Nutrition Q&A: Which is healthier? Coffee-mate Fat Free Vanilla or Coffee-mate Sugar Free Vanilla creamer?
A: We wouldn’t call either a “good” choice. Per Tbsp, the fat free version of Coffee-mate contains 25 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 0 grams of saturated fat. While the sugar free version has 15 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, and the artificial sweeteners sucralose (Splenda), and acesulfame potassium.
When choosing these creamers over milk and natural sweetener, you’re opting to use a much more processed, artificial product in your coffee. But the number one downside to the fat free and sugar free Coffee-mate products is the second ingredient that they both share — “partially hydrogenated oils” — which is code for “trans fats”. At first glance, you’d think that the product doesn’t contain any trans fats (under trans fat on the Nutrition Facts panel you’ll see “0 grams”). But, here’s the trick: If the amount of trans fats in a product is less than 0.5 grams per serving, it’s not required to be listed on the Nutrition Facts label.
Companies can get around this by using a smaller serving size, like the 1 Tbsp serving that is used for Coffee-mate, which allows for the product to be labeled without trans fats. If each Tbsp of Coffee-mate contains .49 grams of trans fat, and you use 2-3 Tbsp in your coffee, you could be consuming almost 1.5 grams of trans fat per cup. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1.5 grams of trans fats per day, with an ideal goal of avoiding them all together — and we agree.
Better option: In exploring the Coffee-mate product offerings, we discovered that they now have a newer product line, called Natural Bliss, that contains nothing artificial– just nonfat milk, cream, sugar, and carageenan (a natural thickener). If you like the flavor of Coffee-mate, the low-fat Vanilla Natural Bliss is a good option with 20 calories per tablespoon (less than the fat free version), just 1 gram of fat, and 0.5 grams of saturated fat.
An even better option: Start to transition off of a generally sweeter coffee/beverage preference by using just 1 teaspoon of Coffee-mate. Then add 2 tablespoons of 2% milk (or try vanilla soy/almond milk if you like the vanilla flavor), and 1 teaspoon of sugar to bring the flavor and consistency to your liking. If you’re someone that has developed a preference for the super-sweet, tapering your added sugar intake in coffee will be beneficial to you in other areas of your diet as well.
Best option: A quarter cup 1% milk plus 1 teaspoon sugar. You’re getting calcium from the milk, without the fat or saturated fat you get with cream, and you get a little sweetness without too many calories (1 teaspoon of sugar has 16 calories.)