How many calories are in truly iced tea?

Iced tea is a popular summertime drink that offers a refreshing, caffeinated beverage without the added calories and sugar of sodas. But while plain iced tea itself doesn’t contain calories, many commercial iced teas have added sugars, flavors, or even alcohol that impacts the calorie count. So how many calories are in a typical glass of iced tea, and how can you enjoy this drink while watching your calorie intake?

Calories in unsweetened iced tea

Plain unsweetened iced tea that is brewed at home or ordered without any sweeteners at a restaurant contains zero calories. Both black iced tea and herbal iced tea have no calories, carbs, fat, protein, vitamins or minerals on their own. The calories and nutrition in unsweetened iced tea come from brewing the tea leaves or tea bags, which contain:

  • Water
  • Antioxidants like polyphenols and catechins
  • Caffeine
  • Theanine
  • Trace amounts of potassium, manganese, and fluoride

So as long as you don’t add any sugar, honey, simple syrup or other sweeteners, an 8 ounce glass of plain iced tea will be calorie-free. This makes it an ideal alternative to high-calorie sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, juice or lemonade if you’re watching your calorie intake.

Calories in sweetened iced tea

However, many popular bottled iced tea brands contain added sugar or other caloric sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup. For example, here are the calories in 8 ounces of these sweetened iced tea varieties:

  • Lipton Sweetened Iced Tea: 60 calories
  • Gold Peak Sweetened Iced Tea: 80 calories
  • Snapple Lemon Iced Tea: 120 calories
  • Honest Tea Honey Green Tea: 35 calories
  • Pure Leaf Iced Tea with Honey: 50 calories

As you can see, added sugar can significantly increase the calorie count of iced tea. If you sweeten your own iced tea at home, here are the approximate calories in 8 ounces with different sweeteners:

  • 1 tablespoon white sugar: 48 calories
  • 1 tablespoon honey: 64 calories
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar: 60 calories
  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup: 53 calories

So be aware that adding any sugars, syrups or sweeteners can turn an otherwise calorie-free beverage into one loaded with empty calories and carbs.

Calories in iced tea from popular restaurants

Wondering how many calories are in the iced tea you get when dining out? Calories can vary widely depending on the brand, preparation method and any sweeteners added. Here are the typical calories in an 8 ounce glass of iced tea from popular restaurants:

McDonald’s

  • Unsweetened iced tea: 0 calories
  • Sweet tea: 90 calories

McDonald’s brews its iced tea fresh in each restaurant with black tea bags. The unsweetened version contains no calories, while the super sweet signature “sweet tea” packs in 90 calories per 8 ounces.

Chick-fil-A

  • Unsweetened iced tea: 0 calories
  • Sweet tea: 130 calories

Like McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A offers both a zero calorie unsweetened tea and a sugar-sweetened “sweet tea.” Their sweet tea has 130 calories in 8 ounces.

Panera Bread

  • Unsweetened iced tea: 0 calories
  • Sweet tea: 100 calories

Panera also has an unsweetened iced tea with zero calories. Their sweet tea has about 100 calories in an 8 ounce serving.

Starbucks

Starbucks standard iced tea is sweetened with liquid cane sugar, which contains:

  • Shaken Iced Black Tea: 90 calories
  • Shaken Iced Green Tea: 80 calories
  • Shaken Iced White Tea: 60 calories
  • Unsweetened iced tea: 0 calories

However, you can always customize your Starbucks iced tea and order it unsweetened to cut calories.

Dunkin Donuts

  • Unsweetened iced tea: 0 calories
  • Sweetened iced tea: 100 calories

Dunkin also offers both sweetened and unsweetened iced tea options. The sweetened has about 100 calories per 8 ounces.

Factors affecting iced tea calories

As you can see from these restaurant comparisons, the number of calories in iced tea can range from 0 to over 100 calories depending on these key factors:

Brewing method

Most iced tea starts simply with tea leaves or bags brewed in hot water, which contains no calories. Bottled teas may have more ingredients added during manufacturing.

Sweeteners

Any added sugars or sweeteners like cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave, and simple syrup will add calories. For lowest calories opt for unsweetened.

Flavorings

Flavored teas like lemon, peach, or raspberry often have added sugars or flavor syrups that boost calories. Unflavored tea has the least calories.

Add-ins

Mix-ins like lemon, fruit slices, or boba pearls don’t significantly affect the calorie count. But added cream, milk or sweetened coffee creamers will add calories.

Iced tea variety

Black, green, white and herbal teas are minimal in calories on their own. Some bottled teas contain added juices, however, which increases calories.

Serving size

Calories are typically calculated per 8 ounces. Larger serving sizes or unlimited refills can easily double or triple your total calorie consumption.

Low calorie iced tea tips

Here are some tips for enjoying refreshing iced tea without excess added calories or sugar:

  • Brew your own at home using tea bags and water
  • Order unsweetened at restaurants
  • Skip the sugary bottled teas and make your own
  • Try herbal teas for a zero calorie option
  • Sweeten with zero calorie stevia or monk fruit
  • Cut sugar by combining half sweet and half unsweetened tea
  • Flavor with slices of citrus fruit or fresh mint instead of syrups
  • Pour over ice to dilute and reduce sweetness
  • Limit portion sizes to 8 ounces

With some adjustments, you can still enjoy refreshing iced tea all summer while controlling calories and sugar intake. Simply being aware of added sweeteners and customizing your order is key. Sip wisely and alter preparations as needed to reap the greatest nutritional benefits from your iced tea.

Nutrition comparison of popular iced teas

To compare calories and nutrition for different iced tea options, here is a nutritional comparison for 8 fluid ounces of several top brands:

Nutrition Facts

Beverage Calories Total Carbs Total Sugar
Lipton Unsweetened Iced Tea 0 0g 0g
Lipton Sweetened Iced Tea 60 15g 15g
Gold Peak Unsweetened Tea 0 0g 0g
Gold Peak Sweet Tea 80 22g 20g
Snapple Lemon Iced Tea 120 31g 30g
Pure Leaf Iced Tea with Honey 50 13g 12g
Honest Tea Honey Green Tea 35 8g 7g
Starbucks Shaken Iced Tea 60-90 15-23g 15-23g

As you can see, the sweetened bottled iced tea options are significantly higher in calories and sugar compared to unsweetened brewed teas. For the lowest calorie options, your best bet is brewing your own unsweetened iced tea at home. But even when buying commercially prepared teas, you can make lower calorie choices by avoiding sweetened varieties whenever possible.

The bottom line

So how many calories are in truly iced tea? Plain iced tea with no sweeteners is zero calories. Once sweeteners are added the calories quickly add up – sweet tea can range from 60 to over 100 calories per 8 ounce glass. For the healthiest iced tea, brew your own using tea leaves or bags and avoid adding sugar. Flavor with citrus slices or mint instead. Watch your portion sizes, and ask for unsweetened at restaurants. This allows you to enjoy the many benefits of refreshing iced tea without excess calories or sugar. Be an informed consumer and adjust preparation methods to keep your favorite summer quencher guilt-free.

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