Last Updated on May 16, 2022
For many women giving up Starbucks might be a tough sell, even if only for 9 months. For those who are frequent in the coffee chain, they may even question whether or not caffeine is even safe during pregnancy at all.
Luckily, Starbucks’ large menu has many pregnancy-conscious options and most drinks are easily customizable, making it simple to avoid potentially unsafe ingredients. Stick to small-sized beverages, opt for lower-caffeine drink styles and request that premade food be heated thoroughly before you dig in.
Between drink sizing and using Starbucks-only terminology, the menu can be quite confusing. I’ve broken down the menu to include low-caffeine options, how to determine the average caffeine content, and trips and tricks to guide you through ordering pregnancy-safe drinks year-round.
Covered in this Article:
What Are the Best Starbucks Drinks for Pregnant Women?
It is a well-known fact that pregnant women should limit their caffeine consumption, however, many people also misinterpret this and think caffeine is totally off-limits.
Currently, both the American Pregnancy Association (APA) and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) agree that limited to moderate caffeine consumption is okay during pregnancy (source: APA, ACOG).
So what’s the limit? Pregnant women who decide not to completely forego caffeine should aim to limit their daily caffeine intake. The most recent studies suggest limiting to no more than 200 milligrams (mg) per day (source: APA, ACOG).
Naturally, coffee is one of the biggest contributors of caffeine to our daily diets, and Starbucks drinks are no exception. A typical breakdown of caffeine content in Starbucks standard drinks is:
- 8-oz Pike Place blend= 155 mg
- 8-oz Dark Roast= 130 mg
- 8-oz Blonde Roast= 180 mg
- 8-oz decaf Pike Place blend= 15 mg
- Doppio espresso= 150 mg
- A single espresso in espresso-based mixed drinks, such as lattes, is only 75 mg of caffeine
- 8-oz Jade Citrus Mint tea= 16 mg
- 8-oz chai tea= 80 mg
Note: when ordering at Starbucks, their ‘short’ size is 8-oz, a ‘tall’ is 12-oz, ‘grande’ is 16-oz, and ‘venti’ is 20-oz.
When it comes to espresso-based drinks the number of added espressos increases proportionally as the size of the drink increases. For their traditional drinks, Starbucks follows this guide when for their standard number of espressos in each size drink:
- Short= 1
- Tall= 1
- Grande= 2
- Venti= 2
Mocha drinks use the same system listed above, but their caffeine content will be a bit higher due to some additional caffeine coming from the chocolate. The only traditional drink style that doesn’t follow this system is the Caffe Americano.
Since Americano beverages are a simple combo of espresso and hot water, they are made to be stronger. While a short Americano still has only 1 espresso, each size increase adds an additional espresso shot.
What is really helpful is your ability to customize Starbucks drinks. To get a larger-sized coffee without so much caffeine, you can customize your grande-sized beverage to have only 1 espresso dose, dropping the caffeine content from ~150 mg to ~75 mg. Their app/website also conveniently lists caffeine content in the nutrition facts for each drink.
So what are the ‘best’ choices? In efforts to minimize total caffeine and stick under the recommended limit of 200 mg per day, short and tall-sized drinks are your best bet.
Regular lattes, cappuccinos, and brewed teas are the lowest in caffeine. If you’d like to add some sweetener, opt for fewer than the standard number of ‘pumps.’ Sticking with 1 or 2 pumps of syrup/sweetener will keep your drink sweet while still staying under roughly 20 grams of added sugar.
Starbucks is famous for its selection of seasonal coffees and drinks, many of which make use of sweet syrups and creams. These concoctions can be incredibly delicious, but can also drive blood sugar levels up, especially if drunk on an empty stomach.
For the heavier and sweeter drinks, these are best enjoyed in smaller sizes and in moderation in order to avoid loading up on a ton of sugar at one time.
Which Starbucks Lattes are Pregnancy Friendly?
Steamed milk is a delicious partner to both coffee and tea, making lattes an extremely popular drink of choice. When it comes to safety and nutritional considerations, there are a few things to watch out for in Starbucks lattes.
Caffeine-wise, most short-sized lattes are made with a single espresso and have 75 mg of caffeine. Like other coffee drinks, the bigger the size the more caffeine. Remember, decaf espressos are always available, and swapping all or even one dose of espresso to decaf drastically reduces caffeine.
A few nutritional and safety points for some of Starbucks’ most popular lattes include:
- Chai Tea Latte– made without coffee, the caffeine in this latte comes from chai tea. Luckily, Starbucks has released the ingredients of their chai, and all of the herbs in their blend are safe during pregnancy.
Note: for a listing of typical herbs in chai blends and how they stack up during pregnancy, we have a helpful guide to chai.
- Green Tea Latte- The green tea latte at Starbucks is made from matcha, and slightly less caffeinated than chai with only 30 milligrams of caffeine.
- Eggnog Latte– Only available seasonally, Starbucks’ eggnog latte is typically made with a pasteurized eggnog, which is key to safety during pregnancy. The brand of eggnog used can vary by location, so be sure to double-check with your local shop to ensure their brand is pasteurized for safety.
