutritionist to tell us the over-the-top coffee drinks aren’t good for us (who needs 98 grams of sugar in one sitting?), but if a caffeine fix is in order, give the Nitro Cold Brew a try. It’s rich and creamy naturally, Marisa says, and if you go for hot coffee, try spicing it up with cocoa powder and cinnamon before adding the whipped cream.