11 Fast Food Coffees That Have A Lot More Sugar Than You Might Realize

Everyone has a preference when it comes to coffee. Some see their simple cup of black java as the key that starts their engine in the morning. Others add a splash of milk or cream to liven things up, and even a dash of cinnamon is hardly uncommon. Then, there's sugar. 

Humans have been adding sugar to their coffee for around 400 years, and it's a trend that isn't likely to stop anytime soon, especially as corn syrup and other sweeteners continue to make their way into all types of foods. From a cup of home-brew with a cube of sugar to the syrupy-sweet drinks gracing menus the world over, sugar in coffee is not a surprise. 

Sugar isn't inherently bad, but like any other food, it's best in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends that adult men consume no more than 36 grams of added sugar a day, while the number is just 25 grams for women. Those numbers seem reasonable until you start digging into just how much sugar your favorite fast-food coffee drinks contain. We took a look at some of the most popular menu options out there, and while the list is plenty sweet, it might just sour you on a few of these beverages.

1. Starbucks Vanilla Latte

Starbucks is the undisputed king of coffee shops, at least when it comes to volume. The chain boasts over 30,000 stores worldwide and serves an estimated 600 beverages per store each day. While today's menu includes an extensive mix of hot and cold coffees along with plenty of non-coffee options, the original Starbucks actually lacked a menu. It wasn't until the mid-1980s that the chain introduced its first espresso drink — the Cafe Latte. Today, the Cafe Latte has company, with lavender, pistachio, cinnamon, and even olive oil-infused variations joining the family.

If you're in the mood for a latte but aren't ready to take on the Oleato option, there's the Vanilla Latte. The drink may be delicious, but it's also full of sugar. A grande, which is a medium for non-Starbucks regulars, contains 35 grams of sugar. The good news is that if you'd like to cut down on sugar, there's a solid Plan B on the menu with the Skinny Vanilla Latte. This variation contains 16 grams of sugar thanks to a sugar-free syrup substitute.

2. McDonald's Iced Coffee

For a fast food chain that made its name off of hamburgers, chicken nuggets, and toys in kid's meals, McDonald's has carved out a reputation for serving a solid cup of joe. From the start, coffee has been on the menu at the Golden Arches, only costing 10 cents a cup in 1940. These days, the classic black coffee is still an option, but to keep up with the likes of Starbucks and other chains, McDonald's has introduced the McCafé line. From macchiatos to mocha frappes, there are plenty of sweet options on the menu.

Still, sometimes simple is better, which is where the classic Iced Coffee comes into play. Good for a pick-me-up on a hot day, the Iced Coffee is a staple, but it's also sweeter than you might think — a medium drink contains 25 grams of sugar. While that's not as high as some flavored lattes, it's still a decent amount considering a single tablespoon of sugar is 12 grams, meaning this iced coffee contains more than two full tablespoons of sugar. The sweetness comes from a liquid sugar mix that contains both sugar and fructose, a natural sugar found in foods like fruits, vegetables, and honey. Thankfully, a sugar-free option is available if you choose an Iced Latte, made with espresso, milk, ice, water, and no sugar in sight.

3. Dunkin' Butter Pecan Swirl Hot Coffee Served Black

Dunkin' didn't coin the slogan, "American runs on Dunkin'" to suggest the U.S. is fueled by donuts – that would be Canada. Instead, it chose this catchy slogan because it's the second-largest coffee chain in the world. Thankfully, you can safely enjoy a donut and a coffee without maxing out your sugar intake, but you might want to avoid the Butter Pecan Swirl Coffee served hot and black.

At 36 grams of sugar in a medium serving, it's not the sugariest drink on the Dunkin' menu — that distinction belongs to the Butter Pecan Swirl Frozen Coffee with Whole Milk coming in at 124 grams of sugar. However, it's still a lot of sugar for a cup of black coffee. If you're not sure whether to use your sugar allowance on a coffee or a donut, a Bismark will only cost you 34 grams.

4. Wendy's Chocolate Frosty Cream Cold Brew

Ice cream and coffee are a match made in heaven. Creamy cold and bitter hot offset each other perfectly to create a treat that's been enjoyed by caffeine enthusiasts for decades. The Italian affogato combines espresso and ice cream and has spawned numerous imitations, including some of the frozen iced coffees on this list. Few frozen drinks are as famous in the U.S. as Wendy's Frosty, and thankfully, Wendy's knew a good pairing and combined iced coffee with its famous Frosty to create the Chocolate Frosty Cream Cold Brew. While it sounds delicious, there's no denying that anything with Frosty in the name will be packed full of sugar. Indeed, this drink contains 38 grams in a medium serving.

If you're looking for lower-sugar alternatives on the Wendy's menu, you won't find many. The Caramel and Vanilla versions of the Frosty Cream Cold Brew contain 37 and 36 grams of sugar, respectively, which isn't much of a decrease. It's also worth noting the famous Frosty isn't actually ice cream but a "frozen dessert," since it contains less than 10% milk fat. That's okay though, there's still plenty to love about the Frosty and its Cold Brew spinoff.

5. Krispy Kreme Iced Original Glazed Flavored Latte

Much like Dunkin', Krispy Kreme knows there are few pairings better than coffee and donuts, which is why the chain doesn't skimp when it comes to its beverage menu, offering a bevy of options ranging from hot to frozen. In the middle, you'll find the Iced Original Glazed Flavored Latte. Billed as an "iced latte blended with Original Glazed flavor — a taste of our iconic doughnut in a cup," the drink is the lovechild of a donut and a coffee. Of course, with a sweet pastry as a parent, this coffee is not short on sugar, sporting 26 grams of sugar in a 16-ounce cup.

