You visit your local Starbucks so often, you should know the offerings like the back of your hand…and yet, you still feel like you’re swimming in a vast sea of choices every time you step up to the counter. We won’t take a crack at the entire menu, but for now let’s start with Starbucks milk options. Read on to learn more about the dairy and plant-based stuff available so you can order with confidence.
All the Starbucks Milk Options, Explained
1. Whole Milk
Whole milk is the purest form of commercially available cow’s milk and was initially the only kind used at Starbucks. This type of milk is pasteurized and homogenized to meet food safety standards, but otherwise untouched. For this reason, whole milk has the highest fat content (roughly 3.5 percent) of the dairy-based options at Starbucks, and a particularly rich and creamy taste as a result. Needless to say, it’s not the best choice for anyone who’s counting calories, but it is seriously delicious.
2. Nonfat Milk
Nonfat milk is whole milk’s leaner cousin—namely because this type of cow’s milk is skimmed to remove all the fat (i.e., cream). The resulting milk is thin, watery and favored by folks who are willing to sacrifice flavor to avoid adding an inch to their waistline. If you want your Starbucks drink to be made with nonfat milk, just use the word ‘skinny’ in your order and they’ll know what to do.
3. 2 Percent Milk
It might surprise you to learn that 2 percent milk, not whole milk, is the default milk for Starbucks drinks. In other words, it’s what you’re drinking unless you specify otherwise. But what is 2 percent milk exactly? Sometimes referred to as ‘reduced fat milk,’ this type of milk has the fat skimmed in the same fashion as nonfat milk—just not as thoroughly. In fact, the 2 percent indicates the total fat content of the product, so while whole milk has 3.5 percent fat and nonfat milk has none, 2 percent milk is the Goldilocks of milks that’s right in the middle.
4. Soy Milk
Soy milk is a popular plant-based milk, and the first to find its way onto the Starbucks menu. This dairy alternative contains nearly as much protein as cow’s milk (seven grams and eight grams per serving, respectively) and is a go-to choice for people who suffer from dairy, nut and gluten allergies. Best of all, soy milk is a complete protein that provides all the essential amino acids found in the dairy-based stuff, and it’s low in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories, to boot. Bottom line: if you’re looking for a creamy, flavorful and nutritious dairy alternative for your favorite Starbucks drink, soy milk fits the bill.
5. Almond Milk
When it comes to dairy milk substitutes available at Starbucks, almond milk and soy milk are among the most popular choices; they’re also neck and neck in terms of pros and cons. Almond milk is a safe choice for the lactose-intolerant that has fewer calories and a flavor that many prefer to soy milk. That said, almond milk can’t hold a candle to soy milk when it comes to heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats and protein content, and the texture of almond milk isn’t nearly as rich. In other words, the almond vs. soy milk battle is basically a stalemate.
6. Coconut Milk
Another plant-based dairy alternative on offer at Starbucks is coconut milk—a thick, creamy type of milk that’s made from the meaty flesh of (you guessed it) the coconut. This vegan milk is safe for vegans and folks with nut or soy allergies. That said, it has only a fraction of the calcium found in regular milk—3 percent DV compared to 21 percent DV per cup—and it won’t do much to meet your protein needs. On the plus side, research has shown that, despite its relatively high calorie and fat content, coconut milk can help lower cholesterol and aid weight loss, which sounds like a pretty good deal to us.