Eating Clean at Starbucks

As many of you know, Starbucks is my home away from home – surprising, considering I don’t even drink coffee. But I DO do decaf Americanos and sometimes writing from home is boring, suffocating and just plain unproductive. So I load up my laptop, pack my baggie o’ oatmeal and head across the street/neighborhood/city to The ‘Bux.

Considering my dedication, it’s not a shock that the green mermaid makes her way into a number of my articles. I was invited to host a Blogger Better Breakfast Hour in Chicago last September, where we sampled and blogged about yummy new products.  I’ve written about this sweet, romantic older couple whom I see, day after day, walking by outside by Starbucks; more recently, I interviewed a local artist with Down’s Syndrome whose artwork hangs on the walls for sale. And in November, it looked like camping out at the Handicapped table every day for the last five years had finally paid off, when my local Starbucks manager bestowed upon me a free Starbucks Gold card.

But it WAS a shock – a pleasant one – when Starbucks recently approached me to serve as a “Local Influencer,” a kind of spokesperson dedicated to spreading the word about their new “Real Food. Simply Delicious.” initiative. Of course, I accepted – with glee – and am excited to spread some info around here at Never Say Diet, regardless of how many gift cards make their way to my house (Address: 3467 East Belfount Street, Apt. #6B, Chicago, IL 60618).

First, Starbucks has removed artificial ingredients from all of its foods, including:

-No artificial flavors
-No artificial trans fats
-No artificial dyes
-No high-fructose corn syrup

This means more pure ingredients in everything from their sandwiches and salads to sweets and pastries. For instance, your fave Blueberry Coffee Cake, before, contained artificial flavors and colors. Now, the recipe contains none, and has been bumped up with more real blueberries.
Other products are being promoted which contain better, fresher ingredients, like the Strawberry Banana Vivanno Smoothie, which contains one entire banana (counts as a fruit serving), bone-building calcium and as much protein as a skinless chicken breast, all at less than 280 calories each (if you watch that sort of thing.) They also now offer a gluten-free Valencia Orange Cake for anyone with celiac disease or wheat-related tummy troubles.

Many of these changes were made in direct response to consumer requests, a philosophy I can really get behind.

Have any of you tried the new treats at Starbucks? Do things like “no artificial flavors” or “no high-fructose corn syrup” matter to you? Why or why not? And what’s your favorite Starbucks treat, regardless of fat, calories, artificial flavors or HFCS? I’ve been nibbling on samples of this blueberry oat bar that is just mouthwatering, and their new dark cherry yogurt parfait with almond-coconut granola is pretty darn tasty, too.

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