Posts filed under ‘Starbucks’

Are you a “Latte Spy”?

“I am a loyal fan of Starbucks, and as a result, I go quite regularly. That said, every time I order a drink there, I strongly doubt that my drink will be made the way I ordered. My distrust has gotten so bad, that I hover over the ‘pick-up’ station to watch how my drink is made to ensure it’s prepared correctly. I pretend to not be watching, but I am. I have become, in essence, a Latte Spy.”

I am exactly like Brett at Sheer Balance.  I watch the baristas at Starbucks like a hawk when they make my drinks.  Unlike Brett, though, I am not subtle about it… although I do smile a lot while to generate goodwill.  The fact is, I have caught the baristas making my drink with regular syrup, instead of sugar-free, too many times to relax my vigilance.  Regular syrup can make a huge difference in the calories a drink contains, especially if you order a venti or like your beverage particularly sweet as I do.  These types of substitution mistakes could cost you a minimum 100 calories for every beverage, and if you’re a high-volume Starbucks customer, that can add up quick!

I have a pretty low calorie threshold for the day, so every calorie I consume counts a lot.  I simply must be extra careful.  So, while outwardly, it might seem obnoxiously high maintenance – and even insulting to the hardworking baristas – I can’t afford not to monitor their preparations.

I used to feel really guilty about this behavior, but now I don’t.  I’ve worked extremely hard to lose 120+ pounds, and I have the right to make sure I know what I’m imbibing.  I figure that as long as I do it in a friendly way, with an occasional “I really have to watch my calories” comment by way of explanation, I’m being respectful of the staff while still taking care of myself.

November 20, 2008 at 1:45 am Leave a comment

Clean Eating in the Friendly Skies (or on the ground in between)

Steph at Noshtopia recently posted about eating healthy at the airport.  Considering that I just got back from a whirlwind weekend trip to San Francisco, it’s a subject that’s been on my mind, too.

Steph notes that the selection varies widely depending on the airport, and I agree.  She also notes that she usually brings key staples with her.  I do the same.  I generally pack one-cup containers of Kashi GO-LEAN Original cereal, Z Bars, bananas and apples, and Greens to Go for my bottled water.  Sometimes, though, you want something else… or you’re on your way home and have used up all your supplies.

In that case, I rely significantly on Starbucks now that they have much better food offerings.  The Protein Plate with peanut butter is awesome.  So is the oatmeal… as long as you limit yourself to only one accompaniment.  (Use all three mix-ins – nuts, dried fruit, and brown sugar – and you’ve increased your 140-calorie oatmeal by 250 calories!)  I like to mix in the nuts and one of my Greens to Go packets.  Include a venti green tea with sugar-free syrup, and you’ve got a really clean, healthy meal for a reasonable number of calories.

Look for unconventional options.  On my way back home this past Sunday, I found a Mediterranean café by my gate.  So, for breakfast, I had homemade hummus with pita triangles, falafel and tabbouleh.  It was not traditional breakfast fare, and I guesstimated that the calories were higher than I usually consume.  But, it was all good, healthy stuff that kept me full even when my flight was delayed for an hour and a half.

November 13, 2008 at 2:39 pm Leave a comment

Breakfast at Starbucks

I have tried two of Starbucks’ new five healthy breakfast options: the protein plate and the oatmeal.  I love the protein plate.  It’s compact and filling, covering all the nutritional bases for a reasonable 330 calories (with the peanut butter).

Wanting something a little lighter, though, I recently sampled the oatmeal.  It was only 140 calories, with 4g fiber, so it fit the bill.  When I ordered, the barista asked if I wanted nuts, fruit or brown sugar… or all three.  I decided to go with all three.  Yowsa!  The “extras” are more calories than the oatmeal!  Both the walnuts and the dried fruit are 100 calories each, and the brown sugar is 50 calories.  Suddenly, my 140-calorie morning meal jumped to 390 calories.  Thankfully, I’m a label reader, so I checked the nutrition stats before pouring anything extra in my bowl.  I decided to save the extras for later when I wanted a snack.  My only quarrel with Starbucks on this is that their nutritional pamphlet, which advises customers that the oatmeal is 140 calories, doesn’t indicate that the calories do not include sides.  The calories are printed on the front and the back of the mix-in packets, but if you didn’t read them – or if someone else prepared your oatmeal for you – you might not realize that you’d added 250 calories to your meal.

