Low-Sugar S'mores Iced Latte
With gooey & decadent black chocolate drizzle and a thick layer of creamy French Vanilla, just one sip of this iced latte will transport you to the campfire.
This article has been written by experts and fact-checked by experts, including licensed nutritionists, dietitians or medical professionals. The information in the article is based on scientific studies and research.
It is designed to be honest, unbiased and objective, and opinions from both sides of an argument are presented wherever there is disagreement.
The scientific references in this article (marked by 1, 2, 3, etc.) are clickable links to peer-reviewed research material on the subject being discussed.
Most people have used Nestlé Coffee-Mate. In fact, most peoples’ parents and grandparents used it too. And even if they’ve never used it, everyone’s familiar with it.
The ubiquitous coffee creamer wasn’t the first on the market. That “honor” goes to a product called Mocha Mix Coffee Creamer, a version of which is still being sold. But about ten years later, in 1961, Coffee-Mate was introduced as the first liquid creamer on the market. It was an immediate hit, and has been the world’s most popular coffee creamer for decades.
Right around the same time, artificial sweeteners were becoming a big deal. In just about every public place with a coffee machine, packets of Sweet-N-Low (and later, Nutrasweet) sat right next to the Coffee-Mate.
It’s never been a secret that adding sugar to coffee isn’t the healthiest thing you can do. That, along with the marketing of diet soft drinks and the growth of the “diet food” industry, explains why artificial sweeteners became enormously popular. (The potential health risks of some sweeteners only became apparent after time.)
What wasn’t as well-known then, and is still an open secret, is that commercial coffee creamers like Coffee-Mate may be even worse for you. They rely primarily on artificial ingredients, unhealthy oils – and yes, sugar – for their consistency and taste.
In recent years, alternatives have finally been introduced to the coffee creamer industry. They rely on new generations of natural sweeteners, healthier oils and natural ingredients to provide the consistency and flavor that coffee drinkers have come to expect from their creamers.
One of those new-wave creamers is Super Creamer, produced by the keto-friendly coffee company Super Coffee.
How does it compare with the OG coffee creamer, Coffee-Mate?
Let’s dig into the details.
When Coffee-Mate first worked its way into the public’s consciousness it was produced by Carnation, best known at the time for its evaporated milk that came from “contented cows.” The product was already a market force when it was purchased in the early 1980s by the global brand Nestlé, which turned Coffee-Mate into an even more dominant powerhouse.
Nestlé grew and updated the powdered creamer lineup in 1989, introducing Coffee-Mate Liquid and Coffee-Mate Lite. Today the creamer is sold in several dozen flavor varieties, and as a powder, a liquid, and a liquid concentrate.
How dominant is the company in the U.S. market? When you combine the annual sales of Coffee-Mate with those of its Coffee-Mate Natural Bliss product line, and other Nestlé creamer products, the company controls nearly 50% of the entire American market – and nearly doubles the market share of its nearest competitor, Danone’s International Delight.
What’s in this coffee creamer that is so difficult to compete with? In truth, the ingredients aren’t anything special; they’re very similar to the other mainstream creamers on the market. Coffee-Mate’s domination is actually due to a combination of smart marketing, long-established habits, tasty products – and apparently, a lack of understanding (or health concerns) by consumers who don’t pay attention to ingredient labels.
Hang on tight. You’ll probably be amazed at what’s in those containers. We’re going to focus on liquid Coffee-Mate, since it’s the company’s best-selling product and designed to substitute for cream or milk, but the ingredients in its powder creamer are very similar.
First of all, liquid creamer has to contain liquids. There are two of them in this creamer: water and vegetable oil. (Each flavor is slightly different; right now we’re looking at flavors like the Coffee-Mate hazelnut liquid coffee creamer and Coffee-Mate French vanilla). Water certainly isn’t problematic, so let’s talk about vegetable oil. The oil used in this creamer is usually either high-oleic canola oil or high-oleic soybean oil.
“High-oleic” oils are relatively new, not only to Coffee-Mate but also to the food industry. They’re designed to replace hydrogenated oil, the unhealthy trans fat used for so long and now banned in many places. (Coffee-Mate used to use them exclusively in its creamers.) High-oleic oils are made from sources bred to be much lower in saturated fat than their predecessors, making them much higher in monounsaturated fatty acids. They’re better for cholesterol levels and heart health than the hydrogenated oils so commonly used in the past.
Canola and soybean oil are similar in many ways, although soybean oil has higher saturated fat content. And the high-oleic versions of these oils aren’t particularly bad for you. However, they still do contain some unhealthy saturated fat, so they aren’t good for you, either. And a question that may also be important to consider: did you know you were putting vegetable oil into your coffee every time you poured in some Coffee-Mate?
