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Here's what I think about red cups:

Like most other things in life, it's what's inside that counts.

Since I'm pretty sure everyone except one weird guy on the internet agrees, if you're a Starbucks lover, you don't care if the cup is red, white, or purple with chartreuse stripes, you're only really interested in the contents of said cup.

Fun fact: A bazillion years ago, your friendly, neighborhood Wellness RD was a Starbucks barista. For three years! Unshockingly, I was considered the tea guru of my store and it made my day to chat with customers about how to make their tasty treat a little more health-friendly.

So let's talk about that! There are plenty of easy ways to modify your beverage to lower the calorie, sugar, and fat content.

Exhibit A: Since it's the holiday season, let's look at the fluffy, innocuous-seeming peppermint hot chocolate. We're really excited about red cups so we order a venti. OK, brace yourself. A venti hot chocolate gets 5 pumps of mocha sauce and 2 pumps of vanilla syrup. If you add another flavor (i.e. peppermint) that's another 5 pumps. That means your standard-recipe PHC comes with TWELVE pumps of syrup. Yikes.

But here's what you can do! Just ask them to split the pumps (instead of doubling) and hold the vanilla. It will still be super tasty and you're cutting the sugar by more than half.

Ok, back to our friend, the PHC. Default for any milk-based beverage is 2%. When I worked there default was whole milk (See? A bazillion years ago.) so they've made some progress, but you still have the option to order it with non-fat (skim) milk, cutting the calories down a bit more. Axe the whipped cream it automatically comes with on top and you've saved yourself another 80 calories.

Those tips go for anything you order with a syrup, milk, and whipped cream. Grande vanilla latte your thing? Standard gets 4 pumps of syrup and 2% milk. Get 2 pumps and non-fat and your waistline will thank you. When you start weaning yourself off sugar, you may even start to notice 2 pumps is too much and you'll want to cut back to one - or none! A standard-recipe vanilla latte has almost twice the calories of a non-fat latte with no syrup.

Chai lattes your thing? Consider trying a chai tea misto. The chai syrup used to make chai lattes is pre-sweetened, so you can't control the amount of sugar in your chai without sacrificing the spice and tea taste. A chai tea misto is half chai tea (brewed from a teabag) and half steamed milk. You can add a bit of raw sugar or a pump of vanilla if you like from there, but you may find the spicy tea taste and sweetness of the milk (especially if you get soy) is perfect without any added sugars.

For the sake of brevity, I'll end here, but if I left out your favorite Starbucks order and you'd like ideas on how to step up its healthiness, feel free to comment or shoot me a message! (Side note: I always thought it was weird that "brevity" means brief or concise, while when you order a Starbucks drink breve it means using half-and-half instead of milk, which, calorie-wise, is the complete opposite of concise.) Enjoy sipping some revised festive beverages from whatever kind of cup you fancy!

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