Are skinny lattes bad for you?

For years, the skinny vanilla lattes sold at my beloved and convenient coffee shop were my vice.

I felt so empowered walking into the chain and choosing such a "healthy" option, proud of having the willpower (a word I no longer believe in) over selecting the more desirable drinks like cafe mochas and caramel Frappuccino.

I waltzed in every few days (sometimes more), whisked right by the ever-so-tempting bakery display filled with calories I didn’t want anything to do with- and proudly announced my order, “one grande skinny vanilla latte please.”

Sometimes they’d say, “would you like whipped cream on that?” I’d feel the chip on my shoulder, almost insulted they'd offer such a fattening thing that I would never dream of ordering and brazenly turn it down, “no thanks!” all judgmentally and annoying. I’d stand obsessively close to the counter as the barista was behind foaming my non-fat milk, with my eye’s glued to them...having heart palpitations that they weren't using non-fat but the dreaded 2% or even the scariest-whole milk. If they didn’t mention my order out loud, “a grande skinny vanilla latte for Chelsea!” I would double-check really nervously, “This is made with non-fat right!!??”

It’s almost strange for me to write this now, reminiscing on how habitual I was with something that wasn’t anywhere near being good for me in anyway...but being just because it was "skinny"- I constantly drank it.

I guess I believed it had magical powers or something, and could give me the perfect body. 

The fact that I was having emotional breakdowns inside over it not being non-fat and filled with artificial sugars and not real sugar- stalking the barista as they made it -really puts my past unhealthy obsession with my body, food, and calories into perspective. It makes me truly realize how far I have come, and how a diet rich in things like real whole foods and full fats make me feel so much better. Just by taking that pressure off of myself to eat everything- with nothing (no fat, sugar, and calories) has opened up the door to actually enjoy my life again. It's no easy shift, and one I work at everyday, but boy is it freeing. 

What I didn’t know at the time I spent years drinking them, is that skinny vanilla lattes actually have just as much sugar as non-skinny options, pumps of artificial sweeteners filling my body with things it would never and could never recognize, and dairy that I later learned is not only filled with hormones and antibiotics, but is one of the largest food intolerances connected to weight gain, skin issues, and digestive troubles (diarrhea, gas, bloating, and so much more- things I really struggled with).

All of this, I had no idea about. And I wasn't really open at the time to consider it...I ran with the idea that it’s going to make me and keep me skinny, that's all that matters, right!? (the sarcasm is rich)

So, I get what they’re doing here…titling the drink with the buzz word “Skinny” is smart, even though now I'm on to their games. After all, it’s why our nation is in such trouble. We’ve been told they’re the better choice…so everyone is out there buying products from a box or a bag with hot words and phrases like fat-free, sugar-fee, low-fat, will lower cholesterol, calorie-free, whole grain, and light. We’re thinking they’ll make us skinny and healthy, but in reality we’re the heaviest and least healthy we’ve ever been with staggering statistics like- a shocking over 1/3 Americans are obese.*

Since we’ve pulled the fat, upped the sugar, and have gotten addicted to sugary drinks and treats like these from our favorite coffee shop, obesity has become an epidemic.

It’s not a coincidence that there is a correlation here, between the direction we’ve been heading in with the food we consume, and our weight. For far too long I was buying things from a box, eating low or no-calorie and obsessed with writing down everything I ate, praying it wouldn't go over the dreaded 1200 calories (the amount of calories we need in a day just to breathe and be alive, by the way). I was absolutely petrified to eat fat and sugar, even though little did I know..everything I was eating that was fat-free and low-fat was actually filled with sugar. 

I had it all wrong! And it’s not really our fault…this is what’s advertised and we’re told to believe.

So back to the deal with these skinny vanilla lattes. They’re made with non-fat milk, which most of us think, check! No fat, no problem.

Back when the popularity of non-fat and fat-free everything began decades ago (the 1970’s), manufactures pulled the fat (and fiber in many cases) out, and put sugar in- realizing there needed to be something to make up for the taste lost by the fat being removed. Skim milk is not only highly processed (meaning all the nutrients you think you’re getting are lost) but since there’s no fat, all that’s left is sugar! “With no fat to slow the absorption of glucose and galactose {the sugars broken down by our bodies from milk}, low-fat {and fat-free} dairy spikes your blood sugar and insulin response the same way any high-sugar processed snack does.”* 

Eating too much sugar impacts “bloating, gas, cravings, increased appetite, poor mood (focus, irritability, depression), low or unstable energy, stubborn belly fat, and an inability to loose weight.”* 

Ok, here’s something I want you to start understanding and say it out loud to yourself everyday if you have to…fat doesn’t make you fat. This concept will free you! It sure gave me freedom, and was not only a huge game-changer in my personal weight loss (yes, loss) and health (digestion, energy, and brain) but in my emotional relationship with food. I started to focus more on nourishment, verses calories or fat, and today…it feels amazing. Again, it took me a while to get here, and is a mindset I work at daily.

