Adding heavy cream or half and half to your coffee is a quick way to add a bunch of saturated fat and calories. But are non-dairy creamers really any better for you? Or are they just processed junk?
Non-dairy creamer typically has fewer calories and less saturated fat than heavy cream or half and half. This generally makes it a healthier choice. However, some brands of non-dairy creamer, such as Coffee Mate, contain unhealthy processed oil and sugar. Unsweetened non-dairy creamers are the healthiest option.
Below, I’ll answer 8 common questions about non-dairy creamer nutrition. We’ll look at several popular brands, focusing in on the ingredients, calories, saturated fat, sugar, and more!
Is Non-Dairy Creamer Good for You?
Here are the 8 specific questions I answer in this post. Click any of them to skip ahead, or just scroll down to read them all:
- What Is Non-Dairy Creamer Made Of?
- Is Non-Dairy Creamer Good for Weight Loss?
- Does Non-Dairy Creamer Have Sugar?
- Does Non-Dairy Creamer Have Saturated Fat?
- Does Non-Dairy Creamer Have Trans Fat?
- Is Non-Dairy Creamer Ok For Keto?
- Is Too Much Coffee Mate Bad for You?
- Is Non-Dairy Creamer Vegan?
1. What Is Non-Dairy Creamer Made Of?
Let’s start by looking at some actual non-dairy creamer ingredients. Here are the ingredients for 4 popular creamers from Coffee Mate, So Delicious, Califia Farms, and Nut Pods:
|Coffee Mate (Original Liquid Creamer)||Water, Corn Syrup Solids, Vegetable Oil (High Oleic Soybean and/or High Oleic Canola), and Less Than 2% of Micellar Casein (a Milk Derivative), Mono- and Diglycerides, Dipotassium Phosphate, Natural Flavor, Carrageenan.|
|So Delicious (Original Dairy Free Creamer)||Organic Coconutmilk (Filtered Water, Organic Coconut Cream), Potassium Citrate, Sodium Citrate, Gellan Gum.|
|Califia Farms (Almondmilk Creamer)||Almondmilk (Water, Almonds), Coconut Cream, Sunflower Lecithin, Natural Flavors, Calcium Carbonate, Sea Salt, Potassium Citrate, Locust Bean Gum, Gellan Gum.|
|Nut Pods (Original Creamer)||Water, Coconut Cream, Almonds, Acacia Gum, Dipotassium Phosphate, Sunflower Lecithin, Sea Salt, Gellan Gum.|
Here’s what I notice about these ingredients:
- Most of these non-dairy creamers are sugar free. This was a pleasant surprise. Only the Coffee Mate had “corn syrup solids.” The sugar free products don’t have artificial sweeteners, either. They’re just unsweetened.
- Most of these creamers are made primarily from coconuts or almonds. These are generally considered healthy fat sources. Again, Coffee Mate sticks out as the less-healthy option, as it has soybean oil or canola oil. (The coconut fat in some brands could also be a concern if you’re trying to limit saturated fat. More on saturated fat below.)
- Coffee Mate has carrageenan. Some research suggests that carrageenan may cause inflammation and damage to the GI tract (source). Some people worry it could cause issues like leaky gut. But this is just a possible risk, not well proven. Other brands use gellan gum, which is more widely considered safe. (source)
- Coffee Mate contains a milk derivative. This is controversial, as Coffee Mate is often referred to as a “non-dairy creamer”… but it has an ingredient derived from milk (casein)! I have a separate post on what “milk derivative” means, but let’s just say: Most vegans would avoid Coffee Mate.
Overall, the first impression I’m getting is that Coffee Mate is not very healthy, but other leading brands of non-dairy creamer are fine.
Next, let’s look closer at the nutrition labels for each of these brands—and compare them with heavy cream and half and half. We’ll start with calories!
2. Is Non-Dairy Creamer Good for Weight Loss?
Non-dairy creamer is a good choice for weight loss, as it typically has only 10 to 20 calories per tablespoon. That’s far fewer calories than half and half (around 40 calories per tablespoon) or heavy cream (around 50 calories per tablespoon).
If you normally add 1 tablespoon of cream or half and half to your coffee, then you’d cut about 30 calories by switching to non-dairy creamer. That may not sound like much, but it could add up if you drink coffee a lot.
Here’s the amount of calories for each of the non-dairy creamer brands I specifically looked at:
|Non-Dairy Creamer Brand||Serving Size||Calories|
|Nut Pods Original Creamer||1 Tablespoon||10|
|Califia Farms Almondmilk Creamer||1 Tablespoon||10|
|So Delicious Original Dairy Free Creamer||1 Tablespoon||15|
|Coffee Mate Original Liquid Creamer||1 Tablespoon||20|
Keep in mind that some other non-dairy creamers may be higher in calories. Nutiva has an MCT creamer which is 40 calories per tablespoon, for example. So check your specific brand.
In the big picture of things, a tablespoon or two of cream won’t be the reason you gain or lose a ton of weight. But if you use it every day, it could be a bit fattening. Switching to non-dairy creamer could help you lose weight.
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3. Does Non-Dairy Creamer Have Sugar?
