Peanut butter has been a quintessential food for generations of kids in the U.S. who love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or 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. For example, some have oils, added sugars, high levels of sodium, and nasty additives your kid can do without.
In this post, you’ll learn:
- The health benefits of peanut butter
- When can babies eat peanut butter?
- How to pick a healthy peanut butter + best peanut butter brands for kids.
IS PEANUT BUTTER GOOD FOR YOU?
What many people don’t realize is that although “nut” is in the 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, however, 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.
In April 2019, the AAP also published a clinical report which includes research that that further supports the recommendation to introduce peanut-based foods to infants to prevent peanut allergies.
The evidence in the report also found that restricting your diet during pregnancy or while breastfeeding doesn’t prevent peanut allergies.
IS PEANUT BUTTER PLANT-BASED?
If you follow a whole foods, plant-based diet or you’re looking to get more plant-based foods in your child’s diet, peanut butter is a great option.
In July 2020, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released a scientific report in which they recommend Americans should focus on consuming plant-based foods and following plant-based diets for optimal health.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will use the report to develop the new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
IS PEANUT BUTTER DAIRY-FREE?
If your child has a dairy allergy or you’re trying to avoid dairy, peanut butter is dairy-free.
If you’re vegan, most types of peanut butter are free of animal products, but some that contain honey or have omega-3 fatty acids, which are derived from fish, are not vegan.
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 which ingredients to look for and which 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 often have added oils and sugars too.
“Reduced-fat” or “low-fat” doesn’t mean healthy
You might think a reduced-fat or low-fat peanut butter is a good option, but these brands usually contain added sugars.
The full-fat version is fine, but 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, their risk is higher when they’re older.
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.
BEST PEANUT BUTTER FOR BABIES AND 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.
1. Santa Cruz Organic
With no hydrogenated oils and no artificial ingredients, Santa Cruz Organic peanut butter is one of the best peanut butter brands for babies and kids. There are 7 varieties but avoid the No-Stir varieties which contain palm oil.
2. Stonewall Kitchen
A leading specialty food producer in York, Maine for more than 20 years, Stonewall Kitchen is known for its jams. But their peanut butters—available in creamy and crunchy have just two ingredients (peanuts and salt) and are a great option for babies and