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Zip. Zero. Nada. Black coffee has no calories, fat, or sugar. But every tablespoon of creamer can add 4 to 5 grams of sugar and 30 to 40 empty calories. Those numbers may sound trivial, but how many tablespoons are in your cup? To lighten things up, try milk—not cream—or a low-sugar plant creamer. Here’s what to consider.

1. How much creamer is in your serving? 

An official “serving” of liquid creamer is only 1 tablespoon, labels say. Really? A serving of half and half is 2 tablespoons. And many mugs hold 12+ ounces, not an 8 oz. “cup.” More coffee, more creamer. If your brew comes closer to tan than brown, you might hit 3 tablespoons or the healthier the creamer, the better.

That’s why we limited our top creamer picks to just 20 calories and ½ gram of saturated fat per tablespoon (see our chart below). It also explains why our Honorable Mentions don’t top 2 grams (½ teaspoon) of added sugar per tablespoon. Best Bites have none.

2. The best dairy creamer is milk. 

Want a dairy creamer? Go with milk. Even whole milk is a Best Bite. Its 10 calories per tablespoon clock in below most sweetened creamers (30 to 40). So does half and half (20 calories), though its gram of sat fat means no Best Bite.

And despite ad-speak like “triple churned and 2x richer than milk” (Coffee Mate) or “delightfully creamy” (International Delight), don’t expect real milk or cream in those liquid creamers.

They’re largely water, sugar, and palm, soybean, or canola oil, with a dash of a “milk derivative” like micellar casein or sodium caseinate. That’s why our chart calls them “Sugar & Oil Liquid Creamers.”

Exception: Coffee Mate’s Natural Bliss Real Milk & Cream varieties have more milk, cream, and buttermilk than soybean oil, so our chart lists them with “Dairy Liquid Creamers.”

3. Give plant milk creamers a chance! 

The lion’s share of our Best Bites and Honorable Mentions are plant milk creamers. Check the photos below for some great-tasting picks. Among their perks:

  • Healthy fats abound. Most plant creamers get their fat from healthy oils like sunflower or canola, so they rarely exceed our max for Best Bites or Honorable Mentions...unless they add enough coconut oil or coconut milk to bump up the saturated fat.
  • It's easy to find unsweetened creamers. Plant-based Califia, Elmhurst, Sown, and Nut Pods offer an impressive choice of unsweetened oat, almond, and almond-coconut creamers. All are Best Bites. Nut Pods even has unsweetened flavors like Caramel, Hazelnut, and Cinnamon Swirl.
  • You have less-sweet options. Silk Soy Original, Califia Oat Vanilla, and all Elmhurst Oat flavored creamers have a mere 1 or 2 grams of added sugar, so they’re all Honorable Mentions.
  • Try a barista milk instead of a creamer. Unlike some other plant milks, “barista” milks won’t separate in your coffee. And a creamer-size serving of one like Oatly Barista Edition Oatmilk is low in calories (10) and added sugar (less than 1 gram).
5 different coffee creamers lined up side by side
Marlena Koch - CSPI.


From left to right:

  • Califia Almond Unsweetened: Super creamy. Ditto for Califia’s oat varieties.
  • Nut Pods Almond + Coconut Unsweetened: In search of unsweet flavors? Nut Pods has lots.
  • Oatly Barista Edition Oatmilk: Barista milks can stand in for creamers.
  • Elmhurst French Vanilla Oat: Oats, 1 gram of sugar, and hemp-seed “cream.”
  • Silk Soy Original: A rich soy milk creamer with a mere 1 gram of sugar. Mmm.

4. Minimize added sugar in your coffee.

Here’s how to get sweetness without a sugar overload:

  • Cut back. Most flavored dairy creamers like Natural Bliss, Chobani, or Starbucks are about one-third sugar. Prefer them? Since every tablespoon of those (and other) sugary creamers adds a teaspoon of sugar—4 or 5 grams—don’t add more from the sugar bowl. Tip: Add a splash of milk to your cup to help cut back on the sugary creamer.
  • Try low-cal sweeteners. We didn’t find any creamers that replace sugar with safer sweeteners like stevia extract (see No. 5). One option: Buy a bottle of Truvia Organic Vanilla or Splenda Stevia French Vanilla Liquid drops to sweeten your coffee, then add milk for the creaminess.

5. Check the ingredients list.

We didn’t give Best Bites or Honorable Mentions to any creamers that have one or more of these additives, which may pose a cancer risk (see

  • Sucralose or acesulfame potassium. Both sweeteners are in Coffee Mate’s and International Delight’s Zero Sugar creamers. Starbucks Zero has sucralose.
  • Titanium dioxide. It whitens foods, so it shows up in Coffee Mate Fat Free creamers, hiding behind the ingredient “color added.” (That can mean titanium dioxide or safer colors; we had to ask Coffee Mate’s customer service department to find out.)
  • Carrageenan. It helps thicken Coffee Mate and International Delight liquid creamers and Land O Lakes Fat-Free Half and Half. Most other creamers use safer gums like gellan or guar.

6. Bypass powdered creamers.

Their teensy serving size (less than 1 teaspoon) makes the calories and fat look low. But Coffee Mate powders are mostly corn syrup solids and highly saturated oils. “Fat Free” ones can bear that claim if the fat stays under 0.5 grams per serving. So if people add more—because hey, it’s fat-free!—is that Coffee Mate’s problem?

    Our chart of the best coffee creamers

    Best Bites (✔✔) and Honorable Mentions (✔) have no more than 20 calories and 0.5 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. Best Bites also have no added sugar. (Honorable Mentions can have 1 or 2 grams.) We disqualified creamers (marked with •) with one or more risky additives: acesulfame potassium, carrageenan, sucralose, or titanium dioxide.

    Note: Unless otherwise specified, the numbers apply to all flavors in a product line. 

    a bowl of oatmeal granola with peanuts blueberry and banana


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