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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!