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Linda Thomas
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How many calories do you think this Starbucks snack has? The blueberry scone contains 22 grams of fat and 460 calories. The short non-fat vanilla latte adds 100 calories. (Linda Thomas photo)

Seattle woman eating only Starbucks for a year supports posting calorie info

Once upon a time, Starbucks offered a luscious lemon cake with deliciously drizzled white icing. The best part about the aptly-named pound cake was that no calorie information was listed on the treat.

Today, everyone will know the Starbucks iced lemon pound cake has 490 calories and 23 grams of fat.

Starbucks is now posting the calorie content of all its coffee drinks and food items in all its company-owned stores in the U.S.

"I think this will be helpful for other people. I look at the packaging right now. It's just a matter of really looking at the nutrition information and taking calorie content into consideration," says a Seattle woman who would know.

Beautiful Existence, her legal name, is six months into a year-long challenge involving Starbucks.

"This year I am only eating and drinking nothing but Starbucks and any product that they own," she says. She's documenting the experiment on her blog, 1 Woman, 1 Year, 1 Challenge.

"I couldn't have asked for a better year because they have new foods coming out. They've just launched a couple of salads with avocado and grilled corn. I am just never without something new going on with them this year, which is amazing. They've been really good to me."

Starbucks last year purchased Evolution Fresh, Tazo Tea and the bakery La Boulange.

With juices, salads, sandwiches and bakery items in addition to tea and coffee, Beautiful says she has had a wider variety of food items than she expected when she started the challenge in January.

She hasn't been tempted to cheat on Starbucks.

"I've been really good," she says. Her wallet has taken more of a hit than she initially planned. She says her meals have been averaging between $500 and $600 a month.

While she may have underestimated the cost of the Starbucks food, most people underestimate the calorie content of the drinks and treats in the company's cafes.

Which has more fat and calories, a Starbucks Sausage and Cheddar Classic Breakfast Sandwich or a McDonald's Sausage McMuffin with cheese?

The Starbucks sandwich has 28 grams of fat and 500 calories. The similar McDonald's sausage McMuffin has 27 grams of fat and 450 calories.

One of the lowest calorie items on the Starbucks menu is the Seasonal Harvest Fruit Blend Yogurt Parfait with no fat and 90 calories. McDonald's Fruit and Yogurt Parfait has 2 grams of fat and 150 calories. Posting calorie counts changes habits, according to some research.

A 2011 study by Stanford's Graduate School of Business found that posting nutrition information at a Starbucks in New York led to an overall reduction in calories per transaction from 247 calories to 232 calories.

Part of the reason Starbucks is posting calorie information is to be more transparent with nutrition information for its menu options, so its customers can make the best decisions for their health.

Starbucks says it's taken the initiative to roll out healthier food options by requiring that new products introduced contain fewer than 500 calories per serving.

The company is also getting ahead of President Obama's Affordable Care Act. As part of that law, any restaurant in the country with at least 20 locations must post calorie information by sometime next year. A specific date hasn't been set yet.

One other thing you might notice at Starbucks today - prices are going up.

Starbucks is hiking prices on average by one percent, nationally. But a company spokeswoman says the price for many drinks, such as medium and large brewed coffees and Frappuccinos, won't change in most of its 11,000 U.S. cafes.

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About Linda
Linda is the morning news anchor and features reporter for KIRO Radio. This is her local news blog, with an emphasis on social media, technology, Northwest companies, education, parenting, and anything else that grabs her attention.

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