- Pumpkin Spice Latte- flavored with a pumpkin sauce, the famous pumpkin spice latte (PSL) doesn’t risk any foodborne illness from the pumpkin. The PSL also has some beneficial spices, including cinnamon and ginger, which are known to calm nauseous stomachs.
Do Starbucks Use Pasteurized Milk and Cream?
All the milk and cream at Starbucks is pasteurized. This is in accordance with State and Federal law on dairy (source: KstateCollegian.com). In other words – a commercial coffee company like Starbucks must use pasteurized milk.
Most of the milk alternatives available at the chain are also UHT (ultra heat-treated), which means they are also safe for pregnant women. Here is a list of the alternatives available, and our dedicated articles on them for pregnancy:
Are Starbucks Frappuccinos OK During Pregnancy?
Over the years, Starbucks has crafted some inventive and ultra-sweet Frappuccinos. These drinks are most definitely not known for being the ‘healthiest’ option on their menu, but if enjoyed in moderation, they can still be part of your pregnancy diet.
A single tall-sized Frappuccino contains around the same amount of sugar as a 12-ounce cola and is considered a sugar-sweetened beverage.
It is best to limit your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) while pregnant, as drinking 5 or more servings per week has been linked to an increased likelihood of preterm birth, low birthweight babies, and even pre-eclampsia (source: Proceedings of the Nutrition Society).
Another downside to Frappuccinos is that they are not as customizable, meaning you won’t be able to decrease the caffeine in your beverage by simply asking for decaf. They are still lower in caffeine than a regular ol’ cup of coffee, however.
Knowing that Frappuccinos are high in added sugar and (most) are caffeinated, stick with a smaller size drink and enjoy it as a treat in moderation.
Which Starbucks Drinks are Non-Caffeine for Pregnancy?
While small to moderate amounts of caffeine have been shown to be safe during pregnancy, some women prefer to abstain entirely. Starbucks has options for our caffeine-free friends, too!
Decaf coffee is the natural first option that comes to mind for many, even though it does still have a low 15 mg of caffeine. There are also several other very low and no caffeine options offered year-round.
- Mint Majesty tea
- Peach Tranquility tea
- White hot chocolate
- Steamed apple juice
- Iced Passion Tango tea and lemonades
- Iced Guava Passion Fruit drink
- Hot Chocolate (15 mg caffeine in short-size)
- Refreshers (35 mg caffeine in most short sizes)
- Creme-based frappuccinos (caffeine varies)
And of course, you can always ask for decaf espresso as the basis for any drink!
Are Starbucks Refreshers/Refreshas Pregnancy Safe?
Light, fruity, and ice-cold, Starbucks Refreshers (also known as Refreshas) are exactly what their name implies.
Regardless of which fruity option you decide on, these drinks all do contain some caffeine, though much less than a cup of brewed coffee. On average, a short Refresher has around 35 mg of caffeine, making them a good low-caf option for those cutting back.
Refreshers are also fairly simple drinks, made with only ice, the fruity and caffeinated base, and freeze-dried fruit pieces. The ‘base’ is proprietary information, so unfortunately, these exact ingredients aren’t released.
As Starbucks is an international chain that uses prepackaged and shelf-stable juices, it is safe to assume the juices in their Refreshers are pasteurized, and therefore safe to enjoy while pregnant.
The Strawberry Acai Refresher is one of their most popular, possibly in part due to acai’s status as a superfood. While we’re not sure exactly how much acai is in the drink (as it is part of their proprietary base), it is not likely to be a large enough amount to provide much in the way of antioxidants.
Which Food Can Pregnant Women Eat at Starbucks?
Not just for coffee, Starbucks also offers a wide variety of foods and snacks. Though many of these items are prepackaged, that doesn’t make them automatically safe during pregnancy.
Their egg dishes, including the popular spinach feta wrap and sous vide egg bites, are commonly queried. In looking at the ingredients list, many of the egg products served are made with pasteurized liquid eggs, which increases their safety.
However, the egg dishes are also not made fresh to order but are instead reheated in a commercial toaster oven. Treat these foods like you would leftovers, and ensure they are heated until ‘steaming hot.’
Similar to egg wraps and bites are the chain’s breakfast sandwiches, ham and cheese croissants, and meat/cheese-containing lunch sandwiches. While some of these sandwiches might taste okay at room temperature, they are a risk for foodborne illness. Ask to have them heated until steaming hot.
For more on this, see our guide to deli meat while pregnant.
Like all other restaurants, the fresh fruit cup at Starbucks is best avoided while pregnant due to the risk of picking up a foodborne illness. If you want the fruit to accompany your meal, opt for their whole bananas, clementines, or one of the pasteurized fruit puree pouches. Read more about fresh salads and pre-prepped food here.
Overall, the customizable features at Starbucks lend it to be incredibly pregnancy-friendly. From being able to control caffeine in drinks to their wide array of food, this article can guide you through ordering your next midday pick-me-up.
|This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.|