Some non-dairy creamer products have sugar, while others are unsweetened. Even the brands with sugar typically don’t have much. Coffee Mate, Califia Farms, Silk, and Nutiva all sell non-dairy creamers with 1 gram of sugar or less per serving.
Keep in mind that the exact amount of sugar will vary by brand. You may find non-dairy creamers with 4 or 5 grams of sugar per serving.
However, from my research, it seems the most common situation is for non-dairy creamers to be very low sugar or sugar free.
4. Does Non-Dairy Creamer Have Saturated Fat?
Some brands of non-dairy creamer have a small amount of saturated fat per serving (from coconut). In such cases, it is still typically less than 1/3 of the saturated fat in heavy cream. To avoid saturated fat entirely, you can choose an almond milk creamer like the one from Califia Farms.
In most brands of half and half, there is around 2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. Heavy cream often has 3 grams of saturated fat or more per tablespoon. In comparison, all the non-dairy creamers I checked had less:
|Non-Dairy Creamer Brand||Serving Size||Saturated Fat|
|Nut Pods Original Creamer||1 Tbsp||0g|
|Califia Farms Almondmilk Creamer||1 Tbsp||0g|
|So Delicious Original Dairy Free Creamer||1 Tbsp||1g|
The non-dairy creamers with coconut cream will sometimes have a gram of saturated fat. (Coconut is one of the few plant foods that have saturated fat.) In contrast, the almond milk creamers are typically free of saturated fat.
5. Does Non-Dairy Creamer Have Trans Fat?
Non-dairy creamer generally does not have trans fat. Some brands of creamer, such as powdered Coffee Mate, do have hydrogenated vegetable oils. These oils are sometimes confused with partially hydrogenated oils, which contain trans fat. But in fact, Coffee Mate does not have trans fat.
This was something I covered in my blog post about whether Crisco is vegan, too. There’s a key difference between “hydrogenated” and “partially hydrogenated” oils. “Partially hydrogenated” is the bad one, and you usually won’t find it in food anymore.
In 2015, the FDA determined partially hydrogenated oils to no longer be “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) due to health concerns with trans fat.
Starting in mid-2018, it was no longer allowed to add partially hydrogenated oils to food. So nowadays, you don’t need to worry about trans fat just because you see the word “hydrogenated.” Fully hydrogenated oils don’t have trans fat.
As you can also see below, the three dairy-free brands I’m analyzing in this post are also all free of trans fat. In fact, none of them have hydrogenated oils, either:
|Non-Dairy Creamer Brand||Serving Size||Trans Fat|
|Nut Pods Original Creamer||1 Tbsp||0g|
|Califia Farms Almondmilk Creamer||1 Tbsp||0g|
|So Delicious Original Dairy Free Creamer||1 Tbsp||0g|
6. Is Non-Dairy Creamer Ok For Keto?
Non-dairy creamer is typically keto friendly. Many unsweetened non-dairy creamers have 0 grams of carbs per tablespoon. Even the brands that are sweetened often have only 2 grams or less of carbs per serving.
Of course, be sure to be mindful of your portions if you’re keto and using a non-dairy creamer with 2g of carbs per serving. It could add up if adding multiple tablespoons to multiple drinks.
7. Is Too Much Coffee Mate Bad for You?
Too much Coffee Mate could be bad for you. Coffee Mate is one of the least healthy non-dairy creamers I looked at. What specifically makes Coffee Mate less healthy than other non-dairy creamers?
First of all, the fat source for Coffee Mate is typically vegetable oil, rather than coconut cream or almonds like other brands. So the fat tends to be more processed.
The omega ratio of the fats in Coffee Mate may also be inflammatory, since some of their products contain soybean oil, which is particularly high in omega-6 fat. Most Americans and Western people in general eat too much omega-6 already.
Secondly, Coffee Mate is often sweetened with corn syrup solids. This adds some refined sugar/carbs that other brands don’t have. It’s not much per serving (less than 1 gram), however.
Lastly, many Coffee Mate products have carrageenan, which is a controversial ingredient that may have adverse affects on gut health.
Of course, you may feel just fine using Coffee Mate. It’s not the worst thing you could eat. But just know—it’s mostly processed corn syrup and vegetable oil. Choosing another, less processed creamer would be healthier.
Personally, I like Nut Pods Original Creamer (Amazon link) a lot more than Coffee Mate.
8. Is Non-Dairy Creamer Vegan?
Most brands of non-dairy creamer are vegan. However, some brands like Coffee Mate contain a “milk derivative” like sodium caseinate. These milk derivatives are altered forms of milk, and they are generally not considered vegan.
Most non-dairy creamers are made from almond milk or coconut cream. Most of them do not contain any dairy or animal products at all, so they are vegan. But I would check the ingredients for any mention of milk.
Most Coffee Mate products have sodium caseinate, which comes from milk. I actually have a whole separate post on milk derivatives. But here’s the short version:
- Milk derivatives may have low levels of lactose.
- Milk derivatives may cause allergic reactions for those with milk allergies.
- Milk derivatives come from cow’s milk originally, so they are not strictly vegan.
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