Non-Natural Peanut Butter: How Bad?

Filed under: Nutrition: Health, Feeding & Sleeping, Mealtime, Opinions, Nutrition: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Expert Advice: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Nutrition: Big Kids, Expert Advice: Big Kids

Peanut Butter Baby

Natural peanut butter isn't the only option for your child. Credit: Wendy Andrews, Flickr

The peanut-butter aisle used to be a simple place. In fact it wasn't an aisle, there were just a few jars -- the kind Mom used to use, and the other kind. But now there's a panoply of peanut (and other nut-) butters, none of which my regular-peanut-butter-loving children will eat.

And if we're telling the truth, does anyone relish the separated kind of peanut butter where the oil floats on top and gets all over your hands as you try in vain to stir it without having it run down the side of the jar? But the natural kind looks so ... healthy. It seems like the peanut butter that gets you an A+ in lunch-making.

But is it wrong to give the kids what they want, which incidentally is the same brand Mom used to buy?To find out, I called up Mommy Advisor Christine Palumbo, a nutritionist in private practice in a Chicago suburb, who's an adjunct faculty member at Benedictine University.

"Splashes oil on your shirt when you try to stir it, right?," she asked.

Yes exactly! So, how bad if I don't want to do it?

"There are many parents who prefer a natural peanut butter and are wiling to pay a little extra and go through a little inconvenience to eat it ...," Palumbo said. But just as I'm about to admit that I am not one of those parents, Palumbo added, "However, for those parents who do not want to do that, they shouldn't feel guilty."

Nothing like a get-out-of-guilt-free card from the nutritionist, right? Here's why Palumbo says regular old peanut butter isn't so bad:

1. Commercial peanut butter is reasonably low in sugar. "The sugar content in peanut butter is not all that high," said Palumbo. "Two tablespoons of one natural peanut butter, which is about what you'd put on a sandwich, has 2 grams of sugar while a popular commercial brand has 3 grams. Even though it's 50 percent more, it's still just 1 gram more."

2. Commercial peanut butter has almost no trans fats. "Another myth about commercial peanut butter is about trans fats. There is just a trace amount of trans fats in commercial peanut butter," says Palumbo.

Still, Palumbo doesn't think peanut butter sandwiches are an ideal daily meal. "Kids get into food jags," she says. "It's important to mix it up."

Some ideas:

1. Try other nut butters. "Almond and cashew nut butters are a little tougher to find and are usually more expensive, but can be a great option," to get some diversity in a child's diet.

2. Make your own nut butter. "Put nuts in a blender," says Palumbo. "It's a classic beginning cooking lesson for kids."

3. Try nut butter in new places. Put it on apples or celery instead of only making sandwiches.

Have you had a less-than-perfect parenting moment and you're wondering, "How bad"? Send it to Sabrina at She'll try to answer as many as she can.

Sabrina Weill is the founder of the pink, princess-y gift site: PrincessLovesPink. Many of the Mommy Advisors in this column are the writer's personal or professional friends.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.