January 26, 2015

Label Madness Monday

It’s been a while since we took a look at a food label and had ourselves a laugh. And lest this blog become nothing but book reviews, rants, and super-nerdy posts about cancer, I figured now might be a good time to resurrect good ol’ Label Madness Monday. So here goes.

Today’s an easy one. For those of you in the U.S., it’ll probably just make you chuckle. To those of you outside the U.S., let this be a lesson in the complete and total ridiculousness that rules food labeling laws in our whacked-out country. Land of the free, home of the brave, and slave to the almighty marketing dollar preying upon the complete idiocy of the majority of the population.

Here goes: Fat-free, sugar-free, non-dairy coffee creamer.

You can clearly see right here on the front of the bottle that this is, indeed, free of fat and sugar.

Isn’t it funny, then, that the second ingredient is corn syrup (sugar), and the third is palm oil (fat)? 

Yep, this item, which contains sugar and fat in the top three ingredients, is labeled as sugar- and fat-free. Way to go, America, way to go. For those of you who don’t know how food manufacturers can get away with this, it’s because a food can be called “free” of something if it contains less than 0.5 grams per serving of whatever the item is—fat, sugar, cholesterol, etc.

But let’s examine that phrase: per serving. One serving of this stuff is a tablespoon. One tablespoon. (About 15 milliliters, for those of you in countries where units of measure are based on sanity and logic.) Most of you reading this blog probably do not consume this stuff anymore, but you might have at some point in the past. Maybe it was even a regular fixture in your fridge, like it was in mine. And if you were anything like me, rarely was one tablespoon all that made it into your coffee cup. Maybe it was more like two, plus an extra one or two you drank right off the spoon, almost like grown-up cough syrup. And that was back in the olden days of this stuff, when it was slim pickins in terms of variety. All they had back then was French vanilla, hazelnut, and amaretto. Now, there’s every flavor under the sun: everything from the aforementioned classics, to pumpkin spice, peppermint mocha, white chocolate raspberry, dulce de leche, and even a few modeled after everyone’s favorite Girl Scout cookies. (OT: My insanely cute niece just happens to be selling GS cookies right now. Contact me if you want some! Nutritionist approved! They have a gluten-free option this year. That makes it totally healthy!)

By the way: if you’re wondering where the 3g of carbohydrate per serving listed on the label come from (since we know the sugar content is less than 0.5g), most likely they come from the maltodextrin (a corn derivative), the cellulose gum, cellulose gel, and other carbohydrate-based additives.

This reminds me of the smackdown I gave the “fat-free milk” label that proudly boasted its omega-3 content. (You remember that one, right? A fat-free milk claiming to be a good source of omega-3 FATTY ACIDS. I swear, you cannot make this stuff up.)

This is just one example, one flavor, as a representative. There were many others.

I’m not going to lie. I used to really, really love this stuff. (Well, the kind with sugar and fat, not the stuff pretending to be sugar- and fat-free.) I wish I could take my coffee black, but I can’t. Sorry. And to be completely honest with you, I kinda still miss these creamers. (Actually, theyre not really creamers at all, right? You'll notice from the picture above, there is NO CREAM listed among the ingredients. So maybe we should just call these things coffee flavorers,  rather than non-dairy creamers. Cuz non-dairy CREAMer is an oxymoron, no?) Anyway, I don’t miss them when I’m at home, making my morning, afternoon, and evening coffee. But I do miss them when I’m at the store, cruising the milk area to pick up my heavy cream, and I see them. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. But then, when they are in sight, they’re back in mind.

But it’s okay. These days, at home, I take my coffee with heavy cream and stevia, or, once in a while, light cream, a.k.a. “table cream.” At a coffee shop, I’ll take it with half-and-half, or, if there's no line, and I feel like bothering the barista, I'll ask for heavy cream. (They always have some hiding in the back, y’know). I occasionally use artificial sweetener in the form of Splenda or Sweet & Low. Go ahead, throw tomatoes at me. I just wonder if one pack of saccharin or sucralose a few times a week is really that much worse than something totally, 100% “Paleo,” like gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate cheesecakes that call for half a cup of honey, a cup of coconut sugar, and a gluten-free cookie crust. I’m just sayin’. To each his own.

And when I’m really in the mood for something sweet and flavor-y in my coffee, I occasionally use sugar-free DaVinci syrups, which are sweetened with Splenda (sucralose). Go ahead, throw even bigger tomatoes. But when I’m in the mood for something sweet-ish to go with my coffee liquid hug, I find a splash of DaVinci suffices to ward off any desire I might have to indulge in a blueberry muffin the size of my head. And all things considered, for me, and what I am comfortable with for my own body, I’d say I am picking the much, much lesser of the evils. (You do what’s right for you, and we’ll all still be able to play together in the sandbox, ‘kay?)

PSA: I’ve found the flavors of DaVinci that are more “traditional” for coffee, such as French vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, etc., are not that good. I actually really enjoy the crème de menthe, raspberry, coconut, and even orange. Weird, I know, but they work! (Separately that is, not together, hehheh. Ick.) Also, if you eat dairy, the banana and peach flavors are great mixed in to yogurt. The other fruit flavors would probably work well too, but I haven't tried them, so I can't say for sure. My favorite source for these is Netrition. I get a ton of other stuff from there, too, because I think they have some of the best prices available, and they have a flat shipping fee of $4.95, no matter how much you buy. (And when you order a few different flavors of DaVinci—which come in glass bottles—the weight can add up pretty quick, so that flat fee is nice. Might as well throw in some 32-oz coconut oils while you’re at it.)

(Disclaimer: I am a Netrition affiliate. I earn a small commission on purchases you make there after clicking through from my site.)

Remember: Amy Berger, M.S., NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition.


  1. Active Low-Carber ForumsJanuary 27, 2015 at 8:12 AM

    Amy you have to try the Kahlua DaVinci. I use a touch in my afternoon decaf, heavy cream laced, iced coffee and it really does fend off that dip into the cookie jar (that's my husband's domain ya' know and I love him so he has one!!).

    As for the labeling thing....yep....same idiocy reigns supreme here in Canada. I guess they think we're all just stupid....little do they know....

    1. Oooh...haven't tried the Kahlua yet, but it sounds like I should. (And being that I love the real stuff, the DaVinci will probably be pretty good. I can see it being a great pick-me-up when I need a morale boost at the day job.) Thanks!

  2. It kills me whenever I'm at my hyper-industrial grocery store in the dairy aisle, and I find the puny organic milk selection absolutely dwarfed by the non-dairy coffee FLAVORER section - it easily take us up 5-6 times more shelf space! I have to wonder, are people really buying that stuff?
    I'mma go buy some of that DaVinci, though. Thanks for the recommendations on flavors. Kahlua sounds good to me, too!