Instead of using the high-cal accompaniments, I took advantage of the coffee bar additions and mixed in some Splenda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Then, when I got to work, I mixed in an acai energy packet for another 23 calories.  It gave the oatmeal a yummy fruity flavor while not ruining my calorie count for the day.

All in all, the oatmeal was a great clean-eating fast food choice.

October 8, 2008 at 1:11 pm 1 comment

Coffee with a Friend, Take 2

Another Starbucks, another girlfriend… same issue.

This past weekend, I met another girlfriend at Starbucks. She’s getting married this weekend. I’m doing a reading at her wedding, and she had a gift for me as a thank-you. Starbucks seemed as good a place as any for her to give it to me and for us to catch up. Although the point of the meeting was not to discuss my lifestyle change, it still came up.

It’s taken me a while to blog about it because I needed time to think it over. Her observations were similar to those of my other girlfriend. She noted that, at some point, I would need to stop losing weight. She also said I needed to be happy with myself. She’s been reading my blog and has concluded that I’m not happy.

To give you some history, she’s one of the friends I started Weight Watchers with back in the fall of 2002. She had some success on the program, went off it, and has gone back on it and off it two or three times since then. She told me that if achieving what I achieved meant she’d agonize the way I do, she wasn’t going to do it. I told her I could understand that. I shared that I have had times when I’ve longed for the “good old days” early on with my ex-husband when we ate freely and joyfully knowing we had each other, and it didn’t matter if our waistlines expanded geometrically.

What made me cry, though, was when she said I wasn’t the same girl she’d known five years ago. She said all my communication is peppered with comments about weight or food or exercise. That hit me hard. It reminded me of a comment my ex-husband made shortly before we split up. He told me that I was fanatical about diet and exercise.

At the time, I lamented that description to my dad, and he advised me that a successful, lasting lifestyle change requires a degree of fanaticism. He was right then, and he’s right now. When my girlfriend and I started Weight Watchers, our conversations revolved around points and food finds and recipes. Since she’s no longer doing it, there’s no need to talk about it. For me, part of the reason it’s never changed is that I’ve never stopped doing it.

So, I’m not as upset about the fact that I talk so frequently about food and exercise and losing weight and my struggles to stay on track. My lifestyle change is a huge part of my day every day, so yeah, I talk about it.

What she’s right about – and what bothers my other friends – is my response to bad days. When I don’t achieve the goals I’ve set for myself, I’m horrendously disappointed. I struggle to shrug it off, and it definitely affects my mood. When I “cheat” and eat something I shouldn’t, I don’t enjoy it. I feel so guilty that I’m unable to relish my indulgence.

So where do I go from here? I found a line on Get Fit Slowly that is particularly apropos. It’s OK not to worry about eating, but you still have to think about eating.”  My objective is to stop worrying about eating, knowing that I’ll never stop thinking about it. I need to trust myself, relax and enjoy every now and then. Easier said than done, but I’m working on it.

February 21, 2008 at 1:52 am Leave a comment

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

In My Experiment: Asking for a Better Deal, Alpha Consumer Kimberly Palmer wonders, “If just asking a question could put money in your pocket, would you do it?”

Kimberly finds out that just asking for it really does work. She says, “Sometimes paying less and saving more come down to simply asking for what you want.”

It’s the same way with food. “Sometimes cutting calories and eating healthier food come down to simply asking for what you want.” Just ask. No matter where you are: at a friend’s house, a fast-food joint, a fancy restaurant, ask for what you want. You’ll be surprised how many times you get it.

I first experimented with this when my then-husband and I went on a low-carb plan. At the time, I frequently ate lunch with my co-workers at the company cafeteria. The caf had once-a-week specials like taco salad and mac-n-cheese. I started by asking for my taco salad without the taco and with extra veggies. I received some ribbing from my co-workers, but I got my taco salad my way. From then on, I always asked for what I wanted, and I continue to do so with at least a 90% success rate.

FRIENDS. When friends invite you for a meal, you, of course, want to be as gracious and appreciative as possible of whatever they prepare for you. If, by chance, they ask you what you’d like, though, tell them. Don’t hold back; they’ve asked because they truly want to know. It’s also okay to request simple substitutions. If you don’t want the wine you’re offered, thank them and then ask for a bottle of water or a cup of tea instead. And, don’t hesitate to refuse something if you’d rather not have it. When a plate is passed to you, feel free to say, “That looks delicious but no thanks.”