Most of the sugar content of this drink comes courtesy of the flavored syrup, but natural sugars also play a part. This latte is made with 2% milk which contains 12 grams of sugar per cup. It's not a ton, but like many of the frothy beverages on this list, those sugars add up and contribute to the total. 

6. Caribou Coffee Mint Condition Mocha

Let's be honest; sometimes, a coffee run is more of an excuse to enjoy a thinly disguised dessert at 9 a.m. If that's your goal, you definitely want to check out the Caribou Coffee Mint Condition Mocha, served hot. The menu description alone is mouthwatering, "Real chocolate melted into steamed milk & combined with espresso and mint flavor and topped with whipped cream and chocolate mints." 

The only problem? This drink contains 75 grams of sugar in a medium serving. A fair amount of that sugar is likely from the whipped cream and candy topping, as is evidenced by the fact that the iced version of the drink contains 57 grams; still more than the recommended daily value, but a little better. On the flip side, the frozen version of the drink includes the toppings and clocks in at 117 grams of sugar. That's a treat that will tide you over for half the week.

7. Tim Hortons Flavored Latte Supreme

While the United States is hardly shy about its coffee consumption, the country doesn't crack the top 10 in the world based on the quantity of coffee enjoyed per person. In fact, only one North American country ranks in the top 10 and that would be Canada. If Canadians are grabbing a cup of joe, there's a good chance they're getting it at a Tim Hortons.

The chain famous for donuts is also in the coffee game, offering a selection of hot and frozen lattes, mochas, and classics like cappuccinos and espresso shots. If you're looking to leave with your sugar levels intact, you may want to avoid the Flavored Latte Supreme. The drink contains 32 grams of sugar, but for just 15 grams, you can turn to a non-flavored latte or cappuccino instead. You can always use the excuse that you're saving your sugar count for a donut instead.

8. Taco Bell Cinnabon Delights Iced Coffee

When you hear Taco Bell, a number of words are going to jump to the front of your mind. Taco will probably be first, which is sort of cheating, followed by burrito, chalupa, and any number of other tortilla-wrapped delicacies. Coffee is probably not on that list, but like many fast food chains, the king of late-night food is now in the breakfast game, and a huge part of breakfast is coffee.

Taco Bell's coffee menu is small compared to most, containing only the basics, hot and iced coffee with or without cream, and one fun drink, the Cinnabon Delights Coffee. With 22 grams of sugar in a regular size, this isn't the most sugar-filled drink out there, but it's hardly a health food. If you're craving that Cinnabon taste in a cup, you could instead turn to the International Delight's Cinnabon Coffee Creamer which contains 5 grams of sugar per tablespoon and can be enjoyed at home in your morning brew.

9. Burger King Café Iced Mocha Coffee

While McDonald's has carved out an impressive caffeine niche with its McCafé product line, Burger King has kept its coffee menu compact with only a single sugary coffee: the Café Iced Coffee, available in mocha or vanilla flavors. From a sugar standpoint, these drinks are fairly middle of the road, with the vanilla clocking in at 27 grams of sugar in a medium while the mocha has a few more at 32 grams.

What's more surprising than the amount of sugar in the drinks are some of the menu items that contain less sugar. For instance, a soft-serve ice cream cone only has 22 grams of sugar, the same as a slice of Hershey's Sunday Pie. For coffee lovers, the Café Iced Coffee is no doubt worth the extra sugar, but there are better options at Burger King for someone just craving a treat.

10. Dunkin' Hazelnut Heartthrob Iced Coffee

If it hasn't become evident by now, iced coffee tends to be pretty high in sugar. Creamers and syrups are the main culprits when it comes to added sugars in coffee drinks, which is what makes the Hazelnut Heartthrob Iced Coffee from the special DunKings menu so sweet. With 41 grams of sugar in a medium portion, this drink is plenty sweet, even if it left our reviewer underwhelmed.

Unfortunately, if you're looking to enjoy a flavored Dunkin' iced coffee with a little less sugar, there aren't a ton of great options on the menu. The Cinnamon Vanilla Iced Coffee has 26 grams of sugar, which is enough of a difference to enjoy a medium and a frosted chocolate donut with sprinkles for the same 41 grams of sugar as the Hazelnut Heartthrob. After all, is it even a Dunkin' run if you don't grab a donut?

11. Starbucks Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino Blended Beverage

It wouldn't be a proper coffee list if Starbucks weren't represented twice, and since our focus is on sugary drinks, here's one of Starbucks' sweetest concoctions. The Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino doesn't exactly sound like something your dentist or doctor would recommend, and for good reason — a 16-ounce grande packs a whopping 60 grams of sugar. A quick look at the ingredient list makes it clear that while this drink is tasty, it's chock-full of sugar on every level. With a caramel sugar topping, caramel sauce, dark caramel sauce, whipped cream, and coffee frappuccino syrup, this is as much a dessert as it is a drink.

The word "sugar" appears six times in the ingredient deck for this drink, while corn syrup appears in both the dark and regular caramel sauces. You can order the Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino without the added toppings and save on some of your sugar intake, but if you're looking for a low-sugar option, this still isn't it.