Three levels of your pumpkin spice latte

Everyone’s favorite drinkable fall treat might have high calories and high sugars, but there are easy ways to modify your order to best suit your health needs. Dr. Luis Rustveld,  registered and licensed dietitian at Baylor College of Medicine, breaks down how to “health-ify” your pumpkin spice latte this fall.

A miniature pumpkin to the left of a filled coffee mug.Level three – Modify your order at your favorite coffee shop

“As-is” recipes are typically high in sugar, saturated fat, and calories. The easiest way to reduce these amounts is to order a smaller size. Skip sweet extras such as whipped cream or extra syrup. Milk alternatives like almond, soy or even skim milk, may be better for you if you want to reduce your fat intake. Changing your order to milk-free options, like a drip coffee or an americano, can also be a simple way to reduce calories while still getting pumpkin flavor. Finally, reduce the amount of sugar in these drinks by asking for reduced amounts of syrup or sugar-free syrups in the coffee. To still get that strong fall flavor, Rustveld advises supplementing your order with fresh cinnamon or pumpkin spice, which is often available at coffee shops.

Level two – Making it at home

If you have time to spare, making a pumpkin spice latte at home can be a simple process. Rustveld advises starting with canned pumpkin, preferably unsweetened and with the least amount of preservatives. Flavor your pumpkin base with pre-mixed pumpkin spice mix to taste. Sweeten your concoction with sugar, agave or alternative sweeteners that match your diet. Finally, you can top off your coffee with reduced-fat whipped cream that can often be found at the grocery store.

“Making the latte at home is more work, but you have more control over what you consume and more knowledge of what ingredients are necessary for this drink,” Rustveld said.

Level one – Making it from scratch

Although it is the most time-consuming, making a pumpkin spice latte from scratch – with fresh, not canned, pumpkin – allows for complete control of your beverage. Make your pumpkin base by roasting small sized pumpkins, with seeds and pulp removed and puréeing the inside flesh in a blender until smooth. Rustveld also advises saving the pumpkin seeds to roast for a snack to go with your latte. Add your pumpkin spice mix, which typically consists of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. Additional spices can be added and amounts of each spice can be adjusted based on your preference. Sweeten with your preferred sweetener, brew your coffee or espresso blend that complements the pumpkin spice flavor and finish with your milk preference. Finally, whipping your own whipped cream allows you to control the sugar content, the texture of the cream and the amount on top. Extra pumpkin, spice mix and whipped cream can be saved for more drinks or other purposes.

“If you are trying to be more aware of what you eat, there are many ways to do so, but if you are wanting to treat yourself to a quintessential fall drink, don’t feel bad for indulging,” Rustveld said.

Learn more about Baylor Family Medicine

By Aaron Nieto

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