How Bad Can Pumpkin Spice Lattes Be? We Looked, It’s Bad!

How Bad Can Pumpkin Spice Lattes Be? We Looked, It’s Bad!

 Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH
Medical Reviewed
byDr. Aierress Davis DDS
🔬 Evidence Based
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 pumpkin spice lattes gaining so much popularity, it’s impossible to take on an “ignorance is bliss” approach to pumpkin spice latte nutrition with how many are being consumed every day.

Sadly, our waistlines aren’t the only thing that pumpkin spice latte 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, Pumpkin spice lattes 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 Pumpkin Spice Latte?

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.  

According to Starbucks, pumpkin spice lattes contain ingredients like pumpkin spice sauce, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and whipped cream topping. The first main ingredient in the pumpkin sauce is, unfortunately, sugar. If you’re getting a grande PSL, it has about 380 calories and 52g of carbs. Is it going to ruin your diet? Not if you’re only drinking it once in a while. But if you’re getting one every morning, then probably so.

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 pumpkin spice latte 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.  

Starbucks pumpkin spice latte nutrition facts

First off, how many calories are in pumpkin spice latte drinks? A grande Starbucks pumpkin spice latte 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 pumpkin spice lattes 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 pumpkin spice latte 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.

Chances are that if you’re drinking a pumpkin spice latte, you’re sipping on it until the whole thing is gone. Those little sips spread out the length of contact time that the pumpkin spice latte has with your teeth. Every time you sip on anything sweet, those natural sugars and acids can etch away at your teeth for about a half-hour. When you continue to drink them, that’s longer amounts of time you’re potentially etching your enamel. Too much acid exposure…well…that eventually leads to cavities.

Nobody is saying you can’t enjoy pumpkin spice lattes in the fall or have to stress over how many calories are in a pumpkin spice latte. But you do need to be conscious of what you’re constantly exposing your teeth too. If it’s not a pumpkin spice latte, it could easily be something else.

Coffee And Teeth 

Pumpkin spice lattes 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.

Then there’s what’s going inside of your coffee. We’re talking creamers and/or sweeteners. Again, they’re basically dissolving into a liquid that’s going to pour across your teeth for an hour or so a day, every day. The liquid sweeteners and flavorings will eventually catch up with your mouth.

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 pumpkin spice latte 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 pumpkin spice latte 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 pumpkin spice latte “skinny” to shave off a few calories. You can also order a smaller size (tall) to cut sugar content by more than half.

Preventing Cavities 

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 pumpkin spice latte through a straw. 

 Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH"Teeth Talk Girl," is a registered dental hygienist. She started her dental health journey on YouTube, educating the public through videos.
Dr. Aierress Davis DDS
Medical Reviewed byDr. Aierress Davis DDSDr. Aierress Davis is a licensed general dentist training for an Advanced Certificate in Periodontics.
Last updated onNovember 19, 2022Here is our process

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