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Sorry, Starbucks, no doughnut

On Sunday mornings, my daughter likes to drag her father out around the corner without me to the local Starbucks so he can buy himself coffee and get her some kind of small baked good that I’m not supposed to know about. Because I am, in fact, generally opposed to “doughnuts for breakfast” and both of them know it. It’s a ritual that had to be suspended for a while this spring, until we could figure out what kind of treat had how many grams of carbohydrate and how much of it she could eat and still eat something else more nutritious as the majority of breakfast.

Most of the pastries will never be what I consider top baking, but it’s not me who’s going to eat them. And my daughter wanted a doughnut, or part of a doughnut, if she could make it work out.

So–I went online to the Starbucks web site to try and hash out the vagaries of “petite” mini scones, mini doughnuts, coffee cake slices, and all the rest of it. Starbucks markets itself to the upscale, the midscale, and the would-be midscale of my town with all kinds of brochures about fair trade and global responsibility, and their web site is not much different. The do-right message is right up there with the latte of the week, and you’d expect the nutrition info to be present and helpful without the usual twisty chain-restaurant disguises and trickery.

Or would you? Starbucks got its tail caught several years ago when numerous commentators, among them its own employees, let the public know that some of the lattes and other mixed coffee drinks were topping out at over 700 calories per, with more fat than some burger chain offerings. Since then Starbucks has offered more health-conscious choices below the pastry case and taken a pro-active posture on nutrition and informing the customer and so on. But how do they really feel?

The nutrition info page falls under the “menus” navigation item at the top. OK. It’s readable, not a shrunken PDF file–good. You find a long scrolling list of each of the bakery items with calories, fat, carbs, and proteins. Doughnut, doughnut–old-fashioned glazed doughnut…440 calories, 21 grams of fat (10 saturated), 57 grams of carb…Ouch. Well, she could have half of one, I suppose, with a small bowl of oatmeal and some milk, and eat something better at lunch…but wait a minute. Where’s the sodium info?

All I could find about sodium was a little note about “healthy choices”, in which the Starbucks nutrition page asserts that such items have fewer than 10 grams of fat and fewer than 600 mg sodium. A stunner–that’s more than the classic 500-mg bowl of Campbell’s Tomato Soup that caused all the corporate protests against the NIH dietary salt guidelines in the 1980s. Who on earth would claim 600 mg sodium for a single snack or breakfast item was “healthy”–especially with the growing public and government concern over excessive salt in restaurant food?

And I still couldn’t find any specific sodium stats for doughnuts or mini scones or the other things my daughter was hoping for, much less an ingredients list. So I searched a variety of diet and nutrition web sites that catalog such things. The closest I could get to a current verified  standard nutrition label was from livestrong.com (accessed 5/3/10):

Starbucks Top Pot Old-Fashioned Glazed Doughnut

Serving Size: 1 Pastry (113g) Calories 480 Calories from Fat 210

  • Total Fat 23g 35%
  • Saturated Fat 9g 45%
  • Trans Fat 0g
  • Cholesterol 20mg 7%
  • Sodium 410mg 17%
  • Total Carbohydrate 64g 21%
  • Dietary Fiber 0.5g 2%
  • Sugars 39g
  • Protein 4g 8%
  • Vitamin A0%
  • Vitamin C 0%
  • Calcium 2%
  • Iron 10%

Est. Percent of Calories from: Fat 43.1% Carbs 53.3% Protein 3.3%

These stats are higher than what’s stated at the Starbucks page (see below). And the sodium in a single doughnut is pretty high. So’s the carb. So’s the fat. So’s the increase in size and calorie stats and so on from the glazed doughnuts they were offering in 2006, according to archived nutrition labels on a number of older diet web sites. From about 350 calories and 85 grams total average weight to nearly 500 calories and 113-119 grams (variously reported, and the one I actually weighed on our home scale was 125 grams)–that’s about a 50% hike in serving size in only 4 years.

I went back to the Starbucks nutrition page, thinking, how can they not post the sodium? Isn’t it a law in a number of places by now–California, to start with? And I poked around for awhile, baffled, and finally found that they do have the sodium counts and the more complete nutrition label for each item. You have to click on the item name (which doesn’t appear to be a link when you just look at the page). And their nutrition label (accessed 5/3/10) looks like this:

Old-Fashioned Glazed Doughnut

A doughnut glazed with delicious sweet icing. [Big picture of the doughnut in question here]

Nutrition Facts Per Serving (107 g)

Calories 420 Calories from Fat 190
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21g 33%
Saturated Fat 10g 50%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 15mg 5%
Sodium 260mg 11%
Total Carbohydrate 57g 20%
Dietary Fiber <1g 3%
Sugars 34g
Protein 4g
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 2% Iron 20%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Allergy Information Contains: Milk, Egg, Soy, Wheat

  • Sodium – 600mg or less

Nutrition information is calculated with data provided by the suppliers who manufacture food and beverage items for Starbucks Coffee Company. Variations may exist due to periodic changes in formulations.

See full Legal Disclaimer

Anyone who’s ever dropped into a local bakery for a morning snack can testify to the appeal of coffee and a doughnut. Here’s an Old-Fashioned Doughnut, light and fluffy and dipped in a fine, sweet glaze for a dose of happiness. Absolutely delicious – any day of the week.

Did you know?

National Doughnut Day in the United States is on the first Friday of June each year.


doughnut mix (enriched wheat flour bleached [flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid], sugar, dextrose, soybean oil, soy flour, dry egg yolk, leavening [sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate], salt, nonfat dry milk, maltodextrin, wheat starch, soy lecithin, mono- and diglycerides with citric acid [a preservative], natural flavor, silicon dioxide, enzymes, citric acid), glaze (sugar, water, maltodextrin, corn syrup, corn starch, palm oil, modified food starch, agar, calcium sulfate, potassium sorbate [as preservative], citric acid, mono- and diglycerides with bht and citric acid [as preservatives], locust bean gum, disodium phosphate, polysorbate 60), palm oil, water.

Notice how much advertorial cheerleading they splice into the nutrition label page. Also notice the stats themselves and compare with the livestrong.com ones. Unless they’ve reformulated very, very recently, Starbucks is really underreporting the sodium. It would be so nice if it were true.

Yes, it’s a doughnut. Yes, it’s an occasional treat, not a daily breakfast, and yes, my daughter was able to convince me she could deal with limiting herself to half, and she did. I can live with it, sort of. I took a very small bite of the other half, just to see whether I was wrong about the mediocre taste of their baked goods. It was neither light nor fluffy, nothing like the fresh yeast-raised doughnuts I grew up dreaming about. It tasted like it had been fried in heavy lard-based shortening. Once I finally found the ingredients list on the nutrition label page, I realized they don’t fry in actual lard (just as well, really), but they do list palm oil twice, and unspecified “natural flavors” once. And mono and diglycerides.

I consider myself a serious enough doughnut enthusiast–but there are few real yeast-raised doughnut shops anywhere these days, and even fewer mass-produced doughnuts worth the name or the eating anymore. All I can tell you is, after a single bite I was not tempted to encroach on the rest of this one, and threw it out. My daughter made it through her half but was not eager to save the rest, and has decided next week’s treat will be something a bit less heavy–perhaps the mini scone. Or perhaps a scone from home.

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