Is Peanut Butter Bad for You?
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Let’s get one thing clear right at the top: there are no “bad” foods… only less than ideal choices.
“Food” is the operative word here — we’re not talking about munching on pencil shavings like it’s a bowl of fruity pebbles. As long as we keep that in mind, there isn’t anything you should ever feel guilty for eating.
If the diet you’re on says otherwise, that’s an immediate red flag.
There ARE certain choices that are better than others (e.g. apples vs. corn dogs), as well as certain types of foods that should be eaten more frequently than others (e.g. leafy, green veggies vs. saturated fats).
Where does peanut butter fit into that mindset? Well, I’ve seen several articles lately suggesting that peanut butter should be on your “eat rarely” list. Are they right?
Rather than a black and white, good or bad, healthy vs. unhealthy perspective, let’s take a more practical approach.
What Practical Means as a Parent
When I was a kid, I lived off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. My parents made me eat other foods (and sometimes I ran away from home because of it 🤷♂️), but the pb&j was all I wanted.
Now that I’m older and have two kids of my own… I still eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches sometimes. They’re delicious. Ironically, my kids aren’t super into them, but what they do love are apples (or bananas) and peanut butter.
As a parent, I have a hard time reconciling popular diet advice with the responsibilities of raising children. I want my kids to grow up in a healthy environment, I just don’t happen to believe that a diet that forces us to obsess over “good” and “bad” foods is actually a healthy approach.
If you’re like me, peanut butter is always going to be a staple in the house. It just is.
I love it. My kids love it. And it’s a better choice than a lot of other quick snack options. For that reason alone, it would be insane to get rid of peanut butter just because some 22 year old fitness influencer on instagram says it’s bad.
So how can you make sure you’re including it to have a positive effect on your health (and consequently the health of your entire family)?
Consider the following 3 things…
1. How It Fits Your Diet
The most common mistake people make with peanut butter is thinking it’s a good source of protein. (It probably has something to do with the marketing on the label that says “good source of protein.” 🤦♂️)
It does have protein in it, but unless you’re prepared to eat a baseball mitt portion size of peanut butter (I know, don’t tempt me with a good time, right?), the amount of protein you’ll get will be insignificant compared to what you need for the day and the calories you’ll consume by trying.
What it IS a good source of though is healthy fats, which are just as important as protein. That’s why I can’t figure out why anyone would automatically label peanut butter as “bad.” It doesn’t make sense.
2. How Much You Eat
Now that you know peanut butter is technically more of a fat than a protein, there’s something else you should know: Fats have lots of calories.
So even though peanut butter is a good source of healthy fats, grabbing a spatula and eating half the jar isn’t a great idea.
Remember, you need fats to be healthy. Unless you want to completely mess up your body’s hormone levels and become very unwell, you can’t stop eating them. You just need to be aware of how much fat you take in every day.
And no, you don’t have to count calories or grams to do it.
A simple solution is to gauge how much fat you’re getting in your diet by comparing it to the size of your thumb. With fats specifically (like peanut butter), a serving size is one thumb’s worth.
The number of servings of fat you need in your diet can vary wildly from person to person. (For example, Megan is currently eating around 3 servings per day, and I’m having 10.) If you want to know exactly how much you need to reach your goals, that’s just one of the things we can help you with if you work with us.
In the meantime, when you do enjoy some peanut butter, it might be a good idea to stick to one or 2 servings at the most at any given time.
3. The Kind You Get
Not all peanut butters are created equal.
The more processed a food is, the more “extras” it tends to have in it. And while we’ve already established there aren’t any foods that are inherently bad, the more foods you eat that are processed, the more those “extras” can add up throughout the day.
That’s why we don’t approach healthy eating — or even weight loss — by counting calories.
A very processed jar of peanut butter might have the exact same number of calories as another “natural” brand that’s less processed, but that doesn’t take into consideration whether one has added sugar, oils, etc.
I happen to think it’s an easy thing to swap out for something slightly better without sacrificing taste. But if peanut butter is one of the few processed foods you partake of on a regular basis, it probably doesn’t really matter. It only adds up the more your diet consists of highly processed foods in the first place.
The bottom line is if you like peanut butter (and aren’t allergic to it, obviously) and you can enjoy it in consideration of the above 3 points, there’s no reason why it can’t be part of a healthy diet for you or your family.
Using peanut butter as a way to get protein is a flawed strategy, but that doesn’t make it a “bad” food. Rather, it’s a good source of healthy fats, making it a better choice than a lot of other quick snack options, especially when paired with fruits (which are also a great choice). Just be mindful of how much you eat so you don’t take in too many calories.
Ultimately, there are no “bad” foods, and peanut butter is no exception. As always, it’s more important to consider your diet as a whole rather than any single food item.