I’m obsessed with peanut butter. Actually, I might have a minor addiction. I could easily polish off an entire jar in one sitting, and it takes an enormous amount of self restraint not to do so. When I used to work at a smoothie place, I probably made myself the Mailman Special (a dangerously delicious combo of milk, chunky peanut butter, banana, and just a tiny bit of chocolate) at least every other shift. I used to be a die-hard Skippy Creamy fan, but in recent years I’ve made myself make the transition into the realm of healthier, more natural nut butters. In moderation, peanut butter isn’t bad for you, but brands like Skippy and Jif add a bunch of oil and sugar that isn’t so great (even though it tastes so good). At first, I was skeptical to give up my tried-and-true creamy favorite, but I knew it had to be done.
It took me a few tries to finally find a brand of natural peanut butter I like. I’m not a big fan of Adams, and I kinda felt like I was cheating when I tried Skippy Natural with honey. Eventually, I tried this peanut butter, made by CB Nuts. I’m not sure if it’s available everywhere, but I really love the taste. It’s a bit sweeter than Adams (or maybe it’s just me) and I feel slightly less guilty when I sneak a spoonful. I keep mine in the refrigerator, but it doesn’t require refrigeration once opened.
Of course, peanut butter isn’t exactly a low-cal food; one tablespoon will set you back about 100 calories. There are, however, a few low-cal peanut butter substitutes out there. The two main ones, at least as far as I’ve seen, are PB2 and Better’n Peanut Butter. PB2 is a powdered peanut butter (so it’s ideal for baking and smoothies) that only has 45 calories in a 2 tbsp serving. Sounds pretty awesome, right? Except that it does have a trace amount of trans fat, less protein than normal peanut butter, a slightly chalky taste, and it’s pretty hard to find in stores. Not wanting to pay for online shipping for a product I might not even love (because I’m kinda a cheapskate), I decided to try Better’n Peanut Butter instead. Better’n Peanut Butter is a lot easier to get in stores; I got mine at the local Trader Joe’s store. It looks like normal peanut butter, but has about 85% less fat and it’s only 100 calories for 2 tbsp. There’s no trans fats, and they do sell a reduced-sodium version for those watching their sodium intake. I’d seen mixed reviews on this stuff– a lot of bloggers commented that it’s too sweet and doesn’t taste like peanut butter. Personally, I love it. I really like the taste; it’s like a slightly salty version of Skippy Creamy. It’s delicious by itself, on apple slices, in a sandwich, or mixed with a bit of plain Greek yogurt. The only downside is that it’s so good I’m more tempted to eat a bunch of it than I am with normal natural peanut butter. I like to keep this in addition to normal peanut butter; I stick to normal peanut butter for baking and cooking, and I use this for snacks and sandwiches.
There are also plenty of other nut butter varieties out there. Health-wise, they’re all pretty similar nutritionally speaking, but there are some taste differences. Sunflower seed butter is pretty neutral-tasting, which makes it good for cooking. Almond butter is pretty yummy, especially spread on some crackers or fruit, but I don’t usually buy it because it has less protein than peanut butter. If you’re trying to get a nut butter that’s nutritionally sound, just be sure to read the ingredients. It helps to compare brands side to side; just because something’s labeled “organic” doesn’t mean it’s always the best (labels are misleading!).
My 10 favorite uses for peanut butter:
1. Mix some peanut butter with nonfat plain Greek yogurt and a dash of cinnamon for a tasty dip for apples (or to eat by itself). I use about 1 tbsp of Better’n Peanut Butter with about 1/4 cup yogurt; it makes an awesome and filling snack.
2. Make a peanut sauce with 1 tbsp natural peanut butter, 1 tbsp liquid aminos or low-sodium soy sauce, a tiny bit of vinegar, a splash of light coconut milk, and a few drops of Sriracha and fresh lime juice. It’s great on chicken or shrimp, or mixed with some noodles (use Shirataki if you want to make it extra low-cal) and veggies (edamame, broccoli, carrots, etc.).
3. Spread a bit of peanut butter on a warm muffin. So. Good.
4. Mix 1 tbsp of peanut butter into your bowl of oatmeal for some added protein, or throw some in next time you make overnight oats!
5. Make a gourmet grilled pb&j with natural peanut butter, fig jam, and thinly sliced apples.
6. For a late-night snack to satisfy a sweet tooth, freeze banana slices and dip in warmed up peanut butter.
7. Drizzle a bit of peanut butter over some air-popped popcorn.
8. Throw some into a breakfast smoothie with light soy milk, banana, and oatmeal. And cinnamon, because I love cinnamon.
9. Make these delicious peanut butter cookies from Chocolate Covered Katie.
10. Spread a bit on your hamburger. Okay, I know, it sounds totally disgusting. And it isn’t even remotely healthy. But seriously, it’s surprisingly awesome. I know I’m not the only person who thinks so, because I’ve seen it on the menu at fancy burger places.