What to Look for on a Food Label for Peanut Butter
This week at Quinnipiac University my students in one of my hybrid classes completed a module on food label reading. In this assignment I have them choose one of their favorite, commonly consumed foods and report back to the class on what they learned from reading the food label.
When I asked by a show of hands in last night’s class how many students were surprised by what they learned from the assignment – 25 out 25 hands shot right up. Not surprising as reading a food label can be pretty difficult territory to navigate! In fact for some – it can be pretty foreign.
Therefore, I thought it light of National Peanut Day (which in case you did not know is TODAY in case you didn’t know!) it would be a good idea to tackle what to look for on a food label of one of my most favorite foods – good old peanut butter.
Peanut butter. To my expert knowledge is one of the best foods ever created on this amazing planet. It’s texture, salty taste, and affordability has made peanut butter a staple in most American homes.
Battle Royale of the Peanut Butters – Let’s the games begin!
So, what is in peanut butter? How is it made? What should we look for when buying peanut butter? Well, it sounds pretty simple in theory. Peanut butter should just contain peanuts and some butter, right? However, this is far from the case. So let’s get down to the nitty gritty and see what we should be looking for on a food label on this beloved food.
5 Important Things to Look for When Buying Peanut Butter
1. Always choose organic.
I promise – I am NOT ‘that’ dietitian. The one who preaches organics as the be-all-end-all of life. In fact, in my practice organics are only something I bring up if YOU bring them up. I have NO agenda when it comes to organics. So if I tell you to buy organic peanut butter there has to be a good reason.
You see, peanuts are one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the US. Insects and all sorts of little creatures ♥ peanuts – just like we do! So, that means the commercial peanut crops are sprayed with a heavy hand when it comes to pesticides.
Therefore, in an effort to decrease this lovely toxic load – choose a peanut butter that clearly states “Organic” on the food label. This information is found on the front of the product and often too on the back of the food label.
Choosing Organic peanut butter is critical!
And remember you do not need to choose a fancy brand. In fact, most store brands of organic peanut butter are equally as delicious as the far more expensive name brand varieties.
2. No added sugars.
I know this sounds like a no brainer. But sugar should never.ever.ever. be listed as an ingredient on a food label for peanut butter. Not in any form. No cane juice, corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, agave, molasses, honey, etc. Because guess what? They all mean one thing – and one thing only – sugar.
This product (though delicious I might add) contains added sugars – so buyer be aware!
You see food companies are pretty sneaky! Many will often use sugar as a ‘filler’ or just to make an already delicious product sweeter. Don’t fall for it. You are far too crafty smartie pants!
This product contains ‘added’ sugar in the form of ‘cane sugar’
Sugar does not belong in peanut butter. That is unless you are making a peanut butter pie. Which if you know me – understand fully that making peanut butter pies are pretty much my jam!
3. No added oils.
This one may stump you. But guess what makes most peanut butters smooth? Trans fats (a.k.a. hydrogenated oils). Hydrogenated oils are used to improve the texture of peanut butter. They prevent the oils from separating in peanuts and rising to the top.
Trans fats are an unhealthy type of fat. Trans fats tank our healthy cholesterol (HDL) which we want HIGH and increase our lousy cholesterol (LDL) which we want LOW. Some of the most popular peanut butters used to have partially hydrogenated fats in them: Skippy, Jiff as well as many standard store brands. However, given the dangerous nature of trans fats (And the FDA cracking down on using them!) many companies are switching to fully hydrogenated fats. These fats still impart the same qualities with less of an impact on our health. However, truth be told – fully hydrogenated fats while not as risky from a heart health standpoint should be avoided in my book!
All sorts of garbage here!
When reading a food label to determine whether or not a peanut butter contains trans fats look to the ingredient list for the words: partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. They are generally listed as the second or third ingredient on the food label.
As you can see in the label above – the products contains all sorts of garbage including sugar, salt and corn syrup. Awesome, right? But no trans fats. As if label reading could not get any more complicated. Geez! Nonetheless, trans fat or not – this peanut butter is no bueno 🙁
4. Two Ingredients OR LESS.
Generally when it comes to most foods – the fewer number of ingredients, the better! In all honesty high quality peanut butters should only contain ONE ingredient — peanuts. Bingo!
A little salt can be okay, too. Some grocery stores have grinders that turn peanuts into peanut butter for you. Heck even our local Shop Rite has this – boom! This allows you to purchase however much you like instead of having to buy an 16-ounce jar and you can guarantee only one ingredient.
