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THE BLOG

A Chef's-Eye View of Starbucks

As a society we're fatter now than we were 50 years ago. Our coffee drinking habits share some of the blame.
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It's the Food Skinny here; reporting from my local Starbucks, drinking my usual, and watching current trends come alive. Moms are ordering lattes and Horizon organic chocolate milk for their little tykes. The view sure has changed since the late 50's, when I was in the stroller. So has the stroller, but that's a blog unto itself. Back then, moms would meet at the diner or someone's house while the kids played in the living room. The hot beverage choices were limited to coffee, Lipton tea, or, on the daring side, hot chocolate. They drank their coffee from cups with saucers, cups that held about 6 ounces, and restaurants served demitasse instead of espresso.

We, on the other hand, started with Tall and Grande, and that wasn't enough, so now we have Venti. We have so many choices in flavors-caramel, mocha, chipped, fruited, chaied-that it's an A.D.D. nightmare. I personally try and keep it simple with a Grande, skim, triple, bone-dry cappuccino, which is Starbuck's English for the kind of cappuccino you'd get at the Rome airport. Other than the fact that a Grande weighs in at 12 ounces (in Italy a cappuccino would be closer to 8 ounces, but I couldn't have skim milk), it's pretty close. There was actually more of a language barrier here at my local Starbucks than I experience in Italy, but everyone's happy now, and I get the cappuccino I crave. I order a Grande because it takes longer to drink, so I can watch the American diet in action.

My Starbucks is the typical urban cookie cutter version. Most people take out, bustling with the morning paper, rushing to get to work on time. For those of us who sit, it's Stroller Central. Starbucks is famous for their coffee, but as I'm watching this morning, only 2 people out of 30 have ordered coffee. Everyone else has ordered a Starbucks invented beverage. According to the nutritional information on Starbucks' website: Venti Chai Latte: 20-24 ounces, 300 calories. Tall Mocha No-whip: 240 calories (it would be 390 calories in the Venti size). Venti Café Latte, whole milk: 340 calories. Their blended drinks are pretty much melted ice cream without the eggs. The US government recommends that the average person consume a maximum of 2,000 calories a day. Well, at Starbucks, depending on what you're drinking, your diet for the day may be blown before a morsel of actual food has passed through your naive lips.

I like Starbucks as much as anyone, and it's a social institution now, but what you order their needs to fit into your whole food policy. That's why the Food Skinny says order your Starbucks beverages "bone dry." In Starbucks' parlance, "bone dry" means they put in extra foam and less liquid milk into your drink. It's all about weight: the lighter the container, the fewer calories. Liquid is heavy, and in the case of whole milk, high in calories and fat for this 50-year-old chef.

As a society we're fatter now than we were 50 years ago. Our coffee drinking habits share some of the blame. So next time you are in Starbucks take a trip down memory lane order a tall(small) cup of coffee with room for milk, It might not sounds as good but you will be around longer ordering it!