Pumpkin spiced lattes and other specialty coffee drinks are popular this time of year, but did you know that many of the commercial food business choices don’t even have an ounce of pumpkin or pumpkin spice in the drinks they offer?

So what makes it a “pumpkin spice” latte then?  Answer:  Chemicals, processed sugars, amongst other ingredients that can be detrimental to your health, vitality, performance and overall well-being.  Here’s an example I posted on instagram.

In this post the ingredients are broken down for Starbucks and McDonalds pumpkin spice lattes, some of the more popular mainstream options, plus I provide three real food recipe solutions for pumpkin spice that are much better for your health than the alternative.


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These pumpkin spice recipe alternatives are paleo & vegan-friendly, gluten-free, and dairy-free.

Base ingredients for pumpkin spice flavor (see main image at top):

2 tablespoons canned pumpkin

2 tablespoons coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

optional:  1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, nutmeg (traditional pumpkin spice ingredients).

Include any of the three sweetening options with base ingredients:

Option 1:  no calorie stevia – add to taste

Option 2:  low glycemic, raw coconut sugar – 1/2 tablespoon

Option 3:  best flavor, maple butter – 1/2 tablespoon

Directions:  Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk together real well so they all get incorporated.  Prep time 1 minute.  I add this to my coffee and it tastes great as a pumpkin spice ‘syrup’ alternative.  Optional:  If you want to make with espresso and add milk foam to make it a true latte, cappuccino or whatever you prefer, you can obviously do your own if you have the equipment. A great dairy free alternative you can also try for foam is coconut milk or almond milk, both foam well.  Rice milk does not foam so well.

Notice that all of the ingredients that are above are REAL FOOD ingredients that your liver and body can process without a lot of stress to the system.

Now notice below the processed sugar and chemical ingredient options in the McDonalds or Starbucks pumpkin spice latte syrup concoctions.

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Not an ounce of pumpkin, pumpkin spice, or real food (McDonalds has water in it, woo hoo!) in any of the ingredients listed, yet it’s called a pumpkin spice latte.  Shady marketing?  Not to mention 340 calories and 410 calories in each. Option 3 above is the most calorie dense version of my recipe, and it’s about 110-120 calories total for the entire recipe (and when I make this, I don’t put the entire amount in my coffee…it lasts at least 2 servings, so we’ll call it about 55-60 calories per serving).

So the question is, would you rather have 340-410 calories of chemical-laden, processed sugars that can all wreak havoc in the body (not to mention costs more money)?

Or 55-60 calories of real food ingredients that work more in harmony with the body (and is pocket change per serving)?

Awareness is key… my ‘best option’ recommend is if you like your Starbucks or McDonalds fix and have to go there, stick with the regular coffee they serve (even though it is from commercial sources likely sprayed with pesticides). That way you’re not ingesting ingredients and empty calories like the ones above. 

My recommendation in general is opt for a local coffee house that serves an organic coffee alternative (cleanest choice for your body/cells, pure coffee).  You can use a source like FarmPlate or LocalHarvest to locate places like this.  Remember, 100 or so years ago to the beginning of human history, it was all organic, or what I like to call simply…food.  You’re designed to function and perform on organic food (the internal mechanics of the body is not quick to change/adapt/evolve).  We only have to label it ‘organic’ now because the commercial, genetically modified, pesticide & chemical-laden stuff has been introduced into our food supply in the last century and we need to be able to tell the two apart.  Perspective:  In other words, if we were living in the year 1900 and Starbucks and McDonalds was around then, we’d all be drinking organic coffee from there because the commercial stuff was not around yet; and our pumpkin spice for our pumpkin spice lattes would look more like the recipes I provided, not like the chemically-influenced ingredient lists we see above that mimic pumpkin spice to the taste buds.


Sources/Nutritional Facts:

Starbucks grande latte ingredients (with whole milk)

Starbucks store pumpkin sauce ingredients

McDonalds pumpkin spice latte ingredients

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