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Fad-Free exclusive: Eat smart with peanut butter alternatives

  • Story Highlights
  • Peanut product recall putting a damper on American snacking habits
  • USDA: Average American consumes 3.3 pounds of peanut butter each year
  • Alternatives include snacks made with almond, cashew, macadamia, walnut butters
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From the Editors of Cooking Light
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Cooking Light

In Fad-Free Nutrition, exclusively on CNN.com, the editors of Cooking Light help you digest the latest diet and food news and trends.

The recent recall of industrial peanut butter and products that contain it sparked nationwide concern about the safety of eating many popular snack products. That's understandable, considering the average American consumes 3.3 pounds of peanut butter each year, according to USDA data.

Pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, and others can be made into tasty spreads and put in recipes.

Pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, and others can be made into tasty spreads and put in recipes.

While consuming with caution is always prudent, it's important not to give up on nuts and peanuts (which are actually legumes) entirely. They offer numerous health benefits and can even help dieters stay on track.

Consuming just one ounce of nuts -- of any variety -- up to five times a week in place of other calories consumed is likely to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Although nuts are high in calories, they contain heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and they're jam-packed with nutrients such as vitamin E, folate, niacin, copper, magnesium, and potassium. Plus, they have some protein and fiber to help keep you feeling satisfied. Learn more about the health benefits of nuts (plus recipes that use them) at CookingLight.com.

Tips on smart snacking

If you are worried about buying peanut butter based on the recent salmonella scare, try these tasty and nutritious alternative ways to snack safely:

1. Make your own spread. Although major national brands of jarred peanut butter have not been recalled, it's a fun and nutritious option to make your own. At certain grocery stores, such as some locations of Whole Foods Market, you can grind peanuts to make fresh peanut butter. In less than one minute, you have a fresh, peanutty spread without preservatives or added sugar. You can also make fresh peanut butter at home; all you need are plain roasted peanuts and a food processor. Put ¾ cup plain roasted peanuts in a food processor; process two minutes or until smooth. See our staff's tips on making homemade nut butters on our blog, Test Kitchen Secrets.

2. Get creative. Use fresh peanut butter to upgrade homemade versions of snacks that may have been recalled. For example, spread a teaspoon of peanut butter on a whole-grain cracker instead of purchasing ready-made peanut butter crackers. You might surprise yourself by creating a better-for-you treat, such as our lightened peanut buttery Swag Bars.

3. Branch out beyond peanut butter. Almond, cashew, macadamia, walnut, and hazelnut butters are unaffected by the recall. They all offer a strong nutrition profile. For example, 2 tablespoons of almond butter (one serving) provide the following:

• Almost half your daily needs of the antioxidant vitamin E with 6.5 milligrams

• About one-third of a day's worth of magnesium (97 milligrams), a mineral that supports muscle function and bone tissue

• 243 milligrams of potassium (about five percent of one day's allotment), which helps keep your blood pressure levels steady

Visit CookingLight.com to learn more about other nutritious nut butters made from cashews, almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts -- including how to make them, and healthful recipes that put them to delicious use.

For more tips on making healthy taste great, try Cooking Light - CLICK HERE

Copyright 2009 Cooking Light magazine. All rights reserved.

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