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What Does Skinny Mean at Starbucks? How to Order!

starbucks coffee cup on the dashboard

If you’re not a Starbucks regular, ordering your drink can be a little intimidating. Besides navigating the menus posted behind the counter, you also have to grapple with the Starbucks vernacular. Tall? Grande? Skinny? There are tons of terms that coffee-lovers and Starbucks aficionados throw around that are cryptic to the uninitiated. In this article, we pull back the curtain on one particular term: skinny. We’ll explain what it means, when to use it, and hopefully make your Starbucks experience a bit more pleasant. A Skinny drink at Starbucks is a lighter version, with less fat and sugar.

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What’s the Skinny on Starbucks Skinny?

Simply put, skinny means a light version of whatever drink you’re ordering. Many drinks can be ordered skinny, and depending on what kind of drink you are asking for, it can mean a few different things.

The most common use of “skinny” at Starbucks is to order a healthier version of one of their popular espresso drinks or blended Frappuccinos. Many of these drinks come with whipped cream, whole milk, and sweetened syrup if you order them straight off the menu. The skinny versions are made with sugar-free syrup, nonfat milk, and no whipped cream.

These three changes taken together have a dramatic impact on the calorie content of the drink. For example, a tall—that’s 12 ounces for the non-Starbucks folks—skinny vanilla latte is only 60 calories. The regular version of the same drink clocks in at a whopping 185 calories! If you are trying to eat more healthfully, choosing the skinny option can make a big difference and is an excellent way to treat yourself without breaking the calorie bank.

starbucks coffee cup in the snow
Image Credit: Matthias Cooper, Unsplash

Other Healthier Options

If you don’t want to remove all of the tasty parts from your drink in one fell swoop, you can order some drinks with less syrup. Many Starbucks favorites come with flavor syrup that adds both additional flavors and sugar to your drink. If you prefer, you can usually order these drinks with less syrup by specifying you want fewer pumps than normal. If you ask for fewer pumps without specifying a number, you will typically get half the amount. Once you get more familiar with the Starbucks menu, you can move on to asking for a particular number of pumps to get your drinks just the way you like them.

Another option is to ask for unsweetened syrup instead of the regular sweetened version. Some syrups are available in both sweetened and unsweetened varieties, but this varies from one location to another. Your best bet is to ask the barista if the drink you’re interested in ordering has an unsweetened syrup option.

man holding a starbucks drink
Image Credit: Omar Lopez, Unsplash

If the thought of customizing drinks at the counter makes you break out in a cold sweat, don’t worry. Starbucks has a menu specifically for people interested in low-calorie options. You can usually find a list of approximately 10 beverages less than 100 calories at most Starbucks locations. Which drinks are on the list rotates, so they might not always have a particular drink, even if you’ve ordered it before. This is the best option for people who want to order their drink with the least friction possible.

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Skinny Ordering Tips

Ordering a skinny version of your favorite drink is an easy way to ask for several changes at once quickly, but what if you only want some changes? Unfortunately, you’re going to have to order the old-fashioned way. Skinny is an option designed to be a shortcut for people who want the full treatment, and it’s generally easier to order specific adjustments starting from the original drink rather than specifying skinny first and asking them to add back some of the original ingredients.

If you don’t want to deal with ordering something skinny or handcrafting your drink at the counter, consider ordering something from the low-calorie section of the menu instead. You won’t always get exactly what you want, but it’s the easiest way to get a low-calorie treat without spending a lot of time at the counter.

Featured Image Credit: Erik Mclean, Unsplash


Sean Brennan

Sean’s obsession with coffee started when he received his first French press as a gift almost ten years ago. Since then, his love of coffee – and the number of coffee gadgets he owns – has grown considerably. A scientist by training, there is no stone he has left unturned in the never-ending quest for the perfect cup of coffee. He has spent many hours tuning his pour-over technique, thinking about how to best compare grind quality, and worrying about whether the Nicaraguan or Kenyan beans will make the best cold brew. These days he favors the Hario V60, and starts each day by hand grinding his coffee before enjoying a cup prepared with care and attention to detail.

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