Does Your Favorite Fall Beverage Really Need a Makeover?


Can we please talk about the elephant in the room? Or rather the elephant in the coffee cup?

pumpkin-spice-scaryThe recent media buzz about some stores adding real pumpkin to their coffee drinks, and/or removing caramel coloring, has instantly reminded me why I became a dietitian over 20 years ago. I cannot stand it when fear, hype, and pseudoscience dominate the nutrition headlines, instead of sound science and strong evidence.

This is just one more example of how fear-mongers who push for changing random ingredients are not helping the public make their own well-informed nutrition decisions. Adding a minuscule amount of pumpkin to a drink will not boost its nutrition in any meaningful way. Likewise, removing a safe food ingredient like caramel coloring is just another red herring.

As a dietitian with a master’s degree in science, it makes me crazy when the loudest voices in these conversations win out, despite lacking credibility.

Let’s take a step back and get some perspective. Sometimes the biggest risk isn’t what we can’t see and don’t understand. It’s the obvious stuff that we prefer to ignore.

My proposed solution: Focus on portion sizes and extra calories in these drinks, instead of expecting companies to remove safe, approved ingredients. Make sure you’re sticking to moderate consumption, instead of letting beverage calories overwhelm your calorie budget. Worrying about unknown risks and ignoring known facts is so misguided that it’s completely missing the point.

There is no single culprit that contributes to poor health – it isn’t that simple. On the other hand, it’s not that terribly complicated, either. Our food is safe, and there is an abundance of it. Therefore, we need to make balanced, moderate choices to be healthy. We can and should enjoy our favorite treats in moderation. If your favorite fall beverage needs a makeover, maybe it’s just the size that matters.

Learn more about food ingredients & colors