September 17, 2008

Fiber! In Coffee?

A few months ago I told you about Starbucks' new "plus energy" shots, which enabled customers to infuse some B vitamins and other ingredients (including taurine and ginseng) into their beverages.

I'm assuming that has worked out well for the coffee chain, since they now offer a new "plus" option -- "plus protein."

Say those two words and your beverage will contain a few more grams of protein (4 for a tall, 5 for a grande, 6 for a venti) and one -- yes, one -- gram of fiber.

The coffee chain is pushing this as one of "three healthier ways to start your day."

It's worth pointing out that another involves a 420-calorie apple bran muffin and cup of espresso ("for a quick energy boost" -- yeah, a 420 calorie muffin will certainly provide that!)

Anyhow, this new booster is specifically advertised as containing"the added benefit of extra protein and fiber, to help fill you up and give you the energy you need to make the most of your day.

I simply don't get it.

For starters, protein is an over-consumed nutrient in most Western countries -- especially the United States.

The average adult in this country consumes, on average, 200 - 250 percent of their daily protein requirement.

Certainly not a danger, but also very far from the notion that we are all on the verge of protein malnutrition (you would think we were, based on how many products advertise their protein content with large fonts and exclamation marks.)

Additionally, the milk in these lattes already makes them a a very good source of protein.

A grande latte, for instance, provides 12 grams of protein -- roughly 15 - 20 percent of a day's worth for most adults.

An additional 5 grams of protein does not make it a "healthier" (or "unhealthier") drink, just a little bit higher in calories.

I'm also not a fan of that seemingly random measly gram of fiber. It's not really going to do much in the way of "filling you up."

Besides, there are plenty of foods offering a lot more fiber (and additional nutrition).

A medium apple contains 4.5 grams. A medium banana? Two and a half. A slice of whole wheat toast? 3 grams. A cup of oatmeal will add 4.5 grams to your day (most of that as soluble fiber, which is particularly helpful at providing a long-lasting feeling of fullness.)

If Starbucks is looking to lure more customers in, they should forget all this silly nutritional tinkering and simply lower their prices!


Anonymous said...

Although I have breakfast at home most mornings, this morning I had Starbucks perfect oatmeal and a tall Vanilla Latte + Protein and yes .. I'm still full (no grumbling tummy :-)

I think it's a much better option than a blueberry scone, so at least Starbucks has attempted to move in a more healthier direction.

San Diego, CA

Andy Bellatti said...


Thank you for your comment.

Well, you can thank the oatmeal for your feeling of fullness.

It's not so much that the Vanilla Latte + Protein is "bad for you," but rather that it's a silly gimmick. An additional 5 grams of protein is rather insignificant from a dietary perspective.

You could have had the oatmeal with a "regular" latte and still feel just as full.