Diet Detective’s Guide to Fast-Food and Coffee Shop Summer Drinks 2012

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Detective’s Guide to Fast-Food and 2012



McDonald’s is now in the coffee and drink business – in a big way.

You would think that the Premium Roast Iced Coffee would be served the same way as regular hot Premium Roast Coffee – plain, unless you ask for sugar, milk, etc. But that’s not how McD’s does it. It’s served with light cream and your choice of liquid sugar or flavored (hazelnut, vanilla or caramel) syrups.  A small with liquid sugar (and cream) is 140 . A medium is 200 calories and a large is 280. McD’s big summer drink is the McCafé Frappé Chocolate Chip made with a mocha coffee base, chocolate chips and whipped cream plus a double drizzle of chocolate and caramel.   Small is 450 calories, medium is 560 calories, and the large is a whopping 680 calories.

They’ve also added a line of smoothies made with real fruit, but that doesn’t mean that the smoothies don’t also have other ingredients such as added sugar.  Smoothies and McDonald’s other flavored drinks (Chillers, lemonade, etc.) range from approximately 200 to 330 calories, depending on size.

Best Bet: Order the Premium Iced Coffee plain and add your own cream and sugar (go light).  Or you can have the McCafé Iced Latte, but ask for nonfat milk.  A small is only 50 calories. Oh, and you can always order a bottle of water or ask for a cup of water.

Burger King

Burger King also has jumped into the drink and coffee game.  They’re offering frozen lemonade and frozen strawberry lemonade, which range in calories from 80 to 200 (the frozen strawberry has almost twice as many calories).  They also have several coffee drinks, including Iced Seattle’s Best Coffee, ranging from 80 calories for a small to 140 for a large. Iced Seattle’s Best Coffee Mocha is 180 (small) to 340 (large). You should probably avoid the Coke Icee, which can have as many as 170 calories, as well as their line of smoothies (from 200 to 450) and the Caramel and Mocha Frappé (410 to 600). Apparently, the BK smoothies are hand-blended to order and include a serving of fruit blended with juice and low-fat yogurt – but they’re still high in calories.

Best Bet: Nestea or Gold Peak Unsweetened (Plain) Iced Tea or the Iced Seattle’s Best Coffee without milk or sugar.


Wendy’s doesn’t have many healthy low-cal choices. There’s an All-Natural Lemonade, which ranges from 190 to 410 calories, a Wild Berry Tea, from 70 to 140 calories, and a Wild Berry Lemonade, which ranges from 230 to 480 calories. Also, they promote the lemonade as somewhat healthy and natural, but all these drinks have added sugar and/or corn syrup. Also, watch out for those Frosty shakes, they’re high in calories and should always be considered dessert.
Best Bet: Brewed Unsweetened Iced Tea is only 5 calories.

Dunkin’ Donuts

DD has a lot of beverages to choose from — more combinations than you can imagine.  Stay away from most of the fancier drinks that are obviously high in calories. The Coolatta, for example, can have as many as 970 calories, more than 50 percent of what must people should consume in a day. Also, watch out for the frozen drinks (Caramel, Coffee and Mocha); they’re anywhere from 210 (with skim milk) to 1,050 calories.

Best Bets:  Their iced coffee is available in a wide variety of flavors. According to a Dunkin’ Donuts representative, the number of calories per cup of coffee does differ from one flavor to another. For instance, a small coffee in one of DD’s unsweetened flavors, including Blueberry, Raspberry and Toasted Almond, is about 10 to15 calories. DD also has various coffee blends including Original, French Vanilla and Hazelnut, which are about 10 to 30 calories depending on the size.

Just don’t confuse the above with the higher-calorie sweetened flavors such as Caramel Mocha (170 calories for a medium black coffee) and Mocha Almond (160 calories  for a medium black coffee) iced coffee. For more information (which is NOT easily found on DD’s website) see:


As you might have heard, most of these coffee specialty drinks have loads of calories.  For instance, an Iced Caffè Mocha (16 ounces with whipped cream and whole milk) has 330 calories.  An Iced Caramel Macchiato (16 ounces) is 230 calories, and an Iced Peppermint Mocha (16 ounces with 2 percent milk and whipped cream) is 390 calories. In addition, Starbucks recently introduced the Mocha Cookie Crumble  and Chocolate Cookie Crumble Crème Mocha Coconut Frappuccino  at 470 calories  for 16 ounces made with 2 percent milk and whipped cream, and the Coconut Crème Frappuccino  at 330 calories for 16 ounces made with 2 percent milk and whipped cream. In case you didn’t already know, almost all the Frappuccinos and other fancy drinks are not healthy choices.

Best Bets: Go for a mix of Tazo Black Shaken Iced Tea  and Shaken Tazo  Iced Passion Tea, both unsweetened and very tasty with zero calories. The Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher, made with fruit juice, blackberries and Green Coffee Extract, is 70 calories for 16 ounces. There is also the Cool Lime Refresher, made with citrus fruit juice, mint and a lime slice shaken with Green Coffee Extract, which is 50 calories for 16 ounces.  Try the Iced Caffè Americano at 15 calories for 16 ounces.  Or, if you must have a latte, choose the Iced Skinny Flavored Latte at 80 calories for16 ounces. 

Keep in mind that you should always choose nonfat milk, which saves up to 120 calories. If you can’t give up having your drink sweetened, you can switch to sugar-free syrup and cut 20 calories per pump. Forget the whipped cream – that’s another 50 to 110 calories.  Also, keep in mind that Starbucks makes good plain iced coffee; get that with skim milk.

Here are a few other lower-calorie versions of high-calorie drinks. Just keep in mind that I said lower, not low in calories.

·       Iced Skinny Mocha (16 ounces, 100 calories)

·       Iced Skinny Flavored Latte (16 ounces, 80 calories)

·       Coffee Frappuccino  Light Blended Beverage (16 ounces,110 calories)


Subway, the self-proclaimed healthy food chain, has mostly bottled or fountain sodas and drinks ranging from 310 to 620 calories. They also offer bottled water, coffee, apple juice (0 to 300 calories), 1 percent low-fat milk (160 calories), chocolate reduced fat milk (300 calories) and Vitamin Water Zero (0 calories). Subway also has FUZE Iced Tea (typically 0 to 250 calories), but for some reason the king of healthy foods doesn’t have calorie information on its menu.

Fuze Brewed Unsweetened Tea         (21 fl oz) 0 calories

Fuze Brewed Green Tea                     (21 fl oz) 140 calories

Fuze Brewed Lemon Sweet Tea         (21 fl oz) 170 calories

Fuze Brewed Raspberry Tea              (21 fl oz) 230 calories

Fuze Brewed Sweet Tea                     (21 fl oz)  170 calories

Fuze Brewed Southern Sweet Tea     (21 fl oz)  250 calories

Best Bet:  A bottle of water or the unsweetened iced tea.

Taco Bell

They’ve introduced the Frutista Freeze, which is more dessert than beverage, with the mango weighing in at 250 calories for 16 ounces and the strawberry at 230. Taco Bell also serves a Frozen Strawberry Lemonade, which is 280 calories for 16 ounces, and a Cherry Limeade Sparkler for 270 calories. Even the iced tea is 160 calories for 16 ounces.

Best Bet: Ask for water or diet soda.

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