Saturday, May 28, 2011

Coffee Creamers - A Hidden Source of Trans Fats

It always an eye-opening experience for me to open the fridge at Mom's house. Coming home and visiting my Mom in New York is always an opportunity to sharpen my nutrition education skills. Mom has healthy intentions, but like most people, she falls prey to the confusing marketing tactics used by food companies. I woke up at a leisurely hour today and Mom had made some coffee for us. She also made a special trip to get my favorite tri-color cookies. Although I gave up sugar and sweets 5 weeks ago, Mom didn't get the memo, so I indulged in these delectable cookies that I can't find in Phoenix. 

Ok, so I had a couple of cookies, what's the big deal with a little trans fat in my coffee? Well, I put the stuff in my coffee because there was no alternative -- no skim milk, no soymilk...

This particular bottle of coffee creamer found in Mom's fridge only has 1 gram of fat listed on the nutrition facts panel. Mom didn't read the ingredient list. She simply identified this has a low-fat choice with little saturated fat and thought it was a good (healthy) choice. The serving size for coffee creamers is 1 TB, so most unsuspecting consumers would miss this if they solely measured the products health-fulness based on the nutrition facts panel. Look at the ingredient list and if you see the words "partially hydrogenated," put it BACK on the shelf! Hazelnut coffee creamer ingredients found in Mom's fridge: Water, sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, less than 2% natural and artificial flavors, sodium caseinate, etc.

This was a great opportunity to discuss the alternative healthy options for coffee creamers available in most supermarket across the country. One of my favorites is Silk soymilk creamer. This is a dairy-free alternative for coffee that has less than 1 gram of fat (no saturated fat) per 1 TB serving with 15 calories. A little goes a long way -- in my case, I think it is simply the lighter color of my coffee that makes it taste better. Soymilk creamer is a heavier option than skim milk and a small amount instantly turns dark black coffee to a light, caramel-colored bevvy. Delish!

There are plenty of other healthy options in the coffee creamer section. International Delight makes several flavored fat-free and sugar-free varieties. Many grocery stores sell their own private-label version of a fat-free or non-dairy/soy creamer that is similar to the Silk products or International Delight.  I've linked an article written by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (April, 2008), entitled, "Are You Getting Creamed?," that does a bit more explaining and offers a nutritional rating chart as well.  Mom makes a good cup of Joe ... now it will be even better!

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