5. Peanuts as the MAIN ingredient.
Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. This means the ingredient listed first on the food label occurs in the highest quantity in the product. When viewing the list, peanuts should always be the first ingredient.
Focus on these 5 things and you will have no problem choosing a high quality peanut butter
Remember my friends peanut butter should JUST be smashed peanuts, period. Brand names shouldn’t matter as long as you follow my suggestions listed above.
My advice is always to make sure the food label hits these 5 criteria and is the least expensive among the choices. No need to get fancy or shell out a lot of money unless you choose to. With that being said – there should be no need to spend more than $6.00 on a jar of high quality peanut butter – after all it is just nuts.
Got tips? Do YOU have criteria that you like to follow when choosing a peanut butter? Is there a brand that you love? Share in the comments below. Our peanut butter loving community would love to be in the know.
Hugs & High Fives,
Between the crazy highs and unseasonably low temperatures this past week in CT (and freakish Tornadoes) it is hard to believe Memorial Day is just around the corner. However, you know it, people will be firing up their grills and breaking out the dogs and burgers. Rather than throwing caution to the wind and deciding you’ll jump on the latest detox diet Tuesday, why not stay ahead of the game? There are plenty of ways to keep your long weekend healthy and tasty!
Sip Responsibly this Memorial Day
Yes – I know this a no brainer! But seriously Memorial Day seems like the official kick off for summer drinking. As if people need a reason to drink, right? However, if you are going to imbibe then why not choose to do so responsibly.
Numero uno – avoid the carb bombs. Margaritas, frozen drinks and unfortunately the likes of craft beers tend to be very calorie and carbohydrate heavy. While Craft beers range in calories most clock in at about 200 – 250 calories per 12-ounce bottle. Thinking about knocking back 2-3? You are looking at an upward of 600 calories in alcohol alone.
Side note – back in the day when I used to bartend I would start my shift by making 5 gallon tubs of margaritas. In each batch I would put two full pounds of quick dissolve sugar! Yes – holy moley is right! Sugar rush for sure.
Instead, opt for clear spirits like vodka, gin, and rum mixed with a no/low-calorie mixer. For example, a Titos and Club Soda will only set you back about 95 calories. Plus did you know flavored vodkas (think Stoli Raspberry, Absolut Melon, Pinnacle Whipped Cream) have the same amount of calories as plain vodka? So you can even get fancy and mix a flavored vodka with a flavored club soda squeeze some lime on top and there you have your new favorite skinny summer cocktail.
Or if hard liquor is not your style – choose a light beer and you are only looking at about 100 calories as well. A glass of white or red wine is about 150 calories. Want to cut those those calories in half? Make yourself a wine spritzer! Fill a wine glass with crushed ice. Then pour 2-3 ounces of wine and 3-6 ounces of your favorite seltzer into a wine glass. Top with sliced fruit. Whallah!
Are the above options not really your jam? How about a low-calorie mojito? Coconut Water and Champagne Punch anyone? These low calorie cocktail from Proof are perfect for those watching their waistline. And let’s be honest – who IS NOT watching those waistlines!
Who says cocktails have to be unhealthy? Not this RD.
Photo by: Monika Grabkowska
Want more information about the calorie counts of your favorite beverages? Check out one of my recent posts on this very topic!
Pump up the Veggies
Often at picnics there are more veggies available than one might think. Sometimes you just need to do a little searching. Crudite platters, tossed salads and even the infamous toppings for burgers are all good places to get those veggies in.
Are you trying to watch your carbs? Why not try a lettuce wrap instead of a bun? After all, if 5 Guys offers this option it has to be good, right? You can save yourself 200 calories and 30 grams of carbohydrates by this simple little swap.
Does the green salad look a little weak? Why not grab some of the ‘fixins’ for the burgers (think lettuce, tomato, onions) and ‘doctor’ up the salad (on your own plate, of course!) Or even better yet – offer to bring a kick-ass salad or some sort of veggie based side. Both options often require very little prep aside from assembly. This way you know you will have something to round your plate out aside from Grandma’s tuna mac salad 🙂
Don’t go Hungry
This rule holds fast for any type of celebration. Never. Ever. Ever. Go to an event hungry.
I repeat. Never. Ever. Ever. Go to an event hungry.
