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Cream In Your Coffee?

Photo by Powerbooktrance via Flickr

Photo by Powerbooktrance via Flickr

It had been one of those days.  Aaron had been unfocused and unproductive all morning.  Thinking that a short break might help, he headed to the break room and poured himself a tall cup of coffee. After stirring in three tablespoons of French vanilla non-dairy creamer, he took a sip.  He smiled.  He never could handle the stuff black, but with the creamer it was just right.  Grabbing a couple packs of sugar, just in case, he headed back to his cubicle to see if he could finally get some work done.

Many people enjoy the taste of non-dairy creamers in their coffee just like Aaron.  Some enjoy the plain versions, while others like to indulge in the flavored varieties, such as Irish cream, hazelnut, French vanilla, amaretto or toffee nut.  The problem is that even though non-dairy creamers might make our drink look and taste better, they might not be that healthy.

Why are non-dairy coffee creamers unhealthy?
The worst things about non-dairy creamers are all hidden.  You may not know the amount of calories, saturated fat, trans fat and sugar non-dairy creamers can add to a drink.  That is not completely your fault.  The nutrition labels on these products are misleading.  Here are 2 things to be wary of when buying creamers:

  1. Portion size: The serving size listed on non-dairy creamers is 1 teaspoon and that serving only has 10 calories.  So, initially you might think that creamers are not contributing too many extra calories.  But how many teaspoons of creamer do you use in your coffee?  Not many people use only one teaspoon.  On average people use 1-2 tablespoons (3-6 teaspoons!), which turns the 10 calories/serving into 30-60 calories for a cup of coffee.  If you have multiple cups a day, the calories can really add up.  So, the next time you use creamer, measure how much you put in.
  2. Partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats): If a food has less then 0.5 grams of fat per serving, food companies are allowed to round that number down to zero.  But if the serving size is small like in creamers and you use a lot of servings, that number can start to matter. Even 0.1 grams of trans fats multiplied by six, three times a day becomes 1.8 grams/day. If the amount was 0.4 grams that would become 7.2 grams/day.  This is where reading the label comes in handy.  If the ingredient list has partially hydrogenated oils listed, then you have trans fats in the creamer.  Trans fats are harmful to your health and should be avoided if possible.  They have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and possibly other health problems.  In fact, unlike saturated fats which only raise the bad cholesterol, trans fats lower your good cholesterol as well.  That’s a bad thing because the good cholesterol helps to combat the bad cholesterol.

What else can I use in my coffee?
If you need something to flavor your coffee, here are some healthier alternatives that might work for you.

  1. Milk: Try adding nonfat, 1% or 2% milk to your coffee.  These products have no trans fats and less calories than the popular non-dairy creamers on the market.
  2. Fat-free Half and Half: This alternative only has 20 calories per 2 tablespoons and has no trans fats.  It does have some trivial amounts of fat though, so be aware of that.  They just occur in amounts less than 0.5 grams per serving allowing them to round down to zero.
  3. Non-Milk Alternatives: If you are lactose intolerant or prefer to avoid milk, try soy, rice or almond milk.  They are all free from trans fat and tend to be lower in calories.  Personally, almond milk is what I prefer to use when I drink coffee.  It is a healthy choice and gives the coffee a nice flavor.

The bottom line:
Don’t let the non-dairy creamer companies fool you with their misleading labels.  It is important to read the labels and really know what you are consuming.  You don’t want to sabotage your healthy diet with hidden calories and fats.  Now you can see past their little tricks and enjoy your cup of coffee without all those extra calories and fat!

Comments (25)

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  1. Great information that I didn’t “really” want to know because I drink non-dairy creamer every day. Now I need to rethink this. My health appreciates the information buy my taste buds are pretty mad at you. :-)

    Great post!

  2. Maria Isabel says:

    It is good to know the best cream for you use in your coffee. Thanks

  3. merri says:

    All they have here at work is those fake creamers and they are so gross. You do need to empty a billion into your drink just to make a difference. And im suspicious of something that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. I buy a container of soy milk and keep it at work for cereal, tea, iced coffee. Its much healthier and, more importantly, yummier.

  4. I just kicked the non-diary creamer habit and it was hard. I now use milk or half & half. I was shocked to find out how much saturated fat is contained in these products. It doesn’t matter if you’re using liquid or powder. Thanks for sharing w/ everyone and trying to make the world a little healthier.

  5. Isabella B NJ says:

    Thanks so much for the info. I’ve been trying to eat healthier, grow my own garden, eat organic, cut out the BPA lined foods and reading/studying a lot about obesogens (hormone disruptors) in our food system and the partially hydrogenated oils were listed as one, so I thank you so much for these helpful suggestions.

