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Pumpkin Spice or Not So Nice? A take on a Fall favorite
October 17, 2023

By Kimberly McKnight MS, RDN, LDN


The air is crisp, apples are ripe, the leaves are an array of gold and crimson, Autumn is here. What better way to celebrate the season than to pick up a sweet, warm, indulgence - a pumpkin spice espresso beverage. It goes without saying, pumpkin spice espresso beverages are delicious, but what makes this star of the show taste so good? Before you head over to your favorite coffee stop, lets dive into the basics of what makes up a pumpkin spice espresso beverage.

To start, the average 16oz pumpkin spice espresso beverage contains 50-55g of sugar which is about 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Some of this sugar does occur naturally in the milk used, but about 30-35g of this sugar is added sugar from the pumpkin flavor and the whipped cream. The United States Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services recommend that individuals ages 2 years and older take in no more than 10% of their calories from added sugars. For the average adult this would be about 50g of added sugar intake daily. One single 16oz pumpkin spice espresso beverage contains more than half of the recommended maximum daily intake of added sugar. 

These beverages can also deliver about 14g of total fat (around 23% recommended daily intake), 9g of saturated fat (about 40% of the recommended maximum daily intake), and a whopping 400 calories. Let’s not forget the caffeine. You’re looking at 150mg of caffeine due to the espresso component of these drinks. For reference, the average cup of coffee contains about 80-100mg of caffeine.

Before you write off pumpkin spice espresso beverages, there is hope. Most coffee establishments will allow you to substitute ingredients to your preference allowing you to make healthier ingredient choices. The first thing to swap is the type of milk used. Requesting skim milk instead of 2% milk will decrease the total fat, saturated fat, and calories of the beverage. Skip the whip, and you will decrease the total fat, saturated fat, calories, and sugar. Typically, these beverages are sweetened using pumpkin flavored syrup, and this is where most of the sugar content comes from. Each pump, dash, spoonful of syrup contains about 7-8g of sugar. Requesting 1-2 pumps of syrup, instead of the usual 3-4 can decrease the sugar content of the beverage significantly.

There are options to enjoy your favorite fall flavor at home as well. Making your own pumpkin spice espresso beverage can be healthier, more cost effective, and save you time. An even simpler option is checking out a pumpkin flavored coffee creamer. Brands like Nut Pods, Natural Bliss, and Chobani all have dairy containing and dairy free pumpkin coffee creamer options. 


Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte:


¾ cup 2% milk (or preferred milk alternative)

3 tablespoons pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus more for garnish

1 cinnamon stick

1 shot espresso or strong coffee (about 1/4-1/3 cup)


Place milk in a small pot over medium heat. Whisk in pumpkin, maple syrup and nutmeg. Add cinnamon stick. Heat just to a simmer (do not boil). Remove from heat. Use a milk frother to create a foamy consistency, if desired. Place espresso in a mug; pour in the milk mixture. Garnish with the cinnamon stick and a pinch of nutmeg.

Nutrition Facts: (per 8oz serving) 129 calories, 3.5g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 14g sugar, 6g protein.

Original recipe adapted from Eatingwell.com


Nutrition content information for pumpkin spiced espresso beverage is based on a 16oz beverage made with espresso, 2% milk and whipped cream. Average daily recommended intakes are based on a 2000 calorie diet.




USDA. (2020). Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 -2025 Make Every Bite Count With the Dietary Guidelines. In Dietary Guidelines for Americans. USDA. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf


Starbucks®. (2023). www.starbucks.com. https://www.starbucks.com/menu/product/418/hot/nutrition


Dunkin’ International Site. (2022). Dunkindonuts.com.