FAST FOOD JOINTS. Yes, you can ask for what you want at a fast food place, even if it’s not Burger King! First, narrow your selection to match your requirements as closely as possible. Don’t order a cheeseburger without cheese when a plain burger is readily available. Do ask for extra onions or tomatoes or to hold the mayo. Do ask if you can substitute a salad for the fries. The answer may be no, but you can occasionally make substitutions. Granted, customer service at these places varies widely, so you may end up not getting what you ordered. But, it’s worth the effort to ask, and in most cases, you can pick or scrape off what you don’t want anyway.

SIT-DOWN RESTAURANTS. This is where asking can really impact what you’re eating. If the menu doesn’t list them, ask the server what low-calorie options they have available or what they’d recommend for someone who’s watching her fat or carbohydrate content. Refuse the bread basket or ask for celery sticks with a variety of dressings on the side instead. Ask your server how you’re food is going to be prepared, and don’t hesitate to request “no butter”. Request grilled veggies instead of a baked potato as your side dish. Your dinner companions might needle you a bit, like my co-workers did, but if you’re friendly and pleasant when asking, your server will usually be more than happy to honor your requests.

In all cases, be polite, thoughtful, and appreciative, and don’t forget to smile. People really do want to help as long as they are approached with courtesy and an understanding of their limitations depending on the situation. If they make an effort to accommodate you, be sure to thank them sincerely. With friends, send a follow-up thank-you note after the meal, letting them know how much you enjoyed it and how much their flexibility meant to you. If you’re at a fancy restaurant, show your appreciation with your tip.

Want more of Kimberly? Check out her blog and be sure to read her article about Starbucks’ new Skinny Latte in which she quoted me! J

February 16, 2008 at 1:10 am Leave a comment

Coffee with a Friend

Today I met one of my girlfriends for coffee at Starbucks.  We do that every couple of weeks to catch up.  This time there was more than usual to catch up on.  She has started a new job, reunited with her boyfriend and is in the process of buying a house.  All very exciting stuff.

My stuff wasn’t quite as exciting.  Having started my new job in mid-October and moved into my new place at the end of November, my news is old news for the most part, although, Saturday, I did host my first brunch ever, which was pretty nifty.

In the course of conversation, I shared the “ordeal” I suffered earlier in the week with the Mexican food and then pizza that my BF ordered.  I mentioned that we were planning to go to Mexico in April for a motorcycle trip and how nervous I was about being in my bathing suit with the hot women that seem to always accompany men and bikes.  She shook her head.  She told me that many of our group of friends commented on how good I looked in my swimsuit in July when we all celebrated the 4th by the pool.  She said, “You know, I’m a little worried about you.  You just don’t see it.”

She went on to tell me that I look great and that she hopes that I will get to the point where I can eat a cookie or a few slices of pizza without fretting about it.  She said she didn’t want to upset me, and that she didn’t think it was a problem now, but that she was concerned I would never feel like I could stop, that I would never feel like I could just maintain.  After I shared the pizza-and-breadstick story, she laughed and said, “The next time we’re out, I’m going to hold you down and shove a breadstick in your mouth.”

I appreciated her concern and recognized that it took some guts for her to talk to me about it.  It’s not easy to be candid with friends about these kinds of things.  I sometimes worry, too.  I cannot slip up without feeling really, really bad.  It’s nearly impossible for me to have any emotional perspective on it, even though intellectually I know that it’s natural and I will recover from it.  I get very anxious and depressed when I “let myself down” by not eating low-calorie enough.  It’s a struggle not to let the emotions show.  I try not to say too much to my BF because that kind of obsessiveness is draining on those who love you.  They can’t validate you every second of the day, and they want to be around someone who’s cheerful and upbeat about life… which, thankfully, I generally am. 

Part of the problem is that, when I look in the mirror, I see Round Girl.  I don’t see Fat Girl, but I definitely see Round Girl who is pleasingly plump, except that it’s not so pleasing to me.  I can’t help but think if I could just work harder, lose a little bit more, I would be a better person.  Again, I know it’s not rational, but it’s there. 

How much more do I want to lose?  Can I stop now at 114 pounds gone?  My immediate answer is “no”.  I don’t feel finished.  I don’t look great naked, so I feel I must continue.  For now, that’s not a problem.  My weight is fine; I am by no means too thin.  My BMI is in the high end of the normal range.  But, the risk is there for taking it too far, which is partly what my girlfriend was getting at.

