Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links and I earn from qualifying purchases. I recommend these products either because I use them or because companies that make them are trustworthy and useful.
Peanut butter has been a quintessential food for generations of kids in the U.S. who love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or after-school snacks like crackers with peanut butter. Although it can be a healthy, delicious part of your kid’s diet, when it comes to choosing a healthy peanut butter, not all are created equal.
Here, learn the health benefits of peanut butter, when to introduce peanut butter to babies, and how to choose a healthy peanut butter, plus some of my favorite brands.
Health Benefits of Peanut Butter
What many people don’t realize is that although “nut” is in their name, and they look and taste similar to other nuts, peanuts are actually legumes, just like lentils and edamame.
Regardless of how you think of them, peanuts and peanut butter have a ton of health benefits.
For starters, they’re packed with protein. With 8 grams of protein in two tablespoons, peanut butter promotes feelings of satiety, satisfies your kid’s hunger and helps to balance blood sugar levels.
Peanut butter also has a decent amount of fiber—nearly 2 grams per 2 tablespoons—which also helps to fend off hunger and can prevent constipation.
It’s also rich in several vitamins and minerals including magnesium (the calming mineral), potassium, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that protects cells from the damage of free radicals.
Although peanut butter does contain saturated fat, it’s also made up mostly of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It’s also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, the healthy fats like those found in fish.
When Can Babies Eat Peanut Butter?
A lot has changed in a few short years and instead of telling parents to avoid peanut butter, experts now say it’s not only safe, but a good idea to introduce it to babies early on.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend parents with babies who don’t have eczema or food allergies “freely” introduce peanut butter (not nuts since they’re a choking hazard) between 4 and 6 months of age.
I recommend however, that before introducing peanut butter and other nut butters to your baby, you read all of the guidelines here and talk to your pediatrician.
Tips For How To Pick A Healthy Peanut Butter
When you’re looking for a healthy peanut butter, it’s important to read labels carefully and know what ingredients to look for and what to avoid.
Choose brands with one or two ingredients
The peanut butter you choose should only contain peanuts (and list it as the first ingredient), and salt, depending on your preference.
Scan labels for oils, sugars and additives
Avoid peanut butter brands that contain hydrogenated oils, palm oils, added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup and fillers.
Also, don’t be fooled by the tubs of peanut butter that are made in-house at the grocery store because although they’re marketed as “natural,” I’ve found these brands to have added oils and sugars as well.
“Reduced-fat” or “low-fat” doesn’t mean healthy
You might think reduced-fat or low-fat peanut butters are a good option, but these brands usually contain added sugars. The full-fat version is fine, just be mindful of portion sizes.
Take stock of the sodium
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90 percent of kids get too much sodium in their diets every day. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which about 3.5 percent of kids already have, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease and vision loss, among other health conditions. So even if your kids don’t have high blood pressure now, if they continue to eat too much sodium, there’s a good chance they will in the future.
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend the following limits for daily sodium intake:
- Ages 1-3: 1,500 mg
- Ages 4-8: 1,900 mg
- Ages 9-13: 2,200 mg
- Ages 14+: 2,300 mg
When looking for a healthy peanut butter, take into consideration your child’s overall diet and how much sodium they’re already consuming, and consider purchasing a brand that’s low in sodium or sodium-free.
Healthy Peanut Butter For Kids: My Favorite Brands
Here are some of my favorite brands of peanut butter but a word of caution: always read labels carefully because some varieties of the same brand contain palm oil and other additives, for example.