Even though peanut allergies have sparked a surge in alternative nut butters, there's never been more variety when it comes to your PB&J's better half.
Just look at how diverse the peanut butter aisle is becoming. (And if you're game for alternative seed butters, the options are even more overwhelming.) What makes choosing the right peanut butter even harder is the fact it dances a fine line between health food and high in fat. Plus there's always the question of added sugar. How important is that 1 gram of added sugar that separates most traditional no-stir peanut butters from their counterparts with only naturally occurring sugars?
If you're looking for a healthier peanut butter (or simply want affirmation that your favorite brand is truly the best) here are 10 expert-recommended spreads to consider adding to your shopping list.
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After TODAY Food polled dozens of nutritionists and chefs on their favorite peanut butter, Crazy Richard's was the most popular answer. Available at Walmart, Jet and specialty grocery stores, a 2 tablespoon serving of Crazy Richard's has 190 calories, 8 grams of protein, 16 grams of fat and 2 grams of sugar — the average amount of sugar per serving for peanut butters only containing naturally occurring sugars. Most traditional peanut butters, however, have an additional gram of sugar. That's because they include palm oil and a little added sugar for sweetness, which also prevents the peanut oil from floating to the top of the jar (and makes them easier to bake with).
"One gram of sugar has only 4 calories compared to the 190 calories in a serving of peanut butter," Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, (who also happens to be a Crazy Richard's fan) told TODAY Food. "It's so insignificant that I don't think anyone has reason to worry about it." The author of "The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club" is more concerned about the saturated fat from added oils in no-stir varieties.
According to Chef Karla Williams, executive chef at True Restaurant at Hilton Head Health, "Powdered peanut butter is a fantastic alternative because it delivers all of the flavor without all of the excessive calories and fat." Williams told TODAY that she often uses a small amount of peanut butter in her cooking but she supplements the rest with PB2. It has just 50 calories and 1.5 grams of fat per serving. Most peanut butters have 190 calories and 16 grams of fat per serving. PB2 powdered peanut butter contains three simple ingredients, roasted peanuts, sugar and salt. But it has an impressive 4.6-star rating from nearly 2,500 reviews on Amazon. It's also sold on Jet.com.
When it comes to her favorite spread, Kim Murachver MS, RD sticks with a brand that's been around since 1925. Teddie, a family-owned business based in Everett, Massachusetts, only uses peanuts and salt in its natural spreads. "It's very chunky and has a great texture and crunch," Murachver told TODAY Food. Since it has no added solidifying oils, she recommends storing it in the fridge, upside down, to help naturally solidify the peanut butter and make it easier to stir. A 2 tablespoon serving has 190 calories, 8 grams of protein and 16 grams of fat — most of which is unsaturated fat, according to Murachver. Teddie peanut butters are sold at Jet, Instant Cart, Key Food, Target, Publix and Wegmans among other major chains.
Not only does Amanda Baker Lemein, MS, RD, recommend eating peanut butter to her clients, she considers it an "everyday food." Her pick, 365 Everyday Value Organic Peanut Butter from Whole Foods (and available on Amazon) only includes one ingredient: dry-roasted peanuts. "It's simple and nutrient rich," Lemein told TODAY Food. "There are no added oils, sugars or salt, and for the price, this organic product is a winner in my book." It is, however, slightly higher in calories and fat. A 2 tablespoon serving has 200 calories and 17 grams of fat.
"Smucker's has a deeper, richer taste than other peanut butters," Marie Spano, MS, RD, told TODAY Food. Spano doesn't discriminate against crunchy or creamy spreads, as long as they use only peanuts and salt. She thinks Smucker's might taste the best because of the type of peanuts used. (It's worth pointing out The J.M. Smucker Company also owns Jif.) A 2 tablespoon serving of Smucker's Natural Creamy Peanut Butter has 190 calories, 16 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein and 2 grams of sugar.
Terryl Gavre, owner of San Diego's beloved breakfast spot, Cafe 222, stands by the classic she grew up with. "Skippy embodies the traditional flavor that people expect and love. It's familiar and reminds them of their childhood to the point where they find it ultimately comforting," said Gavre, whose peanut butter-and-banana-stuffed French toast was featured on Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." She doesn't care if it's not organic or that it has 3 grams of sugar per serving. It more than makes up for that with taste and texture, says the restaurateur. One serving of Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter has 190 calories, 16 grams of fat and 7 grams of protein. It's available at mos major retailers including Target and Walmart.
Liz Josefsberg, a N.A.S.M. Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Exercise Specialist, told TODAY Food that she doesn't let her clients looking to lose weight buy peanut butter in jars because portion control is too hard. "Just the lick of the spoon can add a hundred extra calories so keep it tight by buying single-serving packets," she said. Josefsberg, who is best known for helping actress Jennifer Hudson lose weight, recommends Justin's because it only contains peanuts and oil. "Sugar should not be listed on the label for your peanut butter [for it] to be healthy." One Justin's squeeze pack, approximately 1.15 ounces, has 190 calories, 16 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein and 2 grams of sugar.
Kyle Kamp, R.D. and owner of Valley to Peak Nutrition, has built a career on fueling endurance athletes. "My favorite peanut butter for both myself and clients is good old-fashioned Jif," Kamp told TODAY Food. "It's ridiculously delicious and although it has 1 more gram of sugar per serving than most natural peanut butters, this 1 gram translates to four measly calories." Jif's list of ingredients is a bit longer than the rest on this list. It includes roasted peanuts, sugar and 2 percent or less of molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed and soybean), mono and diglycerides and salt. A 2tablespoon serving has 190 calories, 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein and 3 grams of sugar.
9. Trader Joe's Creamy Salted Peanut Butter
Summer Yule, MS, RDN, is a big fan of Trader Joe's Creamy Salted Peanut Butter from Unblanched Peanuts. "It's my favorite because it has the perfect consistency for drizzling," the self-professed foodie told TODAY Food. "In addition, it only contains peanuts and salt. The peanuts are dry-roasted and ground with the skins still on." Yule says that the unblanched peanuts really enhance the flavor of the finished product. A 2 tablespoon serving has 190 calories, 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein and 1 gram of sugar.
Nicole Short, MS, RDN, eats peanut butter every day to reach her protein requirements. She told TODAY Food that her favorite brand is Smart Balance which she considers to be a great source of healthy fats. "Omega-3's ALA are beneficial for brain function and even assisting in regular blood sugar levels," said Short. "This peanut butter also doesn't have trans fat, which is known to elevate cholesterol levels." A 2 tablespoon serving of Smart Balance's Rich Roasted Chunky Peanut Butter with Flaxseed Oil has 190 calories, 15 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein and 3 grams of sugar.