The Unicorn Frappuccino was a limited edition drink from Starbucks that went viral in 2017 due to its colorful and Instagram-worthy appearance. The Unicorn Frappuccino contains a sweet pink powder blended with a sour blue drizzle, topped with whipped cream to create a drink that looks like a mystical unicorn.
With its explosion of colors and flavors, many people questioned if the Unicorn Frappuccino could possibly be healthy. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the ingredients and nutrition facts of the Unicorn Frappuccino to determine if it’s a nutritional treat or sugary trap.
What’s in the Unicorn Frappuccino?
The Unicorn Frappuccino is made from a Cream Frappuccino base that is blended with sweet pink powder and a sour blue drizzle, then topped with vanilla whipped cream and a sprinkle of sweet pink and sour blue powder.
The main ingredients in the Unicorn Frappuccino are:
The Frappuccino base is made from milk. Starbucks uses 2% reduced-fat milk to create its creamy, frothy Frappuccino blend. Milk provides protein, calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients. However, the high sugar content of the Unicorn Frappuccino may outweigh the benefits of the milk.
A grande Unicorn Frappuccino contains approximately 59 grams of sugar. Most of this sugar comes from the pink unicorn powder, which is made of sugar, sweeteners, and natural and artificial flavors. Consuming this much sugar exceeds the American Heart Association’s recommended limit of no more than 25 grams of sugar per day for women and 37 grams for men.
Too much added sugar can contribute to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health conditions. The high amount of sugar in the Unicorn Frappuccino is its biggest nutritional downside.
The Unicorn Frappuccino contains artificial colors to create its unique purple, blue and pink hues. These include Red #40, Blue #1, and Yellow #5. While small amounts of food dyes are considered safe by the FDA, some studies have linked artificial colors to allergies, hyperactivity in children and other health issues. People aiming to avoid artificial ingredients may want to skip this drink.
Natural and artificial flavors
Natural and artificial flavors give the Unicorn Frappuccino its sweet taste and fruity aroma. Artificial flavors are chemically created in labs to replicate natural flavors. They allow companies to produce flavors consistently, but some health-conscious consumers prefer to avoid them. The many flavorings make the Frappuccino taste very sweet.
A grande Unicorn Frappuccino contains approximately 75 mg of caffeine. This is a moderate amount compared to other Starbucks drinks. Caffeine can boost alertness and focus, but too much can cause jitteriness, headaches and sleep problems in some people. Pregnant women are advised to limit caffeine.
Sweetened whipped cream tops off the Unicorn Frappuccino, adding to its indulgence. Whipped cream provides mostly fat and sugar, very little nutritional value. It’s best consumed in moderation as an occasional treat. Non-dairy versions are made with vegetable oil.
Here are the nutrition facts for a 16-ounce (grande) Unicorn Frappuccino, according to Starbucks:
|Nutrition Facts||Grande Unicorn Frappuccino (16 oz)|
As you can see, the Unicorn Frappuccino is very high in sugar and carbohydrates, which mostly come from added sugars. It provides almost 400 calories in a 16 oz serving with minimal nutrition. The saturated fat, sodium, and lack of fiber and protein are other negatives.
Is it healthy?
Based on its high sugar content and lack of nutritional benefits, the Unicorn Frappuccino would not be considered a healthy beverage.
A 16-ounce Unicorn Frappuccino contains 59 grams (almost 15 teaspoons) of sugar – well over the American Heart Association’s recommended daily limit. Consuming this much added sugar from a single drink is likely to cause blood sugar spikes and crashes, fueling cravings. It also contributes empty calories without any beneficial vitamins, minerals or antioxidants.
While the Unicorn Frappuccino tastes delicious with its sweet flavors and fun colors, it seems more like an indulgent dessert than a nutritious drink. An occasional treat is fine, but health experts warn against making it a daily habit due to the risks of too much sugar.
Children may be especially drawn to the drink’s whimsical appearance and sweet taste. But the high amount of caffeine and artificial ingredients raise concerns about regularly giving this indulgent drink to kids.
Overall, the Unicorn Frappuccino is far from the healthiest item on the Starbucks menu. Someone focused on nutrition would be better off choosing a lighter coffee drink without tons of sugar and artificial colors added. But for an occasional splurge, it can be a fun novelty drink. Moderation is key with a beverage like this.