Our bodies actually thrive on fat (trans-fats excluded)! Healthy fats (yes saturated fat!) make you feel satiated, benefit brain health, and reduce inflammation in your body (the root of disease) and overall can actually help you loose or maintain your weight!*

Eating healthy sources of fat (like coconut oil, tallow, ghee and grass-fed butter (if you can tolerate it) and things like avocados, nuts, and seeds can actually help to slow the absorption of sugar right into your bloodstream. Starting to see why there’s really no benefit to skim milk? There’s not only more sugar, but there is no fat to slow it’s absorption down. This is a loose, loose, because remember it's highly processed and you're not even getting the nutrients you think you are. Not to mention you could end up craving and eating more just by ditching the fat, “Reduced-fat foods and drinks may not be as filling, so consumers may end up compensating for the lack of calories and eating or drinking more." ”***

In a grande skinny vanilla latte, there is 16g of sugar. I actually thought it had, none, when I drank them, I didn't know, it was "skinny" after all. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot worse out there- a grande non-fat hot chocolate without whipped cream has 41g of sugar, and a grande non-fat green tea Frappuccino without whipped cream has a whopping 64g of sugar!**** Yikes.

But that's a topic for a totally different blog post, guys! What I'm trying to do here is unveil the not so obvious sugar hiding in your everyday vices. 16g of sugar affects you plenty enough where if you’re grabbing one everyday on your way to work in place of breakfast or on your way home before dinner…that sugar is going to add up more then you think! And the real issue is it's going to go right into your system! (See the list of sugar side affects above).

I want to be clear that I’m not about counting numbers, or to make you all focused with the nutrition facts just like I used to be…but I think it’s important to be aware! I basically used to count this drink as nothing based on the title of the drink and non-fat milk alone! We need to start being educated consumers, when all the information out there is designed to do just the opposite. It's only fair we know what's in our food and drinks, and then we can make our own choices from there.

The other issue I have with skinny vanilla lattes is the artificial sugars pumped in to add taste and cut calories. It’s important that you know you’re not doing yourself any favors here. And take it from me, I used to be the queen of Splenda. It’s actually my biggest accomplishment to date, that I no longer have anything to do with those dangerous yellow packets. I can definitely say, I was addicted, and there were times I thought I’d never give it up.

Even with the knowledge of them being neurotoxic…and connected to headaches, dizziness, memory loss, fatigue, brain fog, and killing brain cells, only to name a few…it was more important to me not to have calories. What?! If that’s not a wake up call, I don’t know what is…and I know so many of you out there can relate. This is why it’s so important to me to share my personal struggles, so you know you’re not alone, and that there is a light at the end of tunnel. 

Dangers of unfamiliar chemicals in our body and neurotoxicity aside, sugar-free still isn’t innocent, “Research has shown that the artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium (very common in many “diet” foods and drinks) can trigger an insulin release much like {“real”} sugar can, leading to cravings and stalling fat loss. In fact, your insulin shoots up as soon as you taste the artificial sweetener saccharin…it thinks food is coming.”* Studies actually show that eating sweet substances without calories just sets you up to fail…contributing to overeating and weight gain. Isn't that a conundrum?! The very reason you choose them in the first place is to avoid weight gain. See how they’re artificial and evil?! Too aggressive? Nutritionist JJ Virgin summarized the dangers of artificial sugars in a matter-a-fact way in her book The Sugar Impact Diet, “Artificial sweeteners can make you fat, put you at risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and some may kill you brain cells in the process. Plus, they’re much sweeter then regular sugar, the more you eat them, the sweeter tastes you crave.”* 

And if all of THAT isn’t enough... would you willingly choose to put artificial flavors like: maltodextrin, cellulose gum, citric acid, sucralose, sodium benzoate, and caramel coloring in your body?***** Those are the main ingredients in the sugar-free vanilla syrup used in a skinny vanilla latte. And they don’t use one pump, they use four (I asked the barista). Those words sound a lot less glamorous then, "skinny" right?

Here's the point I'd like to get across...if you’re desiring a treat, go for something delicious and completely worth it! Like your mom’s famous cookie recipe when you’re home over the holidays, or a glass of really amazing organic wine on a special occasion, not non-fat, sugar-free junk that’s only hurting and not helping you. It's my desire for you to start noticing that just because something is labeled “skinny” doesn’t mean that it is. Check labels, ask questions, and plan on being mindful and intuitive. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is! 

Have you overcome an obsession with everything skinny, fat-free, and sugar-free? If so I would LOVE to hear your story, comment below! :)


*Virgin, JJ. “JJ Virgin's Sugar Impact Diet: Drop 7 Hidden Sugars, Lose Up to 10 Pounds in Just 2 Weeks.” New York, New York. Machete Book Ground, Inc. 2014

** Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


****Starbucks nutrition pamphlet found at location 


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