Sometimes when you need a pick-me-up, a coffee shop drink is the only thing that’ll do. However, turning this occasional treat into an almost daily habit can start adding up — both in calories and in costs. That’s why we like to skip the café and whip up our own versions of lightened-up “skinny” Starbucks drinks right at home. And thanks to the pros in the First for Women test kitchen who brewed up some recipe magic, it’s easier than ever to re-create so many of those favorite sips. So keep reading for how to make Starbucks drink recipes at home, plus the secrets that make them “skinny” and delicious.
The scoop on coffee shop drinks
Not all café drinks are unhealthy, but your options for nutritious choices can be fairly limited. And while a chain coffee shop like Starbucks is known for its large, ever-changing menu, registered dietitian Toby Smithson, MS, RDN, notes that black coffee and espresso drinks are the only choices that aren’t high in calories or carbohydrates. “The best choices include Americanos (iced or hot), or the Veranda Blend, Dark Roast, Medium Roast or Clover Brewed,” she says.
Unless you’re a black coffee fan, you may think you’re missing out by not having sweetener or milk in your drink. Luckily, making your favorite caffeinated sips at home is perfect for adding healthier, flavor-enhancing ingredients into the drink. This way, you’ll still get your caffeine fix — just with a lightened-up twist!
3 ways to give DIY Starbucks drinks a ‘skinny’ twist
If you think it’s tricky to re-create your go-to coffee shop order with fewer calories and fat, think again! These three suggestions lighten up homemade coffee or tea drinks while still delivering on flavor and creaminess.
1. Opt for this sweetener.
Sure, you know swapping out regular sugar for a zero-calorie substitute like Stevia is an easy way to lighten up a drink. After all, granulated sugar contains 49 calories per tablespoon and is a high-glycemic food, making it likely to trigger blood-sugar spikes. The alternative: For a hint of sweetness and a flavor boost, coffee shops like Starbucks use “skinny syrups.” These are liquid sweeteners that don’t contain any calories, come in a variety of flavors and mix nicely into drinks. Jordan’s Skinny Syrups are among the most popular (you can often find them at T.J.Maxx). But it’s surprisingly easy to mix up a skinny syrup at home — just click through for how to make your own skinny syrups. (And for more on how women are using them to lose 200+ lbs, check out this story on the weight loss benefits of skinny syrups.)
2. Add in cold foam for fat-free richness.
Pouring whole milk or heavy cream into your java drink makes it creamy, but of course, these dairy products are full of saturated fat, which can raise “bad” LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in excess. And while swapping those dairy products for low-fat options like skim milk is a nutritious fat-free choice, it just doesn’t taste as rich. The fix: frothing it into cold foam — it has a smooth, velvety texture that only tastes indulgent. All you need to do is pour milk into a mason jar, add the lid and then shake until frothy. Click through to discover everything you need to know about making cold foam at home.
3. Use ground spices to add big flavor.
Café drinks often get lots of flavor and aroma thanks to spice-infused syrups, which are easy to blend in drinks — but are also full of additives and preservatives.
Nothing compares to the rich warmth of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin spice. So your best bet is using them in their pure form as these spices (sometimes known as “warming spices”) have anti-inflammatory properties that may help improve sleep, alertness and mood. Simply add a dash or two of warming spices to your drink and stir it well to break up any tiny clumps.
4 copycat Starbucks drink recipes to make at home
Our test kitchen can’t get enough of these café-inspired drink recipes that are delicious, soothing and nourishing. Start with these four, then play around with mixing and matching the flavors to create your ultimate caffeinated drink without the coffee shop prices!
Pumpkin Spice Latte
- 1⅓ cups canned pumpkin purée
- 3 Tbs. unflavored skinny syrup
- 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 3 cups nonfat milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Yield: 6 drinks
- Add pumpkin puree, skinny syrup and pumpkin pie spice to medium saucepan. Cover and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until bubbly, about 3 minutes.
- Whisk in 3 cups of milk and 1 tsp. of vanilla extract. Turn heat to low and cook until warmed through; transfer to a blender and whirl until foamy.
- Divide between 6 mugs. Top each with espresso or strong coffee, whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice.
Spiced Frothy Coffee
- Ground coffee for one pot
- 2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2–3 tsp. ground spices, such as nutmeg, turmeric and/or cayenne
- Low-fat milk or nut milk
- Stevia (optional)
- Pinch of iodized salt (optional)
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- Add cocoa and spices to coffee; brew.
- Meanwhile, warm ½ to 1 cup milk per serving; whip in vented blender.
- If desired, add stevia and salt to coffee. Top with milk.
Chai Tea Latte
- 5 cups boiling water
- 4 chai tea bags
- 4 cups nonfat milk
- ½ cup honey
- 5 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tsp. whole cloves
Yield: Serves 6
- In 4-quart slow cooker, mix water and chai tea bags; cook on high 15 minutes. Add 4 cups milk, honey, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves; stir to combine.
- Cook on high 2 to 3 hours. Discard tea bags, cinnamon and cloves.
- Pour into 6 mugs and serve.
Iced Mocha Magic
- 1 cup brewed coffee
- ¼ cup skim milk
- 2 Tbs. chocolate skinny syrup
- ½ cup ice
- Fat-free whipped cream like Redi-wip or homemade cold foam (Buy from Instacart, $4.32)
Yield: 1 serving
- Puree first 4 ingredients until fully combined. Pour ; transfer to glass.
- Top with cream.
Keep reading for more good-for-you java drinks!
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
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