Healthier Starbucks drink options
If you love Frappuccinos but want a healthier option, Starbucks has some lighter choices:
Order a Coffee Frappuccino with nonfat milk and no whipped cream to avoid some fat and sugar. Ask for just 1 pump of the coffee base syrup instead of the standard 2 to cut added sugars.
Strawberries & Cream Frappuccino
Made with real strawberry juice, this has only 36 grams of sugar compared to 59 grams in the Unicorn version. Ask for nonfat milk and whip to lighten it up more.
Caffe Vanilla Frappuccino
The Caffe Vanilla Frapp is based on coffee instead of syrups, so it has less sugar at 45 grams for a grande. Customize it with nonfat milk and light whipped cream.
Green Tea Creme Frappuccino
Matcha green tea powder gives this drink a boost of antioxidants. Ask for 1 pump of the sweetener instead of 2 to reduce sugar content.
Cold Brew with Cascara Cold Foam
Cold brew coffee with a float of cascara cinnamon cold foam is a refreshing lower-calorie choice. Ask them to go easy on the cascara syrup in the foam.
A classic iced coffee made with nonfat milk and no sweetener or syrups contains just 1 gram of sugar. Add a splash of milk or creamer and sweetener if desired.
Cold Brew with Almondmilk
The smooth, nutty flavor of cold brew with almondmilk makes a dairy-free, lower-sugar option containing around 10 grams of sugar.
Healthy ways to customize your Starbucks drink order
While Starbucks drinks tend to be high in sugar, you can make custom adjustments to make them healthier:
– Opt for smaller sizes like tall or grande rather than venti or trenta to limit calories and sugar.
– Ask for nonfat or low-fat milk instead of whole milk or cream.
– Request less syrup, or sugar-free syrup if available.
– Skip the whipped cream topping to remove fat and calories.
– Ask for light ice to get more beverage and less empty calories.
– Try cold brew or americano coffee instead of Frappuccinos or lattes.
– Substitute sugar-free cinnamon, vanilla or caramel powder.
– Add a splash of cream instead of full-fat milk or creamer.
– Choose sugar-free flavored syrups to flavor coffee drinks.
– Ask for stevia or other natural zero-calorie sweeteners instead of regular sweeteners.
– Order plant-based milks like soy, almond or oat milk for lower calories.
– Go for light or skinny Frappuccinos with nonfat milk and less syrup.
– Opt for espresso drinks made with sugar-free syrups and a splash of nonfat milk.
Even small tweaks like these can make a difference in limiting excess sugar and unhealthy fats when satisfying your Starbucks craving.
Healthier home-made Frappuccino recipes
You can also make healthier Frappuccino copycat recipes at home by using lower calorie ingredients:
Skinny Vanilla Bean Frappuccino
Blend cold strong coffee or espresso with a dash of vanilla extract, a tablespoon of vanilla Greek yogurt, a few ice cubes, and stevia or monk fruit sweetener to taste. Top with light whipped coconut cream.
Caramel Macchiato Frap
Combine freshly brewed espresso, almond milk, sugar-free caramel syrup, and ice. Top with low-fat whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.
Kit Kat Frappuccino
Blend nonfat milk, instant coffee powder, cocoa powder, Truvia, and ice. Top with whipped topping and crushed Kit Kat pieces.
Healthy Green Tea Frappuccino
Mix cold brewed green tea with nonfat Greek yogurt, honey, spinach or matcha powder, and ice in a blender. Top with sliced strawberries.
Banana Bread Frappuccino
Blend a frozen banana, almond milk, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and ice until smooth. Dust the top with cinnamon.
You can also make fruit smoothie or protein shake versions of Frappuccinos by blending your favorite fruits or protein powder with nonfat milk or yogurt and sweetening with a little honey or stevia. The options are endless for lighter Frappuccino-style blended coffee drinks.
The bottom line
While undeniably tasty and visually stunning, the Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino would not be considered a healthy beverage choice. Its high amount of sugar and lack of nutritional value make it more of an occasional splurge item for most people. But you can customize Starbucks Frappuccinos and other drinks to be healthier by opting for skim or low-fat milk, less syrup, skipping whipped cream, choosing smaller sizes or lighter versions, and making other modifications. Homemade Frappuccino copycat recipes can also give you the flavors you crave with lighter ingredients. Overall, it’s fine to enjoy indulgent coffee drinks like the Unicorn Frappuccino in moderation, but make sure your daily diet is focused on nutritious whole foods and beverages.