Starbucks made pumpkin alone a well-known flavor when it introduced Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL, 18 years ago. Over time, the popularity of the drink has encouraged many imitators, a cold-brewed version and pumpkin spice flavors for just about every food and drink imaginable.
Since then, the cafe chain has sought to repeat that success with other seasonal creations in its limited-time fall menu. This year’s drink focuses on another iconic fall product, the apple. But the Apple Crisp Macchiato, as delicious as it sounds, nutritionally looks about as much like an apple as the Pumpkin PSL, which is very little.
ACM (even the abbreviation isn’t as eye-catching as PSL) is offered hot or iced, and its base is espresso and steamed whole milk, although it can be personalized with skim milk, skimmed or non-dairy. It is flavored with apple brown sugar syrup and topped with a spicy apple drizzle.
While coffee or espresso alone can be a healthy, antioxidant-rich choice, all of the extras make this drink more of a dessert. One 16 oz (“Large”) ACM made with whole milk, one shot of espresso and two flavor pumps contains:
- 300 calories
- 12 grams (g) of protein
- 7 g fat (4.5 g saturated)
- 47 g carbohydrates (45 g from sugar)
- 0 g fiber
- 150 milligrams (mg) of caffeine
It’s not a perfect way to start your day. Syrups and other sweeteners – if you look at the ingredient list for this drink, you’ll find five types of sugar – are one of the biggest problems. More than half of the calories in this drink come from sugar. There are about 11 teaspoons (teaspoon) in an ACM, which is more than a full day for men, as recommended by the American Heart Association, and almost double the limit for women.
And while you’re looking at this list of ingredients, note the chemical stabilizers and thickeners, including “preservative potassium sorbate”, “sodium citrate” and “xanthan gum”. This isn’t exactly my idea of sweet fall flavors.
Perhaps surprisingly, Apple Crisp Macchiato is nutritionally slightly superior to PSL. The same PSL size made with whole milk, two flavor pumps and whipped cream packs 90 more calories, 7 more grams of fat (plus 0.5g of trans fat – ew!), And 5 grams of sugar. added more. So if you’re going to indulge yourself every now and then and choose between the two, the Apple Crisp Macchiato is the (slightly) better choice. However, I still wouldn’t recommend drinking either of these drinks on a regular basis.
If you do a daily coffee run, your best bet is to have dark brewed coffee or with a little milk. A large black roast, for example, will only cost you 5 calories! A skimmed milk cappuccino can be a good compromise; it can look like a special treat while keeping calories, fat and added sugars to a minimum. You’ll even get a little protein boost from the milk.
How to Make a Healthier Apple Crisp Macchiato at Home
If you just can’t get rid of that Apple Crisp Macchiato craving, don’t worry. You can make yourself a “faux-iato” at home and enjoy the flavors of warm apple pie in a cup without all the extra waste.
Here is what I do: Mix ¼ to ½ tsp. (to taste) apple pie spice with ½ tsp. brown sugar in the bottom of a cup. Stir in 2 ounces (oz) (about one shot) of espresso or strong coffee and ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Gently stir in 6 oz of frothed milk (of your choice) and you have a cup of all the fall sensations.
No milk frother on hand? No problem. Simply pour your milk into a microwave-safe jar with lid and shake it for 30 seconds. Then remove the lid and place it in the microwave for 45 to 60 seconds, checking frequently to make sure it is not bubbling. There you go, frothed milk.
Unlike the Starbucks Apple Crisp Macchiato, your homemade macchiato will only contain 90 calories, 0 g of fat, 13 g of carbohydrates, 6 g of protein and only 2 g of added sugar! Now, this is “splurge” that you can afford every day.
It is unrealistic for anyone, including me, to eat perfectly healthy all the time. Foods and drinks considered nutritionally empty can be delicious and fun to eat, especially as part of a celebration or seasonal ritual. If you eat a nutritious diet 80 percent of the time, you can eat less than ideal foods the rest of the time. A well-balanced diet centers on nutritious whole foods and includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, as described by MyPlate. While I wouldn’t recommend an Apple Crisp Macchiato as a daily drink, one or two during the season to satisfy your craving can certainly fit into a healthy diet.