Switch things up and try one of the “other” nut butters in your lunch box this week.
Some classrooms and even entire schools are going peanut-free in an effort to protect children with severe peanut allergies. There are many alternatives to peanut butter that can be used for sandwiches, on crackers, with apple slices, or any other way you would use traditional peanut butter.
Most nut butters contain 180 to 200 calories per 2 tablespoon-serving and similar amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Choose “natural” nut butters, which contain only nuts and salt. If you do choose a conventional brand, check the label to make sure the ingredient list does not include added sugar or “hydrogenated oil,” which is also known as trans fat.
Here are a few of the most common peanut butter substitutes:
- Almond butter
This nut butter contains the least saturated fat and the most fiber of the common nut butters. Widely available on supermarket shelves, almond butter is a great substitute for peanut butter in recipes and is a delicious sandwich spread.
2. Cashew butter
The flavor of cashews really comes through in this creamy butter. It’s slightly lower in protein and fiber than peanut butter and a little higher in saturated fat.
3. Soy nut butter
This butter is made from dried soybeans and is higher in protein than peanut butter (10 grams per serving compared to 8 grams in peanut butter). Because it’s made from a legume rather than a nut, this is a viable option for people who have tree nut allergies.*
4. Sunflower seed butter
Sunflower seeds produce a somewhat bland butter with a gray-tinged color. This butter is high in fiber but it is lower in protein than nut butters (3 grams per serving compared to 8 grams in peanut butter). It’s also an option for people who have tree nut allergies.*
5. Hazelnut butter
More common in Europe, this nut butter can be found in some specialty and health food stores. Remember if you choose chocolate-hazelnut spreads that these contain added sugar, cocoa, and oil.
6. Walnut butter
Walnut butter, also less common, is available at some specialty stores. It has a darker brown color than peanut butter and the rich flavor of walnuts with a dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
7. Hemp seed butter
This green butter has a nutty flavor and similar calorie and protein content to peanut butter. Although much less common that other alternatives, hemp seed butter is an option for those with tree nut allergies.*
Though hummus is not a nut butter, it is a great nut-free spread for sandwiches and can serve as a healthy dip for fresh vegetables or whole grain crackers. Hummus is traditionally made with chickpeas and tahini, or sesame seed paste, which both provide a dose of protein. If you’re trying to watch your calorie intake, try hummus sandwiches rather than nut butters. A 2-tablespoon serving of hummus contains on average about 50 to 70 calories, 5 grams fat, and 2 grams protein.
It’s easy to make your own Homemade Nut Butter. Just grind the nuts in a heavy-duty food processor until a paste forms. Depending on what kind of nut you use, the texture may range from creamy to thick and grainy. One cup of nuts yields about 1/2 cup nut butter. Store homemade nut butter covered in the refrigerator up to 1 month.
*For those who have peanut or tree nut allergies, it is always essential to check food labels carefully. Even products that are not made from peanuts or tree nuts may have the potential to cause an allergic reaction if processed in the same facility as peanuts and tree nuts. Check out this PDF from Food Allergy Research and Education for more information on reading food labels for a Peanut- or Tree Nut-Free Diet.
What’s your favorite nut butter? Let us know in the comments or via Twitter, and try something new in your lunch this week.
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