Creme Brulee, Hazelnut, French Vanilla…I love purchasing the latest flavor of cream to foo-foo up my morning coffee at home. But today after reading an article in one of our lay journals I realized that it is time to take a closer look, and my next grocery store purchase won’t be the usual creamy suspects. Unfortunately, we are not fully informed when it comes to getting accurate information on food labels. Manufacturers are able to use the “round-down law” which allows companies like Nestle to put 10 calories per teaspoon on their food label instead of the actual 14.83 calories per teaspoon of Coffee-mate powder. Just a reminder…that is for 1 teaspoon. If you use cream, who puts only 1 teaspoon in?! So for the normal individual that might splurge an add 1 Tablespoon, while they think they have just added 30 calories, they have actually added 45 calories. So you might think, big deal, that is only 15 calories…The calories aren’t the only misleading piece of information, the amount and type of fats can be misleading as well. Let’s look at trans-fats. The recommended amount of trans-fats (the bad fats that increase bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol) per day should be less than 2 grams (health professionals really would like to recommend “0”). However, if a product contains less than 1 gram of trans-fats, the food manufacturer can legally put “0” on the label. Now to critcally analzye the creamer in my refrigerator door at home-CoffeeMate liquid hazelnut. On its nutrition label, it states 0 trans-fats, but as the article I read today uncovered, it actually contains 0.31 grams of trans fats. For an individual who drinks three 12-oz mugs of coffee a day and adds 2 tablespoons of creamer, he or she would be consuming 2.76 grams of trans-fats (more than a day’s worth of trans-fats). Another thing that might slide right past you is the serving size. The serving size listed on the nutrition label is typically 2 TEASPOONS, not 2 Tablespoons. I don’t know many individuals who use less than 2 teaspoons of creamer in their coffee. That minute amount of cream doesn’t give you a “creamy” look at all! So what is the coffee lover supposed to do? First of all, look at the “ingredient list.” If you spot the words “partially hydrogenated” you can be sure it does contain trans-fats. In addition, look for alternative creamers such as Land O’ Lakes fat-free half and half. It contains only 20 calories in 2 Tablespoons and contains 0.3 grams saturated fats and 0 grams of trans fats. You could also select some other “healthier” creamers like the International Delight Fat-Free which contains 60 calories in two Tablespoons with no fat, saturated fat, or trans fats. Don’t forget about good old milk. Even 2 Tablespoons of whole milk contain less calories, saturated fat and trans fats than the misleading creamers.
Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.