How Healthy Are Starbucks’ New Boba-Inspired Drinks? Dietitians Review

How Healthy Are Starbucks’ New Boba-Inspired Drinks? Dietitians Review


Starbucks debuted its new summer menu this week, including three new drinks: a Summer-Berry Refresher, a Summer-Berry Lemonade Refresher, and a non-dairy Summer Skies Drink.

The twist? The three new drinks are Starbucks’ version of boba or bubble tea, and feature “juicy raspberry flavored pearls,” inspired by the popular East Asian drinks.

“We started with fruit pieces, but we wanted something even bolder,” Simon Vuong, beverage developer for Starbucks, said in a statement. “So, we thought, ‘Let’s put fruit-flavored pearls in the beverage and try it out.’ It’s very fun the way it delivers the flavor when it pops in your mouth.”

The new boba-inspired drinks may be a fun way to quench your summertime thirst—but how healthy are these new Starbucks options? Three registered dietitians reviewed these drinks’ nutrition and ingredient info—here’s what they think.

Starbucks


Starbucks’ Summer-Berry drinks are similar to other Starbucks Refreshers or non-dairy drinks: A sweetened Summer-Berry base (a mixture of raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry flavors) is poured over ice or mixed with lemonade or coconut milk.

The standout ingredient of these new drinks—and what sets them apart from other Starbucks Refreshers—is the addition of raspberry-flavored pearls made from a mixture of water, sugar, calcium lactate, sodium alginate, and vegetable juice concentrate, among other things.

These flavored pearls are inspired by the “bubbles” in bubble tea. According to Scott Keatley, RD, co-owner of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy, traditional bubble tea pearls are made of tapioca, which is a starch extracted from cassava, a root vegetable.

While tapioca-based pearls may cause some gastrointestinal issues, like constipation, Starbucks’ pearls are less likely to cause those side effects, Keatley told Health. However, “it’s still wise to enjoy them in moderation due to the potential for sugar content and other digestive considerations,” he added.

The three bubble tea-inspired drinks are high in sugar and carbohydrates, but lack fat, fiber, or protein. Here’s the nutritional breakdown for each drink:

Summer-Berry Starbucks Refreshers Beverage:

  • Calories: 110
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 27 grams
  • Sugars: 25 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Caffeine: 50 grams

Summer-Berry Lemonade Starbucks Refreshers Beverage:

  • Calories: 160
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 39 grams
  • Sugars: 37 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Caffeine: 50 grams

Summer Skies Drink Starbucks Refreshers Beverage:

  • Calories: 150
  • Fat: 2.5 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 2.5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 31 grams
  • Sugars: 29 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Caffeine: 50 grams

Experts agree that these new drinks aren’t the worst things you can order at Starbucks—but they aren’t necessarily a health drink.

“These bubble teas are packed with added sugar and have minimal nutrition benefits,” Keri Gans, RD, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of The Small Change Diet, told Health.

Jessica Cording, RD, a registered dietitian, health coach, and author of The Little Book of Game-Changers agrees: “[These drinks] definitely fall into the pleasure category,” she told Health, adding that because these drinks contain a lot of sugar with littler to not fat or protein, they could potentially make your blood sugar spike then fall.

But it’s not all bad. Gans praised the spirulina concentrate that shows up in the drinks to give them their bold blue color. “Spirulina may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties beneficial to our health,” she said. “However, how much the teas contain to reap any benefit is uncertain.”

And a quick note from Gans about the fruit-flavored pearls: “The bubbles should be chewed—not swallowed—as they potentially could be a choking hazard.” Cording added that people with swallowing problems and small children should steer clear of the pearls.

Overall, registered dietitians think these drinks are fine in moderation. “[They] can have their place as something a person enjoys once in a while,” said Cording.

If you choose to indulge in one of these drinks, Keatley said it’s important to look at their addition in the context of your diet as a whole. “While the drink is high in sugar, it fits into the broader spectrum of dietary indulgences when enjoyed in moderation,” he said. “It’s free from artificial colors and uses some natural ingredients, which is commendable. It’s all about balance and enjoying such treats in the context of a well-rounded diet.”

If you want to be especially mindful of when you have these drinks, Keatley recommends looking at what else you’re taking in on any given day. “For those who are particularly fond of bubble tea,” he said, “choosing days when your overall sugar intake is lower can help accommodate this indulgence without disrupting nutritional goals.”

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