What Are the Healthiest Coffee Creamers?
From keto and oat milk creamers to candy-bar flavored creamers, the options for your morning coffee are endless. Read about the best coffee creamer options and the ones to skip.
Your morning cup of coffee could be a lot more exciting, thanks to the growing popularity of new and unique coffee creamers. The staggering array of flavored coffee creamers available in the dairy aisle include alternative milks like oat milk creamer and diet-friendly creamers like keto coffee creamer.
Many popular creamers are dessert or candy bar flavors like crème brûlée, cookies and cream, churro, s’mores, gingerbread, snickerdoodle, Twix, Snickers and Almond Joy.
Or you can buy flavors of nostalgic breakfast treats, such as Cinnabon and Pop Tarts, cocktail-inspired creamers like Kahlua and Crème, and flavors to transform your cup of joe into a classic coffee drink like Irish crème, caramel macchiato, or white chocolate mocha.
Flavored creamers have gotten so popular that you can find recipes online for using them to make cocktails, pancakes, French toast, scones, cheesecake, cookies, cakes and other desserts.
But how smart is it to add these flavored creamers to your morning coffee? Here are tips to help you buy the healthiest coffee creamers.
Coffee Creamer Ingredients
First, check the ingredient list on the coffee creamer that you’re about to purchase. You may be surprised to learn that many coffee creamers do not even contain cream. Nestle’s Coffee Mate, a household name in coffee creamers that has been around since 1961, is primarily water, sugar and vegetable oil (soybean or canola oil). It also contains artificial flavors, gums and carrageenan, a seaweed-derived ingredient that has been linked to gut health issues for some people.
Even though some varieties of Coffee Mate say “triple churned” on the label and come in flavors like Italian Sweet Crème, there’s no cream in sight. Similarly, International Delight, the second-largest brand of coffee creamers, does not contain any cream. These creamers are made with water, sugar and palm oil, and also contain carrageenan and artificial flavors.
These two creamers are not even completely dairy-free for vegans; they both contain a milk-derived ingredient. So while they contain dairy, these creamers are far from real cream.
A better option from Nestle that’s made with real milk and cream is Natural Bliss, which is carrageenan-free and does not contain artificial colors or flavors. Plant-based versions of Natural Bliss creamers are also available with oat, almond and coconut milk.
Added Sugar in Coffee Creamer
Unsurprisingly, those flavored creamers can be packed with sugar. Yet even the non-dessert flavored creamers contain added sugar. For example, Dunkin Extra Extra creamer contains 5 grams of added sugar per tablespoon. To put that amount in context, that’s more than a packet of sugar, which contains 4 grams.
Keep in mind how much creamer you’re actually using. If you’re pouring in more than a tablespoon (which most people will likely do), you could be adding 10 or more grams of sugar before you’ve even had breakfast.
The at-home creamers from Starbucks are even more sugary. The Starbucks caramel macchiato, cinnamon dolce and white chocolate flavored creamers contain 6 grams of added sugar per tablespoon.
That’s not to say that zero-sugar creamers are a better option. For instance, Splenda’s Sweet Cream Creamer is similar to the other big brands of creamers that are void of any cream. It contains a base of water and oil, along with carrageenan, gums and artificial flavors. The creamer also contains a trio of sweeteners – sucralose, acesfulfame-K and erythritol, a sugar alcohol that can trigger digestive issues for some people.
If you’re looking for a flavored creamer, you’re better off buying a creamer made with real cream and keeping added sugars to 4 grams or less rather than choosing a zero-sugar creamer. If you want a flavor, it’s difficult to achieve without some sugar. Just keep your portion of creamer limited to 1 tablespoon per cup of coffee.
Be Aware of Unhealthy Fats in Coffee Creamer
Some creamers are marketed as a better-for-you option for your morning coffee, but many are full of unhealthy saturated fats. While half-and-half (which is simply a combination of milk and cream) contains 1 gram of saturated fat per tablespoon, Laird Superfood Creamer, for example, contains 3 grams per tablespoon. This powdered creamer made with coconut milk powder also adds 45 calories per tablespoon, compared to 20 calories in the same amount of half-and-half.
Bulletproof Creamer contains even more calories and saturated fat: 100 calories and 8 grams of saturated fat or 40% of the daily recommended value per scoop (2 ½ tablespoons). That’s because it’s made with butter and medium chain triglycerides (MCT) from refined coconut oil.
As you might predict, keto coffee creamers pose similar health concerns. Rapid Fire Ketogenic Creamer contains 8 grams of saturated fat per serving is also made with butter and MCT oil. Although high fat coffee became trendy and has been evangelized by some influencers, research shows no difference in cognitive function benefits between Bulletproof coffee and black coffee. The high-fat coffee did provide more feelings of fullness or satiety, which makes sense because it contains 100 calories or more per serving.
Healthiest Coffee Creamers
Look for creamers with a short ingredient list, typically a good cue for a better option. For instance, Chobani coffee creamers contain just four ingredients: milk, cream, cane sugar and natural flavors.
For a dairy-free option, Elmhurst Creamers and Barista Editions made with plant milks are free of added gums, oils and carrageenan. While carrageenan is deemed a safe ingredient, many people are choosing to avoid this additive. That’s why brands of creamers are increasingly adding “carrageenan-free” on the front of package labels.
DIY Homemade Creamer
It’s also easy to make your own coffee creamer so that you know exactly what you’re getting. You’ll find lots of recipes online for DIY creamers that you can keep in your fridge for the week. Most are simply made by whisking together half-and-half (or the milk of your choice) with sweetened condensed milk and real vanilla extract or other flavorings, such as caramel syrup, cocoa powder, cinnamon or maple syrup.
Whether homemade or store-bought, coffee creamers can add just the amount of richness and flavor to enhance your morning coffee. Most contain 35 calories and 4 grams of added sugar per tablespoon. So if you keep your portions to a tablespoon, you won’t derail your healthy intentions by using any of the popular flavors.
On the other hand, you may find that a splash of half-and-half or frothed warm milk with a sprinkling of cinnamon or cocoa powder is all you need to transform a cup of black coffee.