One other note: many of the powdered versions of Coffee-Mate creamer don’t contain high-oleic oils; they still contain the hydrogenated oils that are much worse for you.
There’s a lot more to this creamer than just the oil. It also contains corn syrup solids, which are just what the name implies: corn syrup in granulated or powdered form.
Corn syrup is really just sugar, since it’s pure glucose that has been extracted from corn. It’s not quite the same as even sweeter high-frutose corn syrup, which is corn syrup that has had some of its glucose converted to fructose.
High-fructose corn syrup, without a doubt, is worse for you than plain old corn syrup. Fructose is more difficult for the body to digest until it’s processed by the liver, and that can potentially harm the liver over time. It’s also been linked to the development of insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
But that doesn’t mean that regular corn syrup is good for you – after all, it’s still sugar. Added sugar makes Coffee-Mate (and most other creamers) high in calories and high in carbs. And if you add both creamer and sugar to your coffee, you’re consuming – to put it in scientific terms – a ton of sugar.
A final note on this subject: there is a Coffee-Mate “zero sugar” line of creamers, but it still contains corn syrup (which is sugar) in addition to sucralose.
OK, the worst is over. There are still other Coffee-Mate ingredients to discuss, though.
One to be aware of is micellar casein, a protein that’s a milk derivative and similar to the sodium caseinate in many other non-dairy creamers. In general terms, it’s what’s left after milk fat, the source of lactose, is removed from milk. There’s nothing unusual or bad about casein; it’s commonly contained in lactose-free products. However, it means that Coffee-Mate isn’t vegan-friendly because it’s not a dairy-free product, and it could cause problems for those allergic to milk proteins.
Next on the list: mono- and diglycerides, which are emulsifiers made from animal fat that help oil and water blend together. The FDA calls them “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). There’s also dipotassium phosphate, a synthetic buffering agent, and natural flavors. And some varieties do contain artificial flavors as well. None of that is horrendous, but all of it is worth noting.
Finally, there’s the thickener carrageenan. The FDA also classifies carrageenan as GRAS, but it’s a controversial ingredient. Research has linked the compound to gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea and bloating, and a few studies claim that it can cause inflammatory diseases. Carrageenan is widely used in the food industry, but many health-conscious people prefer to stay away from it.
It’s time to look at the numbers.
Coffee-Mate “original” (with the same flavor as the original coffee creamer they started selling all those years ago) contains two grams of net carbs per tablespoon, but most creamers consider a serving size to be three tablespoons. That means there are six grams per serving, along with 60 calories and three grams of fat.
Other flavor choices are much worse from a nutritional standpoint. For example, the crème brulee flavor has 15 grams of carbs, 105 calories and 4.5 grams of fat in a three tablespoon serving. As you could probably guess, that’s a lot. Just looking at the carb content, 15 grams is almost a full day’s worth of carbs if you’re on a strict keto diet.
Do you have a few minutes?
That’s how long it will take to run down all flavors of this creamer that are now on the market. Let’s just do it alphabetically:
Amaretto, café mocha, caramel latte, chocolate crème, cinnamon toast crunch (yes, the cereal flavor), cinnamon vanilla, coconut créme (no, we’re not sure what determines the accents they use in the names), crème brulee, French vanilla, Funfetti vanilla cake, glazed donuts, hazelnut, Italian sweet crème, M&M’s milk chocolate (yes, the candy), oatmeal crème pie (they do love their accents, don’t they?), original, peppermint mocha, pumpkin spice, Snickers (yes, candy again), and vanilla caramel. There are also two “unlocked” coffee-flavored creamers, classic Columbian and Italian espresso roast.
Take a deep breath, because to paraphrase Vizzini in The Princess Bride, we’re just getting started.
There are eight “sugar free” or zero-calorie versions of Coffee-Mate: sugar free chocolate crème, hazelnut and vanilla creamer, and zero-calorie chocolate caramel, coconut crème, French vanilla, hazelnut and Italian sweet crème.
And then there is the Natural Bliss line of creamers, which are ostensibly the company’s healthier products. Sweet cream and vanilla are made from non-fat milk, heavy cream, cane sugar and natural flavors; they’re certainly not sugar-free or low in carbs (15 grams per three teaspoons) or calories (105), but they are all-natural and tasty.
