Pregnant? Welcome to the world of worrying about what you can and cannot eat and drink.
In this article, we are tackling the topic of what is good and what is not at Starbucks. We’ll talk about caffeine, about coffee, and about which drinks are the best for you to order (or avoid).
After all, people get pregnant but they don’t give up their Starbucks:
Starbucks barista told me I was the cutest pregnant girl she’s ever seen and it made my freakin day 😭— emily joy (@J0Y2theworld) June 30, 2019
I posted a Venti starbucks tea in my IG story the other day and someone passively made a comment that “I need to watch my caffiene intake while being pregnant” 1. I know. 2. Mind your own business- I have starbucks once a week. 🙄— R 💕 (@ElegantWarrior8) June 29, 2019
I’ve mostly been spared open judgement, but yesterday I ordered an iced coffee at Starbucks, and the young female barista asked me, “Do you want that decaf?” I restrained myself from shouting, “I’M 37 WEEKS PREGNANT AND I CAN’T SLEEP. NO, I DON’T WANT F’ING DECAF”— Ally Schweitzer (@allyschweitzer) June 27, 2019
But gosh, I love coffee!!
Come here, coffee. Yeah, you. I need you. It’s just not a good morning without you. Please, please, don’t go! Those are the thoughts going through your mind when you’re pregnant, right? That caffeine fix is so necessary. But everything is off limits, right? There aren’t any pregnancy safe drinks at Starbucks, are there?
I’m not a morning person, and couldn’t even imagine getting in gear for the day without my Starbucks fix. But with baby on board, I know I have to make some changes.
So what’s in a cup (or two)? Is it really that big of a deal? Some moms are full of energy when they’re pregnant, but for the rest of us, how do we do it?
In short, moderation, my friend, along with some ingredients to avoid. Here’s a few tricks to get caffeinated without getting baby too excited.
Starbucks and Pregnancy (CAFFEINE)
As a pregnant woman, it is generally advised that you do not overdo it on caffeine. It’s not just some old wives’ tale about caffeine and pregnancy. While the research has been inconclusive, there is some connection between caffeine consumption and low birth weight or even miscarriage. This isn’t a clear established connection medically, but there is some concern that they might be connected.
Can’t do without caffeine? There are options. For moderate coffee drinkers, it shouldn’t be too hard to fit in your favorite Starbucks drinks while pregnant. For heavy coffee drinkers, I feel your pain. Current recommendations are to keep caffeine consumption under 200 mg per day to be safe. Some ranges go as high as 300 mg, but I prefer to err on the side of caution.
Of course, there are individual concerns to consider. Not all pregnancies are the same, so check in with your OB to make sure it’s all right to imbibe with a few caffeinated beverages.
Fortunately, Starbucks has plenty of options that fall well within the recommended daily range for caffeine. I knew they wouldn’t let us down! First tip: avoid the venti.
Recommended Starbucks Brews for Pregnant Women
The classic cup of fresh-brewed coffee is an all-around great choice. Roast also plays a part in selecting the perfect cup. Consider the Blonde or Pike roasts, which are lower in caffeine than the robust French roast that offers the highest blast of caffeine. Stick to an 8 oz. cup—any other sizes will put you over the limit. Looking for a larger cup? Go for a half decaf and bump up the size. Trust me, no one will know as you stroll into the office cup in hand.
Ease into the day or afternoon with an Espresso. At roughly 75 mg of caffeine, you could easily drink two of these a day and still be under the caffeine limit. It’s all about the enjoyment. Take time to relax and enjoy the full experience. Coffee is a sensory experience, so let all your senses take in the moment as you sip away. I can’t think of a better way to unwind.
Cold brewed coffee is a fine choice on a warm afternoon. Get this: the tall and grande sizes pack between 125 and 165 mg of caffeine. So enjoy that iced coffee taste without regret. This has been my brew of choice in terms of flavor and caffeine. Try it, it’s worth the extra cost.
Iced coffees are a great treat, and like the cold brew, are under the daily caffeine limits. These are an indulgence for sure. Sweet, creamy, and energizing, could anything else say summer at Starbucks? As always, stay away from the venti. But the tall and grande sizes are in full play (125 and 165 mg, respectively).
Recommended Cold Starbucks Beverages for Pregnant Women
Want more drinking pleasure throughout the day? Consider the Iced Teas from Starbucks. Most selections offer 90 mg or less of caffeine per serving. Refreshment with a boost, these teas offer the perfect pick-me-up. Check with your barista for the caffeine content. However, some flavors may not be safe—especially the hibiscus during the first trimester. Be sure to know your ingredients.
Is it coffee, or is it ice cream? Both! That’s right, the Frappuccinos are a perfect combination of dessert-like indulgence and the caffeine we are craving. Most are under 150 mg of caffeine. Just steer clear of that extra shot of espresso. Yeah, you—I saw that!
Refreshers are along the same lines as the iced teas, for example, except that they’re brewed with green coffee extract. Not only are they a lighter take on coffee with the caffeine boost needed any time of day, but most are under 55 mg of caffeine. Regarding those flavors―Valencia orange and cool lime―they are perfect on a summer day. Check the ingredients and stay clear of the hibiscus. Stick an umbrella in this one and call me done! (We talk more about the refreshers below, so stick with us).
