Starbucks recently introduced new icy granita drinks as part of their sunset menu, which included items available for a limited time every day this summer after 3 p.m. And what could be more refreshing than shaved ice drenched in lemonade, tea, or espresso? These hyped-up slushies may seem like they're on the healthier side of the menu, but don't be fooled—they're loaded with sugar.
How the Three New Flavors Stack Up
Teavana Youthberry White Tea Granita is shaved ice topped with lemonade and Teavana Youthberry White Tea made from white tea, dried pineapple, açaí, and hibiscus. A tall is only 100 calories, but that's entirely from the 25 grams of sugar (lemonade, simple syrup...). Feeling thirsty? A venti doubles the damage at 200 calories and 52 grams of sugar—the same as a 16-ounce Coke or Pepsi.
A better option: Try this homemade Blueberry Watermelon Granita. There's no added sugar and it's rich in fiber and antioxidants from real fruit.
Strawberry Lemon-Limeade Granita is essentially shaved ice blended with limeade, lemonade, and freeze-dried strawberry slices. With 130 calories and 30 grams of sugar in a tall, the Strawberry Lemon-Limeade Granita is more candy than beverage. Order a venti and you're packing in 240 calories and 58 grams of sugar in just one drink. That's roughly the same amount of sugar you'd get from eating seven Popsicles (which you would probably never do).
One redeeming feature of this granita flavor is that it's high in vitamin C, with a tall providing 40 percent daily value. But there is certainly a better way to get your vitamins: whole fruit.
A better option: Enjoy a 100 percent fruit ice pop. You'll save on sugar and calories and won't be left with a sugary brain freeze. You could also make a healthier version at home by freezing some strawberries and blending them with water and lemon juice. A cup of strawberries has just 7 grams of natural sugar and is packed with fiber, vitamin C, and disease-fighting antioxidants.
Caramel Espresso Granita is sweetened shaved ice topped with espresso, cream, caramel sauce, and simple syrup—woah. This option is lower in sugar than its fruity counterparts, but makes up for that in saturated fat from the cream. A tall has 130 calories and 19 grams of sugar along with 2.5 grams of saturated fat. The venti has double the calories and saturated fat and 37 grams of sugar. That's more sugar than 10 Oreos, 4 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, or a King Size Snicker's Bar. Another bummer: The caramel sauce is full of high-fructose corn syrup and contains artificial caramel coloring that has been previously linked to cancer in mice.
A better option: Make this Vegan Cafe Mocha at home for a healthy low-calorie, low-sugar version that will help you meet your fitness and healthy eating goals, while still tasting like a guilty pleasure.
The Verdict: Ditch Sugary Drinks
Liquid calories will never satisfy you the way food can. After one of these granitas, you'll still find yourself ordering a pastry or other snack—those calories add up fast! Plus, enjoying a dessert every once in a while is probably going to satisfy you more than a granita will, so choose your sugar wisely. Without the fiber or protein to slow down your body's response to the sugar content, you get a sugar rush and then a crash. This can lead to cravings and ultimately cause you to store more belly fat.
Every one of these new granitas contains simple syrup, which is mostly sugar with some potassium sorbate and a couple of other nutrient-empty ingredients. Potassium sorbate has even been linked to DNA damage in cell studies and it could also irritate your skin and eyes, so this doesn't sound like a good thing to have in your drinks.