TOC staff taste-tests Starbucks' new, healthier foods
When you think about where to find fresh, healthy baked goods, Starbucks isn't the first place to come to mind (unless you're thinking, "Oh, right, there used to be a café that sold these things until Starbucks ran it out of business"). Today, however, the coffee empire relaunches its food line with lighter and healthier options, plus natural ingredients in its bakery items, claiming it has "eliminated the unnecessary stuff" like artificial flavors, artificial dyes, artificial trans fat and high-fructose corn syrup from its recipes. Starbucks says its bakery items now have "15 percent fewer calories, 5 percent less fat and 8 percent less saturated fat." After taking a few bites of almost all the new treats*, we're ready to tell you what tickled our taste buds and what tasted like health food.
Marshmallow Dream Bar - $1.75
You can't really go wrong with this one, and Starbucks' take on it (not as sweet as you might expect, comes in at 210 calories total) proved to be an almost unanimous TOC favorite. Someone noted that Starbucks took a minimalist approach to the crispy-rice treat, spreading small, whole marshmallows throughout rather than stuffing it till overflowing. I personally prefer my treats to be of the overflowing variety, but Rice Krispies connoisseurs, this one might be for you.
Outrageous Oatmeal Cookie - $1.50
TOC Editor-in-Chief Frank Sennett: Big, moist, chewy, full of regular and golden raisins, smooth mouthfeel—this is a winner. It's supposed to be healthy? Tastes like a treat. I eat a lot of McDonald's oatmeal cookies (which should disqualify me from reviewing foodstuffs), and this cookie kicks Mickey D's ass—except, I do like the bit of crunch the McDonald's version provides. Otherwise, I would totally switch my allegiance to the Starbucks cookie. Unless they're a lot more expensive than three for a buck. (They are, aren't they?)
Strawberry Banana Vivanno Smoothie (includes "strawberry puree, a whole banana, whey protein powder and 2% milk) - $3.95
Web Editor John Dugan: Ultimately, I want a smoothie that tastes of fruit, not weird-ass powders and gingko bombs. The Vivanno has some whey protein powder in it, but I never would have known—it's smooth and natural tasting as a combination of milk, ice and strawberries should be. It's got a whole banana in it, if your mom asks.
Reduced-fat Very Berry Coffee Cake ("chock full of whole juicy blackberries, blueberries and raspberries")- $1.95
Recommended by the Starbucks barista, this coffee cake was indeed full of berries, but they didn't look whole to me, and they didn't taste especially juicy. Instead, the berries made the cake look as if it had the chicken pox, which may be why it was one of the least-touched items on the table.
Blueberry Streusel Muffin - ("bursting with plump, Oregon blueberries") - $1.85
With the Streusel Muffin, on the other hand, the taste of blueberry was front and center. Though it had a crumb-cake topping, the muffin wasn't as sweet as you'd expect it to be, which makes it easier to get through the whole thing without fearing an impending sugar crash.
Blueberry Oat Bar - $1.95
Associate Online Producer Jessica Johnson: Definitely drier than all the other snacks, but the blueberry center was subtle and not overly sweet. It was a nice little bite and certainly seems a lot less sinful than the cakes and Rice Krispies–type treat.
Gluten-free Valencia Orange Cake (has fewer than 10 ingredients) - $1.95
Features Editor Laura Baginski: Moist and dense with just a kiss of orange flavor, this cake is delicious enough to win over even the non-gluten-averse—if only it didn't pack a whopping 16 grams of fat and nearly 300 calories. Yowza.
Perfect Oatmeal (has fewer than 10 ingredients) - $2.45
I don't know if I'd call it "perfect," but this oatmeal is actually pretty good. It's not too mushy or watery, and comes with ample supplies of brown sugar and dried fruits to kick it up a notch in the texture and flavor categories.
*A few things we didn't try: The revamped Banana Walnut Bread (sold out) and the Farmers' Market Salad. If you happen to try either out, feel free to comment below.