What does Starbucks sell? Hint…it ain’t coffee! – Joseph Tramazzo – Medium

The Ketogenic Guide to Ordering at Starbucks

By Joseph Tramazzo

Last fall, during a quick family get-a-way to Manhattan, we couldn’t help but notice the amount of coffee shops on each block in the city. “Hey look, guys… there’s Starbucks!” I would say sarcastically. I began sounding like Chevy Chase as Clark W. Griswold from the movie National Lampoon’s European Vacation. In one scene, while driving in a roundabout surrounding Big Ben in London, Clark was unable to get left and for hours, he kept going in circles. And after each loop he completed around the Lambeth Bridge roundabout, he would repeatedly announce to the kids “Hey look, kids, there’s Big Ben, and there’s Parliament.” Yep…I channeled my inner Griswold every time I either saw Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts.

That was the start of the great Starbucks — Dunkin’ Donuts game, played by my wife Sherry, our two boys and me. We began to count how many Starbucks and DD stores we saw and took bets on which franchise had the most by the end of our 2-day vacation. After 15+ miles of walking, Starbucks was anointed the winner with a score of 34–29. I became curious which franchise had more in all of Manhattan and following our trip, I found that according to a Dec 2017 report from the Center for an Urban Future, Starbucks did indeed have more stores — 223 to Dunkin’ Donuts 187 stores. (Note: Although Dunkin’ Donuts trails Starbucks in Manhattan, Dunkin’ 612 stores in all 5 city boroughs makes it the largest chain in all of New York City.)

There are many reasons why so many people love Starbucks. They have a huge coffee menu, an extensive variety of food items, a warm and inviting environment, and there’s a great chance you can find one wherever you are.

As a road-warrior/ External Wholesaler in the Financial Services industry, I spent on average 4 days a week driving from city to city throughout the state of Florida. Whenever I had down time or needed to get some computer work done, I needed a reliable place to work. This is why I loved Starbucks — my preferred coffee shop. The combination of the energy, ambiance, and consistency made it my “office on the road.” Also, in my efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle while on the road, I felt that Starbucks had better options than most, although my three venti cafe lattes per day were not doing my waistline any favors!!!

Since I’ve adopted a Ketogenic / Low Carb lifestyle in late 2016, I became obsessed with finding how to best maintain that diet traveling on the road. I’ve learned that so many foods & beverages I believed to be healthy, such as the skim milk and Splenda in a latte, were not very good decisions at all. And last summer, during a low carb conference, I met the great Dr. Robert Cywes, a leading Bariatric surgeon and a major Ketogenic supporter for the treatment of obesity and diabetes. When discussing eating out, we discussed Starbucks and he asked me “What does Starbucks sell?” Confused by the question, my response was, of course, coffee. His response was “Absolutely not! Starbucks is in the business of selling carbohydrates that are occasionally flavored by coffee.” Wow! That was an interesting perspective!

Dr. Cywes had me curious and after observing hundreds of Starbucks consumers over time (like I said, it’s my office on the road) and after extensive research on the menu, I would have to agree with Dr. Cywes. Starbucks has clearly profited from the world’s addiction to sugar.


Fortunately, Starbucks lists on their website the nutritional content of most of their items, which was very eye-opening. For starters, sugar is not listed anywhere in their nutritional info section, unless you select each individual item. Also, under nutritional info, you can refine your search and filter for what “they” deem to be the healthy under health and wellness options. See below:

Starbucks’s Health & Wellness Option

Include foods that qualify

¨ Fat — 10 g or less

¨ Fiber — at least 3 g

¨ Protein — at least 10 g

¨ Sodium — 600 mg or less

After selecting all of the boxes listed, there were only 4 food items that meet those four requirements. Of the four items Starbucks identified as healthy by their measures, the food with the lowest carbohydrates still contains 26 grams of carbs. Also, one of the 4 items included The Blueberry & Muesli Yogurt Bowl, which has 57 grams of carbohydrates and 37 grams of sugar. You don’t have to be a supporter of Keto to understand that if these are their health and wellness options, there is clearly a problem.

Interestingly, when I conduct my own due diligence on the Starbucks menu to determine what I believe to be healthy (as per Keto), my criteria was the complete opposite of Starbucks criteria. For anyone following a low carb lifestyle, they may agree with my criteria listed below:

Joe Tramazzo’s Ketogenic Health & Wellness Option

Include foods that qualify

¨ Carbohydrates — 10 g or less

¨ Sugar — less than 3 g

¨ Fat — at least 5 g

¨ Protein — at least 5 g

My hope is to help educate others on the consequences of too much sugar and carbohydrate consumption. My objective is to help share the best low carb options for those that eat a low carb diet, travel or eat out often and need some guidance on making the best decisions possible. If you are similar to me and frequent Starbucks often and use them as your “office on the road”, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to remain a Starbucks consumer and stay true to Keto. I have listed the Top 10 Keto-friendly foods and beverage tips below.

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Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !

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