Nutella vs Peanut Butter

I was 19 when I traveled to Europe for the first time. We visited England, France, Holland, and Belgium. The cuisine was the highlight of the experience (aside from quality time with family).

Each place offered diverse food, rich in flavor and experience. But none of the food left quite an impression on me like the divine taste of…Nutella.

Yep, out of everything I had on that trip my life was changed by a chocolatey, creamy, hazelnut spread.

Who knew?

In 2001, Nutella had yet to be a household American request. So I came home with a suitcase full of Nutella dreams that ended months later. Well, until it became a staple on U.S. grocery shelves in 2013 and has been invading ever since.

Well done Nutella, well done. But for real though, how does Nutella stack up against the O.G. of morning nut spreads, peanut butter?

Let’s dive in and find out who wins the health battle of Nutella vs peanut butter.

History of Nutella

Because I was curious, I wanted to know how Nutella came to be Nutella. Nutella’s creator, Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker from Piedmont in Italy, created Nutella because of a shortage of cocoa. He combined a “sweet paste made from hazelnuts, sugar and just a little of the rare cocoa” to create what would come to be known as Nutella today.

What began as a simple intent to create a yummy treat has led to a gigantic branding mission to find its way to the breakfast table. Interestingly enough, in 2012 the Ferrero group, the U.S. makers of Nutella, had to cough up a whopping 3 million dollars in a class action lawsuit where a mother claimed their advertisement of the product touting its health benefits were false.

The history of Peanut Butter

When did peanut butter begin to show up in our food history?   In an article by National Geographic, John Harvey Kellogg May have been the first to use a peanut spread in his health clinic to treat patients.

The beginning of peanut butter is unclear, and still to this day so much controversy over the health benefits of peanut butter exist.

Is it good or bad for you?

Well, it can be both.  Peanut butter contains both healthy fats (omega-3 fats) and unhealthy fats (0mega-6 fats).  However, with more omega-6 fats than omega-3, peanut butter creates a potentially higher risk of inflammation.

The standard American diet is high in omega-6 fats which are linked to increase in obesity and weight gain.

Just like most foods, moderation is key when consuming peanut butter.  By buying a high quality brand and making sure you are focusing on amn overall nutrient dense intake, peanut butter can be worked into your diet in a healthy way.

Not all peanut butter is created equal

One look at the peanut butter aisle in the grocery store and you can see that not all peanut butter is created equal.

Looking through the glass jar, some are clearly creamy, oil-less and often light in color.

Others are dark in color, oily and liquidy in sound.

Often times manufacturers put added ingredients, like soy lecithin, in peanut butter to make them easy to spread, last longer and sweeter in taste. My suggestion, pass on those peanut butters.

A great example of such a peanut butter is Jif. Its ingredients are listed as such:

Roasted Peanuts and Sugar, Contains 2% Or Less Of Molasses, Fully Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (Rapeseed And Soybean), Mono And Diglycerides, Salt (per their website).

Fooducate gives it a “C” rating due to its inclusion of hydrogenated oils and highly processed nature.  Anything with hydrogenated oils should be a major avoid to your health.

Because of tricky advertising that states a product is “natural” the requirements for use of the words like “natural” and “organic” are loose. Your best bet is to always read the ingredient label first.

Pick peanut butter that has two to three ingredients and requires a good messy stir before the first spread. That is the type of peanut butter you should have in your house.

An example of such is the generic Santa Cruz, Costco, Nutiva and many more.

Ingredients

If you are new to nutritional label reading, the first label listed on a label is the one that is present in the largest amount by weight.

On the Nutella label, the first ingredient listed is sugar. This is followed by palm oil, hazelnuts, skim milk powder, cocoa, lecithin (an emulsifier that helps the butter to blend together) and vanilla. That means the ingredient present in the largest quantity in Nutella is sugar.

You can read more about food awareness here by clicking on my post that gives you 5 tips to increase your food awareness.

In a brand of peanut butter, Santa Cruz, found at many grocery stores locally, there are only two ingredients: dry roasted organic peanuts and sea salt.

No sugar is listed at all. So when it comes to the ingredients in Nutella vs peanut butter, peanut butter wins with less sugar.

Beware of sugar

The average child consumes 13% of their daily calorie intake from sugar.

Why is sugar bad? Or is it?

On average children consume 11g of sugar at breakfast (nearly half the recommended daily limit) mostly via sugary breakfast drinks, cereals, and spreads.

In 2017, Nutella fans experienced an even bigger sugar high when Nutella increase the sugar content of the produce and likely decreased the cocoa content. This left the product under even further scrutiny and many health-conscious fans were outraged.

One serving of Nutella between two pieces of highly processed white bread could easily reach a child’s recommended daily sugar intake…before lunch.

Many studies prove the link between sugar intake and disease exist among many other consequences including energy levels, ability to focus and mental fog.

These conclusions only reiterate the importance of being mindful of sugar in our daily diet, especially for our children headed off to school.

It’s not about sugar alone, but rather the totality of awareness of how much sugar is in a person’s daily intake that is really the cause for thought.  Especially, when it comes to the little people we are responsibly for modeling healthy habits to.

Nutritional profile

In 2 tablespoon of peanut butter (32 grams) (using the Santa Cruz brand featured below) on average, there are 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of protein for a total of 200 calories. Less than 1% of that intake comes from sugar and only 10% is from saturated fat (you can read more about types of fat here).

