How Bad Can Pumpkin Spice Lattes Be? We looked, it’s Bad!
It’s here: pumpkin spice season. As in pumpkin spice candles, pumpkin spice room spray, and of course…pumpkin spice latte drinks at your favorite coffee shop. Because doesn’t drinking a pumpkin spice latte make fall get here a little bit sooner? Who doesn’t like that?! It’s worth a try, anyway.
Unfortunately, if you start to look at what’s inside of a pumpkin spice latte (PSL), nutrition, ingredients, and calorie contents aren’t all that great. And with PSLs gaining so much popularity, it’s impossible to take on an “ignorance is bliss” approach to PSL nutrition with how many are being consumed every day.
Sadly, our waistlines aren’t the only thing that PSL nutrition may be impacting. This favorite fall drink can take a toll on your teeth, too.
Hello, PSL Season
Ah, yes. There’s even a “season” for pumpkin spice lattes. Places like Starbucks and Dunkin usually start serving them in late August, by the time most kids are already back at school. You might be able to get them sooner than that by special request, but technically speaking, PSLs don’t come around until society starts shifting into fall-type routines. It might still be 90-something degrees outside, but you can still get a pumpkin latte.
Once the holidays are over, you’re out of luck. Unless your favorite coffee shop still lets you request them, you’ll probably have to wait for the next PSL season to come around before pumpkin-flavored anything is on the menu.
What Goes Into A Starbucks PSL?
Let’s talk pumpkin spice latte (PSL) nutrition for a minute. There’s the espresso of course. But there’s also a whooooooole lot of other ingredients that go into flavoring, sweetening, and turning your favorite caffeinated beverage into a dessert in a cup.
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Nutrition
Look, I love a great pumpkin spice latte and pumpkin-scented everything just as much as the next person. But we have to take PSL nutrition just as seriously as we do other things like energy drinks, sports drinks, and other liquids that we’re constantly coating our teeth with.
First off, how many calories are in PSL drinks? A grande Starbucks PSL with 2% milk and whipping cream contains 380 calories. A venti is 470 calories. If you drop down to a tall it’s 300, and a short is 210.
When we break down the nutritional content of a grande Starbucks PSL even further, we see that there are 50 grams of sugar.
If you’re picking up a few PSLs a week at your neighborhood coffee shop, that’s easily 600 to close to 1500 extra calories you’re consuming every week.
PSL Nutrition Facts
- Calories: 380
- Fat: 14 grams
- Saturated fat: 8 grams
- Sodium: 240 milligrams
- Carbohydrates: 52 grams
- Sugar: 50 grams
- Protein: 14 grams
You're Damaging More Than Your Waistline
Even if how many calories in a PSL doesn’t really bother you, the sugar content should. Like any other flavored or sweetened drink, liquid sugars essentially coat every surface of your smile. In other words, they drastically raise your risk for tooth decay.
Nobody is saying you can’t enjoy pumpkin spice lattes in the fall or have to stress over how many calories are in a PSL. But you do need to be conscious of what you’re constantly exposing your teeth too. If it’s not a PSL, it could easily be something else.
Coffee And Teeth
PSLs aside, your typical daily coffee routine still plays an impact on your teeth.
First and foremost, there’s tooth stain. Coffee—like red wine, soda, and tobacco—is known for causing heavy stain buildup on teeth. Your enamel has tiny little pores all over it, so when you drink coffee those stain particles can get trapped inside of the outer layer of your tooth. Some of the stains can be polished off during your cleaning but the rest may need to be removed with whitening gel.
Sugar And Teeth
Why is sugar, artificial sweetener, or sweet-flavored coffee “bad” for your teeth? To put it concisely, sugar feeds bacteria, which then secrete an acid byproduct. Occasionally you’ll hear somebody in the dental office refer to it as “germ poop.” These byproducts and dental plaque are highly acidic, meaning they can wear away at even the hardest substance in your body: tooth enamel.
Enamel is hard for a reason. It is meant to withstand acids and foods so that you can eat and chew for decades. But if you’re consuming abnormally large quantities of sugars or sweet liquids, your mouth won’t be able to keep up. It’s simply a matter of time before your smile turns into a patchwork of cavities across it. Drinking a pumpkin spice latte, soda, or sports drink every day is like a ticking time bomb.
Other Pumpkin Foods And Treats
If you love pumpkin-flavored everything, about the only guilt-free indulgence you’ll probably find is a candle. But that’s no fun, right?
Some of the other sugar-filled pumpkin treats you need to enjoy with moderation may be things like:
- Pumpkin spice coffee creamer
- Pumpkin pie
- Pumpkin bread
- Pumpkin syrup
- Pumpkin spice cheesecake
- Pumpkin spice beer (yep, that’s a thing)
- Pumpkin smoothies
- Pumpkin spice Peeps (as in the Easter candy)
A lot of pumpkin flavorings contain sugar as a primary ingredient. Even if something is labeled as healthy or organic, there may be hidden sweeteners that you want to be aware of. Read the labels if you’re watching your waistline; how many calories are in PSL drinks might be more or less than an alternative pumpkin treat.
Pumpkin spice lattes sort of kick-off the sweet season of holiday treats. And since it starts so early each year and you still have the holiday months to get through, it’s important to make a conscious effort to monitor how much sugar you’re eating/drinking every day.
Homemade Skinny Pumpkin Spice Latte For The Win
Tweak your PSL nutrition routine with some healthy alternatives. Not only will you save a few bucks (or a hundred, by the time the month is over) but you can also cut calories and sugar.
If you’re open to making your own Skinny PSL at home, here’s a great, easy recipe for a healthy DIY alternative. Ingredients include nonfat milk, pumpkin puree (as in straight pumpkin, not the pie mix,) just four drops of liquid stevia, coffee, and spices. Yep, that’s it. You still get your PSL fix but don’t have to wait in line or feel as guilty about drinking it a few times a week.
Prefer not to make your own PSL? Consider ordering your Starbucks PSL “skinny” to shave off a few calories. You can also order a smaller size (tall) to cut sugar content by more than half.
Maybe you don’t like pumpkin spice lattes but you do like pumpkin pie. Or maybe you prefer mochas with peppermint in them once we get closer to winter. Whatever your indulging consists of, you can lower your cavity risk by:
- Drinking more tap water throughout the day
- Rinsing with fluoride mouthwash before bed
- Flossing and brushing daily
- Seeing your dentist at least twice a year for checkups
- Treating cavities when they’re small, before they spread elsewhere
If you want to take things up a notch—and you’re not worried about people giving you weird looks—you might even want to consider drinking your PSL through a straw.
teethtalkgirl content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or medical doctor to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.
Our medical affairs team works hard to ensure the accuracy and integrity by cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).Starbucks®. Pumpkin Spice Latte Nutrition. Starbucks®. 2021 Available at: https://www.starbucks.com/menu/product/418/hot/nutrition. August 23, 2021Moynihan P. Sugars and Dental Caries: Evidence for Setting a Recommended Threshold for Intake. Advances in Nutrition. 2016 Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4717883/. August 23, 2021Karadas M, Seven N. The effect of different drinks on tooth color after home bleaching. European Journal of Dentistry. 2014 Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24966778/. August 23, 2021