    I am going to try flavored, organic fair-trade coffee (hazelnut flavored if I can find it) and sweeten it with almond milk and xylitol-a sweetener I bought at my healthfood store that tastes better than stevia.

    Like I said, trying to do the right thing within my wallet’s limits.

    Best of health to you all!

    Isabella B NJ

  6. john mcmaster says:

    I have switched to zilitol which is ok but the creamer is a problem. I tried milk and 2% evaporated milk. Yuck. Hopefully the almond milk will do the trick. Frankly, trying to eat healthy is not easy. My biggest downfall is blue cheese dressing. I would rather not eat salad than give it up. Any suggestions?

  7. Andrea says:

    I’ve been a user of non-dairy cremer powder for at least 30 years. I am very nervous to know what may have happened to my insides as a result of this.. If there are any Dr.’s reading this.. please respond back to me….

  8. thai visa says:

    How many grams of creamer is there per tea spoon? It cant be more than 2 grams or? How come people use creamer when milk powder taste much better?

  9. Barbara says:

    My friend just told me that International coffee creammer has no trans fat!!

  10. Angie says:

    Great article!! I was thinking about this the other day and thought I can’t be alone in knowing this stuff is not a good choice. I personally like Organic Valley’s soy creamer when I don’t want my coffee black – which isn’t very often.

    Also, OV makes the soy creamer in flavors such as French Vanilla and Irish Cream

    • barb says:

      Where do you buy the O V soy creamer?
      I have to be on a low fat diet for high col. And I just cant give up my flavored creamer in my coffee. I love Irish cream. I do use Silk brand soy milk. I guess they make a coffee creamer now too. I will have to try that also. And Id like to try the Almond milk. I wonder how that would be in coffee?

      • Talli van Sunder says:

        These days I use the organic almond milk that Trader Joe’s sells. I like that one a lot. They have an original and a vanilla version. I use the original, but the vanilla one might be more to your liking if you’re into flavored creamers.

  11. HananJ says:

    This is totally true :)

  12. Cynthia says:

    Great info. I always wondered about the non dairy creamers! This will be my new years thing to give up! Thank you!

  13. Eddier says:

    Thanks so much for the info.I’ve been a user of non-dairy cremer powder for at least 20 years.

  14. [...] How do you take your coffee? There has been a lot of research that suggests one cup of coffee a day can be beneficial to your health. But it’s what you put IN your coffee that can make it unhealthy. I love having my morning cup of coffee, but I used to add all kinds of stuff to make it taste better. But once I realized how bad that “stuff” was, I quickly changed the way I drank coffee. I started slowly reducing the amount of sugar and creamer, then started using almond milk (I am lactose intolerant) and replaced sugar with honey. Now, the only thing I add is a little almond milk.The same goes to all you tea drinkers out there. Herbal tea is very good for you… it’s all the sugar you put it in that makes it bad for you. Start slowly, and then try raw honey as a sweetener. It will only change the taste at first…. eventually, it will taste better knowing that you are drinking your coffee/tea in a much healthier way.http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/calories/NU00185http://www.beinghealthy.tv/archives/coffee_creamer/ [...]

  15. Grant says:

    Coffee creamers are really bad for you – the statement, non dairy coffee creamer is a oxymoron because to make cream you need diary lol

    I see a few comments related to an alternative – SOY, end just as bad. google soy dangers and you’ll see exactly what im refering too. you get good soy and bad soy/ fermented soy and unfermented soy….wanna know which soy you are consuming???? try the cheaper bad soy.

    DO YOUR RESEARCH :)

  16. Kristy says:

    Thanκs veгy nice blog!

  17. Jessica says:

    Thank you so much I have a very high cholestrol (bad cholestrol), and I used to add coffee creamer to my coffee.. it is first time to know all this important information

  18. Patricia Rothm says:

    I found SoDelicious Coconut Creamer and loved the taste until I read that Titanium Dioxide is in the ingredients ! Any suggestions on how harmful this could be in this product?

  19. [...] The potential negative effects of coffee itself are much tamer, but they are present. Moderate amounts of caffeine are perfectly healthy for most people, but once your habit passes 4 cups per day (over 500-600 mg of caffeine), you run the risk of insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, upset stomach and muscle tremors, among others. There are also potential health effects when you add excessive amounts of sugar or cream. [...]

  20. K says:

    all this talk of transfat… what about calories?

  21. Kristina Tanasichuk says:

    I hate skim, soy and almond milk in my coffee! :(
    I tried Maxwell House International foods coffees that do have some of the dried fake creamer. Both real cream and these products have fat — one has trans fats, the other saturated fat. I drink/drank way too much natural cream. Isn’t 2 tablespoons of the fake coffee better? (2 cups per day)?

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