Most of my patients head to an event like a Memorial Day picnic with the mentality they are going to save all their calories for the day for one big meal. They plan to white- knuckle it the whole day until they get to the picnic. This backfires HARD pretty much every time. As soon as they see the food they everything short of bury their face in pretty much everything and anything that is out.
Instead plan accordingly. Have a light breakfast or snack prior to the picnic. Scrambled eggs and fruit, greek yogurt with 1-2 tablespoons of granola, an apple with peanut butter or something even as small as nuts or a cheese stick will keep your hunger at bay.
I much rather see you spend more time on the ‘front end’ in preparing than leave the picnic feeling big, bloated and polluted with an underlying sense of guilt. We all know this feeling! But YOU are stronger than this. Don’t allow yourself to be defeated. Instead plan ahead like the champ you are and leave the picnic with your rock-star status intact.
Keep it Lean and and No one will be Mean
Be a lean mean grilling machine at your next BBQ. After all, nobody goes to a BBQ saying, “I cannot wait to eat super sloppy BBQ food.” If you are the grillmaster instead choose lean cuts of protein to throw on the coals. Your guests will thank you!
Think 93 % lean ground beef, flank steak, grilled chicken breast marinated in a little balsamic, rosemary and oil, or even a veggie burger (just watch the sodium on those puppies some brands are crazy high!)
Truth bomb – many people opt for a turkey burger thinking it is the best choice. Best as we know is a relative term. Well, it’s not a horrible choice but is it the best choice? I am not so sure.
Did you know that beef burgers and turkey burgers often contain the SAME amount of calories and fat?
Did you know a turkey burger made from “LEAN” ground turkey has just about the same amount of calories and fat (150 – 170 calories & 7 -10 grams of fat for a 4 oz. patty) as a burger made from ground sirloin (93 % lean ground beef)? Lean ground turkey is generally a mix of light and dark meat. So if you are craving a nice juicy burger but are feeling guilty about eating red meat please don’t!
The only exception from a ground turkey standpoint is when the package states “EXTRA” lean. This type of ground turkey has virtually no fat, is expensive and in my humble opinion does not taste very good. It is certainly not good for burgers on the grill. With virtually no fat the burger will be unfortunately very dry.
Be a Good Friend
From my experience as someone who loves to host parties and tells everyone NOT to bring anything – never believe the host. They lie. I love it when someone brings something. SO be that good friend and come bearing food 🙂 This is your prime opportunity to bring something healthy that everyone (including yourself) will likely enjoy.
I can’t tell you how many times my patients say, “There was nothing healthy to eat so I had to eat crap.” Really? Come on my friend. No need to be so lazy! Get off your little butt and avoid all those excuses.
Remember it does not have to be something fancy, complicated or expensive. Heck stop at Costco and grab a veggie platter for $9.99 or a simple fruit bowl (also may I add for only $9.99 at Costco). Even a big old tub of hummus with a bag of baby carrots will likely be appreciated. Pick up a whole watermelon and bring that! After all, who doesn’t like juicy watermelon? The list of healthy options you can bring are seemingly endless.
Be a bestie and don’t forget to bring a healthy dish!
Want to step up your grame? Why not make a killer salad with everything but the kitchen sink in it? That way you can take whatever comes off the grill and and throw it on top of the salad. You will be surprised how many guests will follow suit. Because like I said, even though Memorial Day is typically synonymous with unhealthy foods, it does not have to be. More people than not are working hard to improve their health. Give people a handful of healthy options and they will thank you for it. A little effort goes a long way!
So whether or not it feels that way right now – Memorial Day will soon be here. While I am by no means asking you to be a saint (what fun would that be?) – why not start the summer season on a good foot? You have worked SO hard all winter. Let’s go into summer strong!
How do you anticipate to survive Memorial Day like a champ? What are your tried-and-true tips for a healthy summer holiday weekend? Leave your favorites in the comments below!
Who the heck does not like yogurt? After all the possibilities for its use are endless! Yogurt can be used in parfaits, smoothies, soups, pancakes, and can even pinch-hit for sour cream. Yogurt is rich in protein and calcium and also contains potassium which is important for ♥ health. Yogurt also contains live, active bacteria cultures. These active bacteria cultures are also known as probiotics and are great for maintaining a healthy gut and digestive system. However, with so many choices choosing the best yogurt can be challenging to say the least!
Navigating the grocery store tin search of the best yogurt can be tricky! I was in Shop Rite the other day and I kid you not – the yogurt aisle almost spans the entire length of the dairy aisle. I remember back in the day – the only two choices were Yoplait and Columbo straight up regular yogurt. There were no flips, dips or cherry pie-flavored yogurts. Just the normal variety of boring flavors like vanilla, peach and strawberry.
