Craving a Pumpkin Spice Latte? Four ways to #PSL Smart Girl-style!

Pumpkin spice lattes are delicious...but what's really in them? ID   61086916   ©   Elena Veselova   |

Pumpkin spice lattes are delicious...but what's really in them? ID 61086916 © Elena Veselova |

By Leah and Rachel

It’s fall, which means pretty much everywhere you look are pumpkin spice lattes (also known as PSL, and found everywhere on social media with the hashtag #PSL). Between ads on the radio, Facebook, and TV, and in the windows of coffee shops, it can be hard to avoid these seasonal beverages this time of year.

With a name like “pumpkin spice latte,” you’d think that there’s something plant-based and healthy about these drinks. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, there is typically no pumpkin in a pumpkin spice latte (though it is worth noting that Starbucks recently revised its recipe to include a bit of pumpkin puree). What PSLs generally do have: Mysterious ingredients you’d never use in your own kitchen, and buckets of sugar.

So what’s a smart girl who wants to stay healthy but is craving that fall flavor to do? Here are a few options for getting your #PSL fix:

Just get the latte. Here’s the catch—keep it small, and make it a special treat rather than an every-day-until-gingerbread-lattes-are-introduced one. If you avoid dairy, however, know that many commercial PSLs will be off-limits to you, even if you order them with nondairy milk (Starbucks’ for instance uses skim milk in the pumpkin spice sauce). Check the ingredients list before you buy!

Try a chai. Teabags filled with chai tea—not the syrupy mixes that you’ll get when you order a chai tea latte—often use many of the same spice flavors like cinnamon and cloves that are in a pumpkin spice latte. Ask for your teabag to be brewed with steamed soy milk or any other milk of your choice, and top with cinnamon for a no-sugar-added soothing beverage.

Do it yourself. There are lots of recipes out there for homemade pumpkin spice lattes; many of which even use real pumpkin. How good does this one from Cookie and Kate look?

Take a cool spin on a fall classic. A pumpkin smoothie makes a delicious fall breakfast, especially considering the extra warm fall we’ve been having here on the east coast. It’s also a great way to get that pumpkin-spice flavor and squeeze in a real-deal serving of pumpkin (not the little bit, at best, you’ll get in a PSL). Try blending together ½ cup pureed pumpkin, ½ cup almond, soy, or coconut milk, a banana, 1-2 tablespoons of flax, chia, or hemp seeds, and a couple of dashes of pumpkin pie spice. If you’re feeling adventurous, throw in a handful of spinach, too!  

Do you jump on the pumpkin wagon when #PSL fever hits? Or have you found a better option? Share your seasonal strategies in the space below!

SmartGirlVeg intern Leah Negrin has completed her degree in nutrition from Long Island University and is working towards her M.S. in Holistic Nutrition in order to help people heal their bodies with food. Check out her blog, Hot Green Life!