Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Grocery store lessons: Natural Peanut Butter

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I know that “natural” is a meaningless marketing term. It still drives me nuts when peanut butter that consists of any ingredients other than peanuts is described as “natural”. So, what got me going this time? The Kitchn’s peanut butter taste test purporting to test seven natural peanut butters. But just how natural are all of those peanut butters?

1. Smucker’s Natural Creamy Peanut Butter

INGREDIENTS: PEANUTS, CONTAINS 1% OR LESS OF SALT.

Not too bad. Although that 1% of salt amounts to 105 mg of sodium in a two tablespoon serving. Compare that to 0 mg of sodium in a truly natural peanut butter.

2. Justin’s Classic Peanut Butter

INGREDIENTS: Dry Roasted Peanuts, Palm Fruit Oil*.

I’m not sure why there’s an asterisk on the palm fruit oil as it doesn’t appear to lead to anything. Strangely, that addition of oil doesn’t appear to increase the fat content in comparison to a peanut butter that’s 100% natural.

3. Brad’s Organic Peanut Butter

INGREDIENTS: Organic Peanuts

Thumbs up for this one!

4. Whole Foods Creamy Peanut Butter

INGREDIENTS: Organic dry-roasted peanuts, organic palm oil, organic pure cane sugar, sea salt

Face palm. There is nothing natural about this. Organic ingredients and sea salt do not a natural product make. Thumbs way down.

5. Trader Joe’s Creamy Unsalted Peanut Butter

INGREDIENTS: Organic Peanuts

Another thumbs up. Funnily enough, I noticed that this is a product of Canada but we don’t have Trader Joe’s here.

6. Skippy Natural Peanut Butter

INGREDIENTS: Roasted peanuts, sugar, palm oil, salt

Skippy didn’t even bother to trick people into thinking their ingredients are healthy by using organic ones. Another faux natural peanut butter.

7. Smart Balance Natural Creamy Peanut Butter

INGREDIENTS: Peanut butter (peanuts, dried cane syrup, salt, molasses), natural oils (palm fruit and flax seed oils)

Is there something less than thumbs down? I give this one that rating. Two added sugars, two added oils, and salt. Pass.

If you want a natural peanut butter you’re going to have to look beyond the marketing terms on the front of the label. Check the ingredients. If you see anything other than peanuts it’s not truly “natural” and you need to decide if those extra ingredients are worth the extras (i.e. sugar, sodium, fat) they bring with them.


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Sticky situation: School food bans

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I had mixed feelings as I read the recent CBC coverage of peanut butter substitute bans in PEI schools. Part of me thinks that many children could do with a little more variety than the traditional PBS (peanut butter substitute) and jelly. There are loads of other great lunch ideas out there. Parents have blogs showing school lunches, my friend Dallas (@eatrealbereal) often tweets photos of the amazing school lunches she makes for her daughter, many nutrition websites such as Dietitians of Canada and Eat Right Ontario provide suggestions for school lunches and snacks.

Another part of me argued with that initial part of me. PBS is an affordable non-perishable, quick and easy lunch option for parents. It’s also widely enjoyed by children. In a time and economically strapped world, PBS&J is a handy lunch option to have. Taking that option away limits the possibilities for many parents: both those who don’t have much time and money, and those who have children who are known to bring home uneaten meticulously prepared nutritious lunches.

I get where the schools are coming from. It’s extremely difficult to monitor every lunch and not every parent is going to take the time to label lunches as nut-free. School officials don’t want to be responsible if a child dies on their watch; who can blame them?

Soy is also a common allergen. Is replacing one common allergen with another really the greatest idea? Where do we draw the line though? As allergies become increasingly prevalent in our society we’re going to need a better solution than to outright ban every risky food.


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Grocery store lessons: Natural peanut butter

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I love natural peanut butter. Just peanuts, nothing more. I saw the Skippy Natural Smooth peanut butter in the grocery store and took a look at the ingredients:

roasted peanuts, sugar, palm oil, salt

Now I know that “natural” is a bit of a meaningless marketing term but I was still pretty surprised by that list. Is that really different from “regular” peanut butter??

Here’s the ingredient list for Skippy Creamy peanut butter:

freshly roasted peanuts, soybean oil, maltodextrin, icing sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt

Okay, so the “natural” peanut butter is slightly better than the regular peanut butter but it’s still far from truly natural peanut butter containing only peanuts.


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No-stir Natural Peanut Butter

I’ve blogged about making your own peanut butter before but what about if you prefer to buy natural peanut butter from the store? I find it annoying how they fill the containers so full that when you try to stir-in the layer of oil that’s floating on top you end up with a greasy peanut buttery mess down the sides of the jar and on the counter. Thanks to a great post by No Baloney you’ll never have to deal with this mess again. Simply turn your newly purchased jar of peanut butter upside-down and leave it on the counter or in the cupboard overnight. The next day, flip the jar right-side-up and pop it in the fridge. The oil will slowly diffuse back up through the peanut butter, no stirring necessary.


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Make your own peanut butter

In honour of Peanut Butter and Jam day I thought I would do a post on how to make your own peanut butter. It’s super easy as long as you have a food processor. Just take 1 1/2 cups of skinned roasted peanuts (either buy them already roasted or roasted them yourself in the oven) toss them in the food processor, put on the cover, and turn it on. It’ll take about four minutes to get to the proper consistency and will yield about one cup of peanut butter. You can do this with pretty much any kind of nut; think almond, hazel, cashew, or any combination… If you want to get fancy, try add-ins like a tablespoon or two of honey, or maple syrup, a little bit of cocoa powder or chocolate chips. I really want to try adding some cinnamon and stirring in some raisins at the end to replicate my favorite Peanut Butter Co. variety. This will store nicely in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a month.