Now a days there are SO many different options to choose from. Greek, traditional, flavored, plain, fruit filled, and varying percentages of fat are all factors to consider when buying yogurt. But what do these terms all mean? What is the best yogurt in light of all these choices? Let’s get to the bottom of this madness asap!
What percentage fat should I buy?
This is a tough question to answer. In all honesty – it depends on your #dietarygoals are as well as your overall health.
If you have high cholesterol or are just trying to keep your calories on the low side then it would be best to choose low-fat (1%) or fat-free (0%) yogurt. These two choices generally have the lowest calorie value and contain a nominal amount of saturated fat.
However, if cholesterol is not an issue and you are just looking for a yogurt with a thicker consistency then opt for a 2 % or full-fat yogurt.
I personally prefer 2% or full-fat plain yogurt. My favorite traditional brands when I can find them (please don’t laugh 🙂 ) are YoBaby Whole Milk Plain Yogurt or Liberte Plain 2 % Yogurt. Shop Rite generally carries the YoBaby but as of lately I can only find the plain Liberte yogurt at Whole Foods. The reason why I like these brands is # 1 (and most important) they taste pretty darn good ! And # 2 both brands contain under 10 grams of sugar. Also they have no added funky ingredients.
Which is best: Greek or traditional yogurt?
Greek yogurt is strained which makes it thicker, creamier, and smoother than traditional yogurt. When comparing Greek and traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt has around double the protein but does have less calcium than traditional yogurt. Both Greek and traditional yogurt are usually well tolerated by individuals with lactose intolerance. However, Greek yogurt has less lactose than traditional yogurt and may be even better tolerated than traditional yogurt. For most people, Greek yogurt is preferable to traditional yogurt because of the higher protein content.
Nowadays pretty much every major brand has both a traditional yogurt and a Greek yogurt. Even Chobani who started out their career just selling Greek yogurt now has a “old-fashioned non-Greek traditional yogurt smooth yogurt”. Therefore, you really do have your pick if you are brand loyal.
However, please don’t fret if you just don’t love Greek yogurt! Many of my patients don’t like it and prefer the traditional style instead. Keep in mind – the average American consumes more than their daily requirement for protein. So if you opt for the non-Greek variety you will not be selling yourself short in meeting your protein needs.
For the Greek yogurts I personally bounce around brand wise depending upon what is on sale and has the lowest amount of sugar per serving. Although I do the bulk of my shopping at Trader Joe’s unfortunately (aside from their ‘plain’ Greek yogurt) they do not carry a whole bunch of options under 10 – 12 grams of sugar. Some of the Greek yogurt brands in my fridge now are Siggi’s Greek Yogurt – 2 % Black Cherry, Fage Greek Yogurt-2% plain and Chobani Plain Whole-Milk Greek Yogurt.
Should I buy plain, flavored, or fruit filled yogurt?
One of the major issues with yogurt is it often has added sugars. Yogurt is made from milk (duh!) and therefore has naturally occurring sugar in it, called lactose. Thus, if you look at the nutrition label of plain yogurt, you will notice it has 12 g of carbohydrates. Since this sugar is naturally occurring, it is not of concern. However, what is concerning is the large amount of added sugars in many yogurts. A serving of flavored yogurt can contain an upward of 30 grams of sugar depending on the brand. That is a wholelata sugar! A can of soda has about 24 grams of sugar so the comparison is clear.
how to choose the best yogurt
You can skip the added sugars by buying plain yogurt and adding your own fruit and flavors such as cinnamon and vanilla. You can even get fancy with different extracts such as almond, coconut or coconut to pump up the flavors without the calories or carbs.
If you want to buy a flavored yogurt, check the nutrition label and try to buy a yogurt containing less than 12 grams of sugar per serving. Some of the brands with the lowest amount of sugars include Dannon Oikos Triple Zero Yogurt, Chobani Hints, and Siggi’s Greek yogurt mentioned above.
Navigating the yogurt aisle used to be challenging! But now, you should be able to navigate the dairy aisle with ease. Opt for low sugar yogurts that fit your dietary goals, budget and taste palate. Choosing the best yogurt should not be pretty easy!
As always, if you have a question bring the nutrition label to your nutrition visit and the dietitian can review it. Enjoy your creamy, delicious yogurt!