Last week, Starbucks announced they soon will offer the “Trenta” sized cup, which holds 911 milliliters of liquid. According to the National Post (and their handy info-graphic), that’s about 11 ml more than the average human stomach holds.

With big cups comes the risk of big calories -- consumers could potentially drink 600 more calories with a Trenta-sized coffee confection than with a smaller size. And that could lead to packing on a whopping 60 pounds in a year.

Health officials are warning consumers to proceed with caution when it comes to these mega-sized drinks. While they may seem like a good deal for your wallet, they’re bad news for your body.

“An extra 200 calories per day will lead to a weight gain of about 2 pounds per month, or 21 pounds per year, so an extra 600 calories could mean an increase in weight of upwards of 63 pounds in a year,” said Jessica Bartfield, MD, internal medicine and medical weight-loss specialist at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of the Loyola University Health System.

A normal cup of coffee is considered to be 6 to 8 ounces, and studies have suggested that one to two cups of caffeinated coffee daily can have health benefits.

“The new Trenta will offer four to five cups of coffee in one serving, and unfortunately the additional caffeine will not ‘burn off’ the excess calories,” said Bartfield.

Bartfield said people need to recognize that sugary drinks are not necessarily the best way to quench their thirst, boost their energy, or satisfy a craving, but rather are usually sneaky sources for empty calories.


And while introducing a bucket-sized beverage option during our nation’s current obesity crisis may not be the most health-conscious move, Starbucks is not alone in offering up mega-sized portions.

Currently, at most fast food restaurants, a “medium” soda holds about 20 ounces. Considering a serving of soda is 8 ounces, that’s almost three full servings, or roughly 240 calories the average consumer is drinking before they even eat anything.

As portion sizes at restaurants and cafes grow, so does concern about how this changes Americans’ perception of how much is “enough” and how much is “too much.”

“Increasing sizes of food or beverages potentially distorts our perception of portion size and makes it difficult to respond to our body’s natural cues of being hungry or thirsty or full,” said Courtney Burtscher, clinical psychologist.

Burtscher also runs the monthly behavior management group as part of Loyola’s weight loss program.

She said people sometimes use external cues to decide when to eat and when to stop:

  • when others are eating

  • when the television show they’re watching goes to commercial or is over
  • when their portion is gone

She also said how much we eat is determined by any number of contributing factors:

  • generational: “My parents taught me to clean my plate and not waste food.”
  • relational:  “Feelings will be hurt if I don’t finish what they made/gave me.”
  • economical:  “This is such a good deal -- more bang for my buck.”
  • convenience:  “I’m in a rush and need it now.”
  • emotional:  “I had a bad day at work -- ice cream will make me feel better.”

Perhaps because of this, and because so many Americans are overweight, Bartfield thinks “massive amounts of food and drink” should not be promoted to consumers.

Both doctors believe people taking personal responsibility for their health is important.

“Knowing our own body and our own nutritional needs is an important part of eating healthily and of taking care of ourselves,” said Burtscher. “Self awareness decreases the possibility of using external cues such as price, size or others’ behaviors, and can lead to behavior change and successful eating habits.”