When you visit a coffee shop this festive season, you may be tempted by an indulgent Christmas coffee. But before you place your order at Costa, McDonald’s, Starbucks or other popular high street chains, it pays to know you could be downing as much sugar as a chocolate bar.
We took a look at six takeaway caramel, toffee or nut-based lattes promoted as seasonal specials and discovered that the worst offender contained as much sugar as a full-sized Cadbury Crunchie bar.
This was despite the fact that the beverages scrutinised were all made with semi-skimmed milk and were in 12fl oz/330ml cups – the smallest size you can order in the majority of places.
When supersized, some of the worst offenders contained as much as 47.4g sugar – almost the equivalent of two full-sized Boost bars.
All nutritional data was taken from the coffee company’s websites if you want to check before you buy.
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Starbucks Toffee Nut Latte
This ‘Tall’ seasonal beverage (12fl oz/355ml) consists of espresso and steamed milk combined with the flavour of sweet toffee, then topped with whipped cream and toffee nut sprinkles.
Nutritional information: 28.3g sugar (equivalent to seven teaspoons), 260 calories, 11g fat (7.5g saturates).
Food equivalent: One Cadbury Crunchie bar (40g) contains 26g sugar, while five After Eight chocolate things contain 28.5g sugar.
Supersize: The same drink in a ‘Grande’ (16fl oz) size contains 38.5g sugar, while the ‘Venti’ (24fl oz) size contains 47.4g sugar, which is the equivalent to almost 12 teaspoons of sugar. That’s nearly two 42g Aero Milk Chocolate Bubble Bars (25g sugar each) or almost 10 McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Digestive biscuits (49g sugar).
Greggs Salted Caramel Latte
Greggs promotes this as ‘the one to satisfy your sweet tooth temptations’. This latte is made with freshly ground coffee, salted caramel flavour syrup, and is topped with cream and salted caramel flavour sugar.
Nutritional information: 28g sugar or the equivalent to seven teaspoons, 223 calories, 8.2g fat (5.4g saturates).
Food equivalent: Six Quality Street chocolates contain 28.8g sugar.
Supersize: Not available as Greggs hot drinks only come in one size.
Pret Crème Brûlée Latte
This is Pret’s classic latte ‘complimented with the flavour of crème brûlée’, finished with whipped cream and a sprinkling of brown sugar. The main ingredient in the crème brûlée flavouring is sugar.
Nutritional information: 26g sugar (equivalent to six and a half teaspoons), 303 calories, 18.6g fat (11.9g saturated).
Food equivalent: Five Ferrero Rocher contain 24.9g sugar.
Supersize: Not available as Pret drinks only come in one size.
Costa Hazelnut Praline & Cream Latte
A festive variant of Costa’s classic latte. This ‘Primo’ praline latte contains roasted hazelnut syrup topped with Belgian chocolate sauce, cream and milk chocolate wafer pieces.
Nutritional information: 25.7g sugar equivalent to almost six and a half teaspoons, 343 calories, 20.5g fat (12.8 saturated).
Food equivalent: Two standard-sized Twix fingers (50g) contain 24.4g sugar.
Supersize: The same drink in a ‘Medio’ (16fl oz) size contains 32.5g sugar – more than in a standard-sized 51g Mars bar (30.5g sugar).
McDonald’s Toffee Latte
This regular-sized seasonal latte is blended with a sweet toffee syrup and topped with cream and sugar-rich toffee drizzle.
Nutritional information: 23g sugar equivalent to almost six teaspoons of sugar, 183 calories, 6g fat (3.9g saturated).
Food equivalent: One Galaxy Smooth Milk Chocolate bar (42g) contains 23g sugar.
Supersize: The same drink in a ‘Large’ (16fl oz) contains 29g sugar – more than a Krispy Kreme Festive Cherry Parcel doughnut (25.7g sugar).
Christmas coffee facts
- The official government recommendation is to limit free (added) sugars to no more than 5% of your diet each day – that’s around 30g or seven teaspoons of sugar.
- Even the smallest size of some festive high street coffees exceed this recommended daily maximum.
- The most sugary had 28g of sugar, more than in a full-sized Cadbury Crunchie bar.
- Sizing up in Starbucks gave 47.7g sugar, almost equal to eating two whole Aero bars.
- The UK charity Action on Sugar is calling for the government to extend the soft drinks industry levy to sugary milk-based drinks, and for the food industry to immediately use syrups and milks with no added sugar.
Caffè Nero Salted Caramel Latte
Caffè Nero’s festive caramel latte is a blend of coffee with salted caramel syrup, and is customisable with whipped cream, caramel sauce and marshmallows.
This latte seems to have the lowest sugar total of our six festive coffees at first glance, but a footnote attached to Caffè Nero’s nutritional data, stated in small italics, that the values ‘do not include whipped cream or toppings’. By adding these in, you’ll be adding more sugar to those listed below.
Nutritional information: 17.7g sugar equivalent to almost 4.5 teaspoons of sugar, 116 calories, 2.5 fat (1.6g saturated).
Food equivalent: One Mr Kipling Deep Filled Mince Pie contains 17.4g sugar.
Supersize: The same drink in a ‘Grande’ (16fl oz) contains 28.3g sugar.
How to make your Christmas coffee healthier
- Don’t go large Going from regular (12fl oz) to large (16fl oz) can add up to an additional 10.6g of sugar to your coffee – that’s almost three teaspoons. If you can go smaller then do. For example, Starbucks has a ‘Small’ 8fl oz size that has 19.7g sugar compared to 28.3g in the next size up – a saving of 8.6g or just over 2 teaspoons of sugar.
- Read the small print Even when retailers give nutritional information in store or online, we found an example where you needed to hunt for the real truth.
- Use retailers’ online tools Some companies, including Costa and Caffè Nero, have tools that allow you to see how much sugar is in your drink if you make changes such as switching sizes and milk types, making it easier to have some control over what you order.
- Ask for sugar-free syrup A 15g shot of Pret vanilla syrup contains around 12g sugar. Swap for a sugar-free syrup and you could save yourself three teaspoons. Make it an Americano with just a splash of milk and you’ll reduce the amount even more. Not all coffee shops offer this, but some, including Caffè Nero, Costa and Starbucks, do.