Bottled Blends and drinks from Starbucks are great for getting the Starbucks flavor/caffeine combo on the run. Moreover, most of them are well under the daily limit for caffeine. All your favorite flavors there for the taking. Mocha, macchiato, Cubano, salted caramel. Name your flavor, and it’s likely to be had anywhere, any time of day.
Finally, don’t forget the favorite classics like a Caffè Americano, Caffè Latte or a Cappuccino. All are well within the caffeine limits―some even in the grande size!
What about the Starbucks Dragonfruit Refresher, is this safe?
For specific drinks at Starbucks, it is best to request a rundown of the contents of the drink. You can generally find the contents of the drinks on the Starbucks website.
In general, when thinking about Starbucks, we think about caffeine. The caffeine in Starbucks drinks is generally why the beverage needs to be limited for pregnant women. But a refresher isn’t coffee or espresso….is it okay?
Let’s start with the ingredients. For our example, here are the ingredients in the Mango Dragonfruit refresher as listed on the Starbucks.com website:
- white grape juice concentrate
- natural flavors
- citric acid
- natural green coffee flavor
- freeze dried dragonfruit pieces
In general, dragonfruit is heralded as a good fruit for pregnant women, because it actually contains a lot of iron (for a fruit). The opposite is true of hibiscus, which can actually be dangerous to the fetus, especially in the first trimester, because it can cause hormone fluctuations (bad) and increases blood flow to the uterus (also bad when you aren’t ready to deliver).
Citric acid is a common additive to all kinds of foods. If you aren’t a habitual reviewer of food labels, you might not even realize how frequently you consume it. To date, there are no scientific studies available that connect this substance to any sort of danger for pregnant women.
However, some women report that foods containing citric acid cause them to have acid reflux. If you are pregnant and struggling with sour stomach or reflux, consider reducing yourself consumption of this drink.
What is rebaudiside-a? This is another name for a Stevia extract. Stevia is known as a sweetener. This extract is created using a very chemical heavy process, using chemicals such as acetone, methanol and others. Some of these chemicals are known to cause cancer.
Does the presence of this chemical in your drink mean that consuming it causes cancer, or will harm your baby? Honestly, if you only have one of these drinks every now and again, the answer is probably not. There probably isn’t enough of this substance in the drink to really do anything to you. But it’s good to know about stevia.
Natural flavors is an umbrella term for substances created from multiple sources, including but not limited to spices, juices, eggs, meat, vegetables, herbs, bark, and other man-made chemicals. Natural flavors are classified as safe by the FDA, but in general, consumers really have NO IDEA what a product actually contains when it says it has “natural flavors.”
Does this mean you shouldn’t eat anything with natural flavors in it while pregnant? Not necessarily. But in general, while pregnant it is best to eat as much real food as possible, and avoid processed and prepared foods.
What is natural green coffee flavor? Apparently it is an extract made from unroasted coffee beans. I did not know this, but unroasted coffee bean flavor is now a thing. You can learn more about Green Coffee Extract from the Starbucks FAQs about it.
Is this drink safe? There’s no known connection between this drink and birth defects or other issues. But it doesn’t really provide a whole lot of benefit/nutrition to a pregnant mom. It provides 90 calories, most of which come from sugar. It also has 15 mg of sodium (too much salt gave me awful headaches while pregnant), and 45-55mg of caffeine.
I’d probably choose a fruit smoothie over a refresher if this is an option at a coffee house like Starbucks while pregnant. It sounds cool to get a fun, colorful, fizzy drink but if I am going to drink something delicious I’d rather have it be something with some actual value in it for the baby, and not just sugar and chemical flavorings.
If you are pregnant (and I assume you are because you are reading this article), you might want to look ahead to when your baby arrives and learn more about how you are going to balance breastfeeding with jury duty…..because odds are, you are going to get called to sit on a jury while you are breastfeeding.
The Starbucks Pregnancy Takeaway
You don’t need to sacrifice your Starbucks fix when you’re pregnant – far from it! I know, changes are coming, along with a lifetime of the sweet sacrifices that are motherhood. Enjoy yourself now, while you relax with your favorite brew.
Like anything, caffeine in moderation is not a bad thing. Especially if I haven’t had my cup. We’re fortunate that Starbucks has foregone the caffeine hype. Rather, the focus has been on great drinks that keep us energized and bring a great beverage to the lips. As a coffee lover first, this is what keeps me coming back.
Caffeine aside, take time to know your ingredients. Again, know that hibiscus is a possible no-no during pregnancy during the first trimester, as it affects hormone development. Fortunately, it’s one of the few items on Starbucks’ menu to strike off your list. A small price to pay for keeping the Starbucks routine during your pregnancy.
So sit down and sip that espresso (or latte or whatever) in style and take it all in. Quiet times like these won’t last. You’ve earned it.
Thanks for stopping by! Before you go, check out another article written by one of our many Mom Advice Line contributors:
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- My Dog Just Died. I Won’t Get Another.
- My Son Ate A Penny. Now What?
- Focus On Developing Your Mind in the 21st Century
- Rheumatoid Arthritis and Breastfeeding
Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, ages 8, 6, and 3. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Emily is a full-time mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the screen when the kids are occupied. She can be reached through the Contact Us page.