As summer winds down, there’s one iced beverage that’s still taking center stage despite the availability of pumpkin spice lattes: The “pink drink” from Starbucks. Reportedly as yummy as it is adorable, it’s pretty much a strawberries and cream experience in a cup. But if you’re following the keto diet, the “pink drink” is yet another delicious trend you may need to skip—unless you opt for the keto-friendly version of it.
Currently taking Instagram and TikTok by storm, keto pink drink sippers swear it’s every bit as delicious and refreshing as the original. But is it? And is it any healthier than the regular pink drink, which boasts 24 grams of sugar? Here, we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know about one of the biggest trends among keto community.
What is the keto pink drink, and does it taste good?
The original “pink drink” is made of a strawberry acai tea base with added coconut milk and freeze-dried strawberries. The keto version, however, swaps the base for a Passion Tango iced tea (which contains zero sugar), and adds sugar-free vanilla syrup and a dash of heavy cream. It’s a simple workaround that eliminates the carbs in the original version of the drink.
Fans of the original pink drink are divided on whether the keto version is as tasty. Some love it, like Instagram user Ketohealthyme, who called the drink “oh, so so good.” Others, however, admit that when compared to the original version, the keto-friendly pink drink falls flat, with much less strawberry flavor and a slightly heavier mouthfeel than its coconut milk counterpart.
Is the keto pink drink healthy?
While it does adhere to keto standards of low to no carbs, the jury’s out on whether the keto version of this popular drink is truly any healthier. Kathleen Obert, a Washington University nutritionist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital says, “While this beverage does qualify as part of a keto diet because it is lower in carbohydrates than the regular pink drink, it’s still not made up of ingredients that can be considered healthy.”
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It’s coconut milk that adds creaminess to the original drink, while the keto-friendly version contains heavy cream. Both are high in calories and fat. But coconut milk is considered healthier since most of its fat content comes from medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, which are considered good fats. But depending on the size you order, you could consume up to eight ounces of heavy cream, which is not heart healthy, says Lynnel Ross, a Certified Health and Wellness Coach and Certified Nutritionist and Fitness Instructor.
“The American Heart Association recommends that we limit our consumption of saturated fat to less than 10% of our daily calories, about 16–22 grams max,” she say. “Eight ounces of heavy cream contains 46 grams of fat, 29 grams of which are saturated fat which is more than we should have in an entire day.”
In addition, keto adherents should be aware that Starbucks’ sugar-free vanilla syrup does contain maltodextrin, a sugar substitute, along with cellulose gum, sucralose, preservatives and caramel coloring, says Ross. “All of these can weaken heart tissues and add to toxic load, and are certainly not clean eating or good for you.”
So if you’re practicing a strict clean keto diet, you may want to skip the pink drink and opt for something a bit healthier. Another option? Make it an occasional treat so you can enjoy it guilt-free.
Keto-friendly substitutes to favorite foods and beverages can be just the boost you need to keep sticking to the keto diet. When the going gets tough and you’re tempted to quit and go back to bingeing on all your old favorite go-tos, just take a deep breath and treat yourself to something special. Bonus points if it’s keto-approved, like this popular Starbucks beverage. Then, it’s time to get back to the #ketolife.