She was also getting at enjoyment of life.  Stressing over eating a little too much just isn’t worth it.  “Eat it and enjoy it” was the crux of her message.  If I was talking to someone else, I’d say the same thing to them… and I’d mean it.  Problem is, I can’t seem to say it – and mean it – to myself. 

February 4, 2008 at 3:16 am 1 comment

Starbucks Gets Skinny – Are You Offended?

Like most of us, Starbucks has made a resolution to get healthier in 2008. The ubiquitous java joints are now offering “skinny” lattes and mochas to make it easier for calorie-counting coffee lovers to enjoy their daily dose of caffeine without breaking their diets.

The “skinny” platform, as it’s commonly referred to, is a nonfat latte made with sugar-free syrup. The sugar-free syrups come in a range of flavors: Vanilla, Hazelnut, Caramel, Cinnamon Dolce, and most recently Mocha. A tall “skinny” latte weighs in at 90 calories, while a regular one is 220 calories. To calculate the calories in your favorite beverage, use the nutrition tool on their site.

I am delighted by the launch of the “skinny” platform. It saves me lots of words when I order a drink at Starbucks, and I know I’ll get exactly what I ask for. There’ve been occasions when I’ve requested sugar-free sryup, and I’ve gotten the regular stuff. There’ve also been occasions when I’ve asked for no whipped cream, and there’s been a big ol’ pile of it on my drink that I then have to scoop into the trash. I watch my calories very carefully, so these mishaps make me slightly anxious. Knowing that all I have to say is “skinny” is a huge relief.

Starbucks created the “skinny” platform to support their customers’ desires to have healthier options. Interesting, then, that one of their own employees feels that new platform may actually alienate customers?

According to a recent post on Starbucks Gossip, an unnamed barista is very concerned about this new platform. The rebel barista, who only tells us that she’s based in a New York Starbucks franchise, lays out five criticisms for the new platform.

  1. Changing the drink calling/marking method will cause confusion for the employees.
  2. It’s already challenging for customers to order drinks at Starbucks.
  3. The “skinny” description is politically incorrect.
  4. The description could be considered a form of size discrimination, which could lead to lawsuits.
  5. The description will have a negative effect on self-esteem.

Criticism #3 fascinates me the most, with #4 and #5 coming in a close second and third.

3) It is politically incorrect. Should we start calling drinks with 2% or whole milk and regular syrups “Fat” or “Obese?” Consider what customers on line waiting for their turn to order their drink will think if they hear the drink before them being called out as “Skinny.” It leaves the door open for the next person on line to be offended. Additionally, the word “skinny” itself can have many different interpretations, not all of which are positive. In today’s society, the term “skinny” often refers to a person who is considered TOO thin or unhealthy looking. People will not want to order a drink with a name that they associate with an unhealthy appearance.

Yowsa! I’m amazed at this concern. First of all, I can’t imagine someone being offended that the person in front of them ordered a low-calorie, low-fat drink. Was I offending anyone when I ordered “a tall, sugar-free Cinnamon Dolce, nonfat latte with no whipped cream”? I never saw any indication of that if I was. Do people get upset when someone orders a Diet Coke at McDonald’s? Did I make someone feel bad because they were ordering a full-fat item instead of something lower in calories and fat? If so, that’s on them. They – like me – are responsible for what they order. If they want the “real deal”, then they are entitled to go for it. Sometimes I order the regular stuff, too. What anyone else thinks is their problem, not mine.

If anything, people got a bit impatient with me taking so long to order (that’s a lot of verbiage to get out in a single breath!) and then re-confirming that the barista did, indeed, get that it was sugar-free syrup and nonfat and no whip. I’m so fanatical about tracking my intake that I always want to be sure I’m getting the right stuff. Frankly, I think people will be glad that the line moves faster when I’m ordering now.

Secondly, while “skinny” does sometimes indicate a lack of health, it’s still very widely used to describe something that helps people concerned about their weight. There’s been an influx in recent years of books (Skinny Chicks, The Skinny, Skinny Bitch) and terms (Skinny Jeans) that all use the word “skinny” in a positive, drop-a-few-pounds way. I would in no way think of a “skinny” latte as being unhealthy or offensive.

What do you think?

  • Are you offended by the term “skinny” in relation to a latte?
  • If so, why?
  •  What would you recommend as an alternative way to describe these low-cal, low-fat beverages?

January 15, 2008 at 1:55 am 3 comments


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