Put away your travel mugs — it’s officially iced coffee season! Whether it’s powering you through a morning workout or lending an energizing mid-afternoon boost, iced coffee is oh-so-refreshing on a warm day. But beware: Caffeinated beverages (like coffee-based milkshakes) from popular coffee chains can be worse for you than a sugary doughnut or a handful of chocolates. And we’re not just talking about that infamous Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino that boasts 59 grams of sugar (nearly as much as three Snickers), zero caffeine and a whole lot of colored powders.
Your usual thirst-quenching brew might also pack hundreds of calories and more fat and sugar than you should consume in a day (or five…). Here, seven of the most unhealthy drinks that might tempt you this summer, plus suggestions for ordering lighter sips that still hit the spot.
Frappuccino or Coolatta? 7 Iced Coffee Drinks to Avoid
Nutrition: A large (24 oz) has 1,000 calories, 32 g fat, 136 g sugar and 8 g protein.
Step away from the Turtle Mocha, folks. Slurp a large cup to empty and you just consumed five and a half day’s worth of sugar, and four day’s worth of fat! (The daily recommended intake for sugar and fat is about 30 and 65 grams, respectively.) Made with chocolate syrup, caramel sauce, whipped cream and bits of Snickers bars, this 1,000-calorie frozen treat is more of an indulgent dessert to share with a few friends than a quick caffeine fix.
A Healthier Order: Get the same jolt of energy (for 920 fewer calories) by opting for a small Caramel Crafted Press. This blend of cold brew iced coffee with caramel flavor and a splash of cream comes in at just 100 calories and 13g sugar. Pro tip: Ask for half the syrup to cut even more sugar and calories.
Nutrition: A large (24 oz) contains 870 calories, 25 g fat, 132 g sugar and 6 g protein.
Topped with whipped cream, mini marshmallows and a chocolate drizzle, this drink screams decadence. Mighty tempting, right? But with 125 grams of sugar — that’s about as much sugar as a person should consume over the course of five days — this blended brew is anything but a smart choice.
A Healthier Order: For a similar flavor with just six grams of sugar, go for a medium Iced Northern Lite Latte in caramel or vanilla. This option clocks in at just 50 calories.
Nutrition: A large (32 oz) contains 800 calories, 47 g fat, 86 g sugar and 7 g protein.
There isn’t anything cool about this calorie-packed concoction. A large contains 145 percent of the recommended daily value of saturated fat! Plus, the pre-made concentrates used to whip up this baby are chock-full of artificial colors and flavors.
A Healthier Order: Pick something simple like an iced coffee with a splash of milk. Add sweetener if you’re looking to satisfy a sweet tooth. Even a medium won’t weight you down. Made with whole milk, that drink comes in at only 40 calories.
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Nutrition: A large (22 oz) contains 750 calories, 31 g fat, 99 g sugar and 12 g protein.
This McDonald’s blend is more milkshake than iced coffee. Pre-made “Frappe Base,” which contains a scary-long list of ingredients, is the majority of what you’re sipping through your straw. The worst offenders include cream, high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors. Want to top it off with caramel, artificial chocolate drizzle, chocolate chips and whipped cream? Your cup’s packing almost 100 grams of sugar.
A Healthier Order: Even at Mickey D’s, there are healthier ways to get your caffeine fix. A small McCafé Iced Caramel Mocha made with nonfat milk has just around 150 calories and 29 grams of sugar. (Be sure to skip the whipped cream and caramel drizzle.) Ask for half the Chocolate Caramel Syrup to reduce sugar even more.
Nutrition: A large (24 oz) contains 720 calories, 16 g fat, 113 g sugar and 18 g protein.
Inspired by Black Forest cake, the popular chocolate and cherry dessert, this drink starts with ice, coffee extract, milk and a proprietary Coffee Bean drink mix powder. Next up, maraschino cherries and chocolate-covered espresso beans get blended in, and that’s what really makes this drink one of the more button-busting choices from this chain shop. (For context, a large Mocha Ice Blended — ice, coffee, milk and chocolate drink mix powder topped with whipped cream — comes in at 530 calories.)
A Healthier Order: Go for a Small Iced Café Latte with nonfat milk for a quick pick-me-up that’s got just 45 calories and 6 grams of sugar. If you really want a special treat, nibble on a few chocolate-covered espresso beans with your iced latte.
Nutrition: A venti (24 oz) contains 560 calories, 23 g fat, 71 g sugar and 15 g protein.
Do not be fooled: Although this sweet treat boasts 15 grams of protein, it’s definitely not a good post-workout snack. (Try these protein shakes instead!) The standard order for an iced white mocha is made with two-percent milk and includes whipped cream. With 71 grams of sugar, this drink has more than three times the daily recommended maximum sugar intake.
A Healthier Order: A Grande Iced Coffee with one pump of sugar-free vanilla syrup and a splash of milk comes in at about 40 calories and 3 grams of sugar. Ask the barista to blend it up for a refreshment that feels slightly more special.
Nutrition: A venti (24 oz) contains 600 calories, 22 g fat, 88 g sugar and 8 g protein.
All of the flavor that goes into this Frappuccino comes from pre-mixed syrups and sauces. In other words, there’s a whole lot of sugar, preservatives and artificial flavors and colors in your cup. (Doesn’t sound so delicious, now does it?) And don’t overlook how much fat is in this sipper. A whopping 20 grams is roughly how much you’d find in two bags of M&Ms!
A Healthier Order: Made with nonfat milk, a Tall Caramel Light Frappuccino is 100 calories and 22 grams of sugar — not too shabby if you’re really craving a frap. Want to know the lightest coffee beverage you can order at Starbucks? Go with a tall iced coffee served black (or with a splash of milk, if that’s more your style.) Requesting it blended will result in a drink more reminiscent of the beloved frappuccino, but with almost no sugar or fat.
Originally published May 2016. Updated April 2017.