Starbucks describes its new Unicorn Frappuccino as "sweet, fruity and pleasantly sour." It also packs a lot of calories.
Granted, Starbucks is not advertising this as a health drink, but we asked Swedish Medical nutritionist Megan Moore to look at the ingredients and answer some questions about the popular drink.
Q: The Grande Unicorn Frappuccino has 410 calories, 140 from fat. How does that compare to a bottle of pop or a milkshake?
A: "A 16-ounce Unicorn Frap (made with whole milk and whipped cream) has 410 calories, 62 grams of carbohydrates, and 59 grams of sugar. One 16-ounce Coca-Cola has 190 calories, 52 grams carbs, and 52 grams of sugar. A 16-ounce milkshake has 511 calories, 80 grams carbs, and 80 grams of sugar."
Q: What are we learning about sugar and why is it a concern that there are apparently 76 grams of sugar in one Unicorn drink?
A: "Americans are eating about three times the maximum intake for added sugars recommended by the American Heart Association. Current recommendations are 24 to 36 grams of added sugar per day, or six to nine teaspoons. This drink has more than double this recommendation. Research is showing that high intakes of sugar and processed carbohydrates are contributing to weight gain and progression of inflammation and chronic disease."
Q: You've looked at the ingredients. As a nutritionist, is there anything that concerns you?
A: "Six of the eight ingredients are made with added sugar or artificial sweeteners. The only natural ingredients are ice and milk."
Q: What if you want to indulge? How often should the average person consume a high-calorie coffee drink?
A: "This is definitely a 'fun' food which can be included in the diet within moderation. If someone wanted to indulge, I would recommend opting for a smaller size and sharing with a friend. Additionally, try to aim for less sugary or processed foods throughout the day to balance out the high calories and sugar from this treat."
Q: Sometimes it's obvious that there's a lot of sugar or fat in a coffee drink. But are there more subtle items we may not be aware of that are "upping" the calorie count in our drinks?
A: "The 'extra' pumps of flavoring, caramel or chocolate drizzles, or whole fat milk are all adding to the calories in our coffee drink. Many individuals don't know that their milk substitute choices (coconut, almond, soy) are often flavored and contain added sugar. For example, 12 ounces of coconut milk from Starbucks contains 130 calories and 13 grams of sugar, and 12 ounces of soy milk from Starbucks contains 210 calories and 21 grams of sugar."
Q: Other than looking up beverage calorie counts online, is there a rule of thumb for knowing what drinks have fewer calories and less fat?
A: "A few rules for decreasing your calorie intake from coffee drinks:
- Switch from full-fat to reduced fat milk.
- Ask for sugar-free syrup or half the amount of normal syrup.
- Skip the whipped cream.
- Reduce your drink size from a Venti to a Grande or a Grande to a Tall when possible.
- Keep 'limited edition' or novelty drinks to a minimum."