Nutrition Facts and Fictions

I’m not a Calorie counter or a carb counter or anything, but I’m going to complain about something for a second…

I’ve mentioned my coffee order rut before. It makes me pretty good at distinguishing between different Americanos. If I had it my way all the time (or if I, um, made my own coffee at home), I would have plain, unsweetened soy milk with it, or, more likely, rice or almond milk. If I wanted sugar, I would add that separately, but I never would want it (my mom’s/grandma’s iced-tea philosophy stuck: if you have to put sugar in it, you’re too young to drink it).

In actuality, I consider myself lucky enough when they have soy at all, and I can’t be picky. Most soy you find on the supermarket shelf is actually sweetened. You have to go out of your way to find soy milk that doesn’t have “evaporated cane juice” in it, and in some non-health-foodie stores you’re stuck with slightly sweet stuff. So in a typical coffee shop, sweetened soy is to be expected.

But Starbucks takes it a step further. Their soy milk, though it carries the Silk brand name, is specially formulated just for them, and it’s remarkably sweeter. I asked why this morning (actually Christopher did; I wasn’t really coherent yet (and I blame the Scherzer brothers)). “It’s so that it can be steamed,” the well-trained barista answered. Um, right. Apparently sugar (and not protein or fat or something?) makes liquid more steamable? Needless to say, I had my doubts. I think they just sneak it in so we human sugar fiends will prefer their product over another, and so we’ll be getting our little sugar high without visiting the creamer counter to add it in ourselves (because who can bear the stigma of that?!).

I wondered what the difference really was, and here it is (Starbucks on the left, regular Silk on the right; charts from calorie-count):

So basically, they’ve added 6 grams of sugar (60% more!) and .5 grams of fat (about 14% more) for an overall difference of 20 Calories per serving (20% more). Granted, these numbers are based on a one-cup serving, which is more than I have in my “soy topper,” but still. I don’t even care about the numbers, I just think that as a lactose-intolerant person I shouldn’t have to drink sugar by default because it “steams better” (which I think is b.s., by the way; I think it’s so that soy drinkers “feel better about themselves” and “come back again” without ever really knowing why). In my mind, this ranks with adding MSG to a dish… Pretty evil.

Disclaimer: Starbucks is most certainly not my favorite place, but I do go to the one by work because it’s easy (except when construction doesn’t allow you to cross University). Also, when you’re somewhere like, say, Tampa, sometimes it’s just what you can find. I much prefer the lovely, friendly Cafe Europa, but I didn’t get to pick today… To Starbucks’s credit, they do give their half-time employees health insurance, which I think is great, but I’m sure the smaller shops would too if it were financially feasible for a small business to do so (it rarely is).


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One response to “Nutrition Facts and Fictions

  1. I agree. I don’t like that. I noticed that one time. I actually go to Barnes and Noble (mostly because they have a train and kid’s reading area and it’s convenient). I get a small cold soy milk for Pele but I noticed that ‘specially formulated’ packaging and it did make me think that maybe it had more sugar. I’ve gotten the ‘unsweetened’ almond and soy milks and if I want to make them sweeter for Pele I add stevia. Of course this isn’t always possible when you’re out and about, as you say, but it is amazing how they sneak sugar into everything…

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