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Commentary: Posting calories at Starbucks doesn’t tell whole story

Starbucks announced it will begin posting calories on its menus June 25.

Shelby Lum / Photo editor

When I order my Venti Iced Sweetened Passion Tea Lemonade, I don’t care that it has 190 calories. I don’t care that ordering it unsweetened would drop it to 70 calories. I only care that it’s $4.45 and it’s delicious.

Starbucks announced last week that stores will begin posting calories for their drinks starting Tuesday. But I just can’t see the point.

I go to Starbucks because they have drinks I like. I’m not draining my wallet at Starbucks because I’m watching my weight or because I’m on a calorie-restricted diet.

I’m also a relatively healthy person, but I am not a calorie-counter.

And while some people are calorie-conscious, I don’t think Starbucks is a fitting place for them to go, the same way an ice cream shop isn’t either. Starbucks is for ordering drinks that taste good to the customer, and most who walk through the establishment’s doors know they aren’t about to make their most healthy decision of the day. After all, the menu is dripping with tempting words like “cookie,” “crème” and “double chocolaty chip.”

Knowing a drink has a certain number of calories might be unsettling, but if I walk into Starbucks with my heart set on a Grande Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino with no whipped cream, I’m not going to change my mind because I see the drink has 350 calories in it. Sure, I might celebrate the small victory knowing the whipped cream I shunned would have bumped the drink up to 480 calories, but still.

Every Starbucks regular knows what he or she likes, and I don’t think posting the calorie count will — or should — change that.

Beyond that, one of the great things about Starbucks is its options. I can add raspberry syrup to my White Chocolate Mocha, but I have no idea how that affects the calorie count in the drink. Posting the calories in a White Chocolate Mocha wouldn’t change that unless the calories in raspberry syrup are also posted.

Everything on Starbucks’ menu is customizable, and it seems impossible to list the calories for every drink that could be created.

So what’s the point? Starbucks has a great online tool that allows you to select virtually any staple drink from its website, choose the size you want and choose other applicable options such as type of milk, sweetened or unsweetened and whipped cream or none. From there, the website lists all the relevant nutritional information — total fat, sodium, vitamins, sugars, etc. — something simply posting the calories in the store doesn’t do for the customer.

For calorie-conscious Starbucks drinkers, checking the nutritional value of a drink before coming into a store and buying it can show exactly what they’re drinking. For the rest of us, posting calories on a menu board of customizable drinks isn’t going to lead to any different decisions.

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