One serving of Nutella also contains 200 calories but the macro and micronutrient profile are wildly different. In one serving of Nutella, there are 10 grams of fat, 19 grams of carbohydrate and 2 grams of protein.

The big difference is that all 19 grams of carbohydrates come from added sugar. This is equivalent to just over 4 teaspoons of sugar.

Peanut butter is lower in carbohydrates because it contains less sugar. It also contains more protein compared to Nutella’s  2 grams per serving.

Taste

The taste of each spread is different.  Nutella is sweet in taste, like a rich, creamy custard.

Peanut butter, of course, has a dense nutty taste and grainy texture.

The two provide totally different palate experiences because of the high sugar content in Nutella.

Why size matters

The food industry is a battleground for consumer attention and loyalty.  There is so much going on behind the scenes when it comes to product labeling that we as consumers have no idea.

Serving size listed on packaged foods is based on what the average American would consume in one sitting.

Umm..that makes about zero sense.

We the consumers are dictating serving size?

Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACCs) are the standards that determine servings sizes we consume.  RACCs are set from information gathered by the department of Agr Dilute from the 1990s which now truly shows us that Americans are eating more.

The controversy over some foods come from what category they are often lumped into.

Nutella currently falls under the dessert toppings category. Under this category, the RACC is two tablespoons in one serving.  Why is this important? Because this is the same RACC for other nut butter spreads, like peanut and almond butter.

When a consumer is comparing the nutritional information on both products this allows a level playing field.

In 2017, the Ferrero group, requested that Nutella be re-categorized to “marmalade” (jams) or into its own class, in order to reduce the serving size to 1 tablespoon.  This would provide an advantage to unique spreads like Nutella because the nutrition labeling would appear to have the upper hand over counterparts like peanut and almond butter

Product knowledge is power

The average consumer is not educated regarding product labeling.  A quick glance at the label would then give an appearance that Nutella nutrition is superior to spreads like peanut and almond butter.  This would muddy the waters even more in product labeling.

The reality is that products are in the market for sales.  Companies like Ferrero want to beef up sales. They have clearly demonstrated that as Nutella sales in the U.S. are up almost 40% over the last 5 years according to an article by the Washington Post.

This nutrition label struggle only further demonstrates the need for individuals to understand what the products they are purchasing have inside them.

This is a basic habit I try to teach and share to all my clients. Knowledge is power. If you can understand what is inside your food you can make more empowered decisions to support your health.

It isn’t saying a big fat NO to Nutella, but rather understanding the reward and consequence of your choices and learning how to work them into your life to achieve balance.  It should be the mission of the FDA to protect average consumers who are learning how to better understanding food awareness.

Nutella vs Peanut Butter Recommendation

A small child can tell you that Nutella is a “treat.” It should be eaten in moderation accordingly and not served as a breakfast staple atop a slice of bread.

If you or your family are looking for a healthy alternative there are many. My favorite is my very own recipe, Cashew Pecan Butter. The combination of these two nuts and two other ingredients creates a nut butter that tastes sweet and creamy.  You can read the recipe for Cashew Pecan Butter here.

Another favorite alternative to traditional peanut butter is Sunflower butter. This is also a great option for those with nut allergies.  This is my son’s favorite “butter” spread option even without allergies. Click here to see his favorite.

And lastly, almond butter is a great go-to as well.  Click here to see my favorite almond butter spread too.

Nutella alternative brands

If it is the chocolate hazelnut spread you are after, other companies have followed suit and have created a chocolatey morning spread experience with improved nutrition.

Justin’s hazelnut spread is one alternative option.  Justin’s uses some organic products to create their hazelnut spread and contains 50% less sugar than Nutella.

Click here to buy Justin’s spread.

Nutiva’s hazelnut spread takes it a step further with certified organic ingredients, fair trade cocoa and all around improved ingredient quality.  It also contains almost 50% less sugar than Nutella.

Click here to buy Nutiva’s spread.

Both still contain sugar, although organic, as one of the first ingredients listed.  By no means do these brands deserve a regular appearance in the diet. Instead, just like Nutella, they are a treat with higher quality ingredients and less sugar.

Talk about it

I have gained wisdom over the years and have overcome my Nutella obsession. My kids, though, I teach them moderation of course. There is no regular place for Nutella at the breakfast table in our house but learning how to enjoy treats like Nutella help them (and big kids too) develop a healthy relationship with food.

Approaching the discussion of nutrition with children is all about teaching them food awareness and mindfulness. We must teach them what is inside their food, how food makes them feel and that correlation between taste and health does not always exist.

We want them to understand how whole foods versus a “sweet treats” like Nutella feels in their body.

Those little munchkins are smarter and more intuitive than we give them credit for.

When prepping your morning breakfast, reach for a spread that helps support your health and not your sweet tooth.

So in the competition of Nutella vs peanut butter, I would choose peanut butter.

Do you love Nutella?  Do you think you do a good job of regulating your daily sugar intake?

 

Work Hard Be Kind,

AWalk

4 replies
  1. Jen C
    Jen C says:

    Great content! I’m not a huge Nutella lover (thank goodness!!) but always love he insight your share. Thanks!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.