Other Natural Bliss flavors are made with almond milk (sweet almond, sweet crème almond and vanilla almond), or oat milk (brown sugar oat, sweet oat and vanilla oat). A few more are made from either coconut milk or a mix of almond and oat milk. They’re all slightly lower in calories than creamers in the main Coffee-Mate lineup, but they’re still high in carbs and definitely not fat-free.
It’s hard to single out one or two as being particularly tasty, because they all taste good – as long as you don’t think about the calories and carbs you’re putting into your cup of coffee.
The products are sold in bottles (32 fl. oz.), packages of coffee creamer singles, or canisters (15 ounces) depending on whether they’re liquid or powder. The liquid creamers need refrigeration after opening, and Coffee-Mate powder has a shelf life of 2-4 months when unopened. Most (but not all) of the varieties are lactose-free, cholesterol-free and gluten-free, but they’re not non-GMO.
It was only a few years ago when, inspired by the bulletproof coffee so popular among keto dieters, a new company began marketing its own version: Super Coffee. It’s a ready-to-drink coffee designed to comply with the strict guidelines of low-carb diets like keto and paleo, by using the two ingredients essential to bulletproof coffee (other than coffee, of course): MCT oil and monk fruit sweetener.
The zero-carb, low-calorie coffee was a hit, so the company created a line of coffee creamers that follow the same basic formula they used for Super Coffee.
Disclaimer: we’re fans of healthy foods and drinks, so after reviewing Coffee-Mate, Super Creamer presented a stark contrast.
All of the ingredients in Super Creamer are designed not only to satisfy those on a keto diet (and those with type 2 diabetes), but anyone concerned with their health and wellness.
Super Creamer only contains a handful of ingredients other than filtered water, but what’s most noticeable is what isn’t in this coffee creamer: high-oleic or hydrogenated oils, sugar (of any kind, including corn syrup), milk or cream, thickeners like carrageenan, and artificial ingredients or flavorings. All of those things are in at least some flavors of Coffee-Mate; none are in Super Creamer.
Now let’s get to the “good stuff,” starting with the MCT oil and monk fruit sweetener we’ve mentioned.
MCT oil is sourced from coconuts. It is commonly added to food and beverages by people following the keto diet, because the oil can help with keto’s fat-burning. It also has a number of health benefits that have nothing to do with dieting. It has antimicrobial properties, and it can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels (both heart health benefits), and keep blood sugar levels even.
Monk fruit sweetener is relatively new, and it appears to be the best sugar substitute ever discovered. It contains no carbs and no calories, it’s very sweet with very little aftertaste, and it contains high levels of antioxidants that can help prevent damage to the body’s organs from oxidative stress.
What else is in Super Creamer? For starters there’s added protein, to make up for the protein that would normally be contained in milk or cream. Depending on the flavor, it’s either pea protein or milk protein isolate; both are safe and healthy. It should be noted that the varieties with milk protein aren’t dairy-free, and (as they say on TV commercials these days) obviously aren’t advised for those with allergies to milk protein.
That’s it, except for a few natural additives that provide extra calcium and potassium, plus natural flavorings. Impressively, there’s nothing in there that raises even the slightest red flags for the health-conscious.
A three-tablespoon serving of Super Creamer contains no carbs (there are six grams in Coffee-Mate) and between 15 and 30 calories (there are 60 in an equivalent serving of Coffee-Mate). Once again, impressive.
It seemingly took pages to list the available flavors of Coffee-Mate (even though it was really a few paragraphs). It will only take one line to list Super Creamer’s flavors:
Original, hazelnut, sweet cream, vanilla, French vanilla, caramel and coconut cream.
There’s no candy or donuts in there, but they are flavors which people love – and flavors which will add nice variety to a morning (or afternoon, or evening) cup of coffee. Somewhat surprisingly, they taste very good, too.
Super Creamer is only available in a liquid form that needs to be refrigerated, and it’s sold in large cartons that contain 26 fluid ounces (about 17 servings). The non-dairy creamer is lactose- and gluten-free, and non-GMO.
There’s probably no reason to belabor the obvious conclusions.
Coffee-Mate comes in more flavors than anyone could possible imagine, it’s delicious (or more accurately, as delicious as coffee creamer could be), but its oil, sugar and other ingredients are quite unhealthy. The creamers are definitely not suitable for dieters or diabetics, and their calories and carb content makes them a poor choice for people who use them more than occasionally.
On the other hand, Super Creamer comes in seven flavors that taste very good. More importantly, it’s actually good for you – not just because it’s low-calorie and doesn’t contain any carbs, but because its ingredients provide health benefits you wouldn’t expect to receive from something as “insignificant” as a coffee creamer.
Published: April 1, 2021
Last Updated: August 24, 2021
Add some products to your cart