Navigating Pumpkin Spice Latte Season

The crisp air of September can only mean one thing: pumpkin spice latte season.

Now, if you are anything like me, your first thought is “eeeeeeehehehehe.” Your second thought is “how in the world am I supposed to lose weight when it’s PSL love season?”, but by that point you are already guiltily sipping the heavenly pumpkin goodness out of your paper cup. And so it has begun. But before this PSL season gets too out of hand, I have braved the coffee shops to help arm you for the months ahead.


This is the mother of all PSLs. It even has a twitter feed @TheRealPSL. Ridiculous? Yes. Amazing? Indeed.

(Image and information from Starbucks website)

Standard Order:*

reclaiming skinny recommends tall, non-fat, no whip. (If you are not yet fluent in Starbs speech, it’s okay to practice this one at home in front of the mirror until it rolls off your tongue so you don’t lose your cool when ordering it from your barista.)

Second Cup

Second Cup remains a firm second place in my books. What this latte lacks in whipped cream is made up for in frothiness. Although it comes in with a smidge less sugar than the Starbs counterpart, I find the thick layer of frothy goodness a bit much for my tastes, and it left me feeling sick by the end of it.

(Image and information from Second Cup website)

Standard Order:

reclaiming skinny recommends going in for a small with skim milk.

Coffee Culture

This would be a wonderful latte if it were named, oh I don’t know, something more along the lines of Nutmeg Latte. I would say the pumpkin to nutmeg ratio on this one is 0 to 1. Their website boasts they use “real pumpkin spice syrup” (yum), and even if you scrounge the Nutritional Information chart to find out the real damage, you won’t find their pumpkin spice latte on there. For the sake of this blog, I used the (hopefully equivalent) caramel latte nutritional information.

(Image and information from Coffee Culture website)

Standard Order:

reclaiming skinny recommends to avoid at all costs, unless you love nutmeg, and hate pumpkin. (If you DO love nutmeg and hate pumpkin and want to try it, at least ask that they make it with skim milk to cut down on some unnecessary calories and fat.)

McDonalds McCafé

First off, I’m sorry. This should have never even made the list, but I saw it advertised and had to try it. Learn from my mistakes. This is revolting. I begrudgingly sipped it on my way home and dumped the majority of it down the drain.

(Image and information from McDonald website)

Standard Order:

reclaiming skinny recommends that you run far, far away from this atrocity. You’re better off ordering a vanilla ice cream cone at 230cal, 28g of sugar. At least you’ll enjoy it.


Honesty, if you’re going to PSL it up this fall, I say stick to your tall, non-fat, no-whip Starbs like a champ. Just, maybe try to reserve it for weekends only (there’s enough sugar in it to keep you wired all week).

If you can think of any other PSLs out there worth a mention, leave a comment and share the details!


*Note: For a “Standard Order” I went with (approximately) 16oz serving and straight over the counter options. Why a 16oz size? Because I typically always order a 12oz and like to give myself the joy seeing how many calories I’m “saving” by choosing a smaller size. (So bad, I know.) You can order any of the above servings with Nonfat/Skim milk if you ask for it (some are also available with soy). For full nutritional information tailored to your personal preferences, please visit their website.

**Note: I decided to outline the two most significant nutritional qualities of these drinks: calories and sugar. Most of the websites will provide a more detailed look at the nutritional information, including things like vitamins and protein, but really, nobody buys a latte for the protein. Sorry, hun, but these are full on junk food no matter which way you look at it. I’m just trying to help limit the damage.