Best and Worst Summer Coffee Chain Beverages

Find out which coffee drinks have the least fat and calories, and which sugary drinks to avoid

With the summer heat already in full swing, it’s time to bring on the icy coffee drinks — along with the calories. While many are trying to keep their bikini bods in check, the sugary temptation of an ice-cold drink can be too much to resist. But just how fattening are these seemingly innocuous beverages? Fitness and nutrition professional Bryan Renaud shed some insight on how to get your sugary drink fix this summer without the harmful effects.

In light of the recent conversation about the sugary drink ban, health officials are investigating other ambiguous beverages to determine which drinks will be affected by the ban. Starbucks Frappuccinos, for example, may qualify as milkshakes, which will not be affected by the ban.

Click here for the Best and Worst Summer Coffee Chain Beverages

But if the ban does eventually affect the ubiquitous Frappuccino, will the Light options still be available? That is yet to be determined, but according to Renaud, the calories and fat saved with the light option may not necessarily be healthier. "Everybody thinks it’s healthier to order the skinny version," he says. "They don’t count the calories, but it’s the same harmful ingredients going into your body. To make something fat-free or sugar-free, it requires putting all this unnecessary stuff in there. It’s the same chemical stuff, just repackaged."

The problem with these chain coffee drinks isn’t just the milk, it’s the sugar. Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything and New York Times columnist, agrees, calling sugar "the tobacco of the 21st century." But where should legislators draw the line? "Sugar or sugar alternatives affect your body the same way," said Renaud. So when ordering your next coffee drink, be wary of the light options, or even the teas and lemonades you think are so much healthier: sugar is sugar, in one form or another.

Consider yourself educated. If you’re trying to watch your calorie intake, or are looking for a safer way to indulge, look no further. We’ve researched the best and worst drinks from popular coffee chains to tell you which ones to sip, and which ones to avoid. Here are a few tips on how to make your favorite drink a little healthier:

• The easiest thing to cut, but often the most dearly missed, is the whipped cream. Because of those nifty plastic dome-shaped cups, baristas can put more on top of cold drinks than on hot ones, meaning that during the summer the calories stack up.

• If you don’t specify what kind of milk you want, most coffee chains will default to whole milk. "If you want to replace something, replace the milk," said Renaud. "Almond or coconut milk are great options to get some nutritional value out of your drink. If you’re going to drink cow’s milk, 1 or 2 percent is fine. We need some good fat in our diet."

• Eliminating pumps of syrup will save you about 20 calories and 5 grams of sugar. While there are sugar-free syrup options, the artificial ingredients in low-cal sweeteners can be just as harmful to your health.

• Remember — size matters. "If I’m going to order a coffee drink… I just order a smaller size," said Renaud. "The quantity is just completely out of control. People have no idea how much is going on in there." Scaling down from a venti size to a tall can make a huge difference in terms of fat and calories. You don’t need 20 ounces of your favorite drink, or the calories and fat that come with it.

While your favorite large coffee drinks are still on the menu, take a moment to educate yourself on the most fattening coffee-chain beverages and their healthier alternatives.

*Unless specified, calorie counts are taken from a Grande size made with whole milk.

With additional reporting by Emilia Morano-Williams.