Skip the highly processed and sugar-laden milk jugs by making homemade milk jugs instead. Your coffee will be packed with flavor and nutrients with this healthy coffee creamer recipe from Cynthia Sass, a Registered Nutritionist and Plant-Based Nutrition Specialist.
How to make a healthy coffee creamer
Finding a healthy milk jug can be difficult, especially when you want something flavorful made with all-natural ingredients and healthy fat. When I’m standing in front of the wall of cream jugs at my local market, the first thing I do when I pick up a bottle is turn it upside down and read the list of ingredients.
I love seeing the variety of new plant-based options, but there are a handful of deal-breaker ingredients that I don’t want in any creamer I use or recommend.
For example, after water, the next ingredient in many milk jugs is sugar. A level tablespoon of cream can provide 4 grams of added sugar, which is just about one teaspoon. Using ¼ cup of creamer in your coffee (or coffees if you drink more than 1 cup) adds up to 4 teaspoons of extra sugar.
That’s close to the American Heart Association’s recommended daily limit of no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugars per day for women and nine for men.
Other red flags are artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives, additives commonly found in highly processed foods. A 2019 study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutritionraises concerns about the possible link between processed foods and obesity.
Researchers theorize that processed foods and the additives they contain can cause an imbalance in the gut by affecting bacteria in ways that alter their metabolism and subsequently increase the risk of chronic disease.
A study published in July 2020 nutrient, also agrees, concluding that high consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with health risks. Out of 43 previously published studies reviewed by scientists, 37 showed that exposure to ultra-processed foods was associated with at least one adverse health outcome. In adults, these were obesity, cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome and depression.
An immediate alternative
For an instant alternative to heavy cream, start with a simple, unsweetened, plant-based milk made with 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 with just water and hydrolyzed oats. To sweeten, add 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup per 1/4 cup plant-based milk. This two-ingredient version isn’t as thick as a creamer, but it’s quick, flavorful, and way healthier than a heavily processed product.
Recipe for homemade cream
If you want something homemade, you can go for my DIY cream recipe. Because the health of a food becomes more important the more often it is consumed.
If you start your day with coffee and usually add cream, consider this recipe with just a few simple ingredients and steps. Here’s my DIY cream recipe for a nutrient dense, whole food that keeps in the fridge for 4-5 days.
Courtesy of Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, CSSD
Cashew Chia Cream
The three ingredients that make up the base of this milk jug are each nutrient powerhouses. In addition to heart-healthy fat, cashews provide 5 grams of plant protein per ounce (1/4 cup) and an array of nutrients, including B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, iron, manganese, and antioxidants.
The chia seeds thicken the creamer, but also add healthy fats and anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Medjool dates add sweetness without counting as added sugar.
Because they are considered fresh fruit, since no water is extracted and the dates are unprocessed. In addition to vitamins and minerals, dates also provide a wide range of antioxidants such as potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure and supports nerve and muscle function as well as heart rhythm.
1/2 cup whole raw cashews
1 teaspoon chia seeds
2 whole, pitted Medjool dates
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. Soak in the fridge for at least two hours or even overnight.
Drain the water and place 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 is extracted and the pulp remains.
Tip: Use decaffeinated chai if you are a decaffeinated 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 old-fashioned organic oatmeal. Do not drain after soaking.
Add just 1/4 cup of water or chai tea, mix and strain. Each version makes about a cup of thick, rich creamer.