Skip the highly processed and sugar-laden creamers by making homemade creamer instead. Your coffee will be packed with flavor and nutrients with this healthy creamer recipe from registered dietitian and plant-based diet specialist Cynthia Sass.
How to make a healthy coffee creamer
Finding a healthy creamer can be tricky, especially if you want something flavorful that’s made with all-natural ingredients and healthy fat. When I stand in front of the wall of creamers at my local market, the first thing I do when I pick up a bottle, turn it over and read the ingredients list.
I love the variety of new plant-based options, but there are a handful of deal-breaker ingredients I don’t want in a creamer I use or recommend.
For example, after water, the next ingredient in many creamers is sugar. One level tablespoon of creamer can provide 4 grams of added sugar, worth about a teaspoon. If you use a quarter cup of creamer in your coffee (or coffee if you drink more than one cup), that equates to 4 teaspoons of added sugar.
That’s close to the American Heart Association’s recommended daily limit of no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and nine for men.
Other red flags include artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives, additives commonly found in highly processed foods. A 2019 study, published in Critical Reviews in Nutritional Science and Nutritionraises concerns about the possible link between processed foods and obesity.
Researchers theorize that processed foods, and the additives they contain, may cause an imbalance in the gut by affecting bacteria in ways that alter their metabolism, subsequently increasing the risk of chronic disease.
A study published in the July 2020 journal nutrients, also agrees, concluding that high consumption of ultra-processed foods is linked to health risks. Of 43 previously published studies that scientists reviewed, 37 showed that exposure to ultra-processed foods was associated with at least one adverse health outcome. Among adults, these were obesity, cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome and depression.
A direct alternative
For an instant alternative to creamer, start with a regular, unsweetened plant-based milk made from simple ingredients. One of my favorites is Elmhurst 1925 Unsweetened Almond Milk ($45 for 6 1-liter containers). The only two ingredients are water and almonds.
I also like Trader Joe’s Non-Dairy Oat Beverage, which is made from just water and hydrolyzed oats. To sweeten, add one teaspoon of pure maple syrup per quarter cup of plant-based milk. This two-ingredient version won’t be as thick as a creamer, but it’s quick, flavorful, and much healthier than a highly processed product.
Homemade creamer recipe
If you want something homemade, you can opt for my DIY creamer recipe. After all, the health of a food becomes even more important the more you consume it.
If you start every day with coffee and usually add creamer, consider this recipe with just a few simple ingredients and steps. Here’s my DIY creamer recipe for a nutrient-dense whole food option that can be stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
Thanks to Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, CSSD
Cashew Chia Creamer
The three ingredients that form the basis of this creamer are all powerhouses. In addition to heart-healthy fat, cashews provide 5 grams of plant-based protein per ounce (1/4 cup) and a range of nutrients, including B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, iron, manganese and antioxidants.
The chia seeds thicken the creamer, but they also add healthy fats and anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Medjool dates add sweetness without counting as added sugar.
That’s because they are considered fresh fruit, as no water is removed and the dates are unprocessed. Dates also provide a wide range of antioxidants, in addition to vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure, support nerve and muscle function, and heart rhythm.
1/2 cup whole raw cashews
1 teaspoon chia seeds
2 whole Medjool dates without pit
Pinch of sea salt
3/4 cup brewed and chilled chai tea or plain, filtered water
Place the cashews, chia seeds and dates in a medium bowl and add enough water to cover the mixture. Leave in the refrigerator for at least two hours or as long as overnight.
Drain the water and put the mixture in a blender. Add the sea salt, and either the chai tea for flavor, or just filtered water.
Blend on high until smooth. Strain the milk through a nut bag until all the liquid has been extracted and the pulp remains.
Tip: Use decaf chai if you are a decaf drinker.
A nut-free version
If you have a nut allergy or sensitivity, you can make a nut-free version of the same recipe.
Replace the cashews with 1/2 cup of organic old-fashioned rolled oats. Do not drain after soaking.
Just add 1/4 cup of water or chai tea, mix and strain. Each version makes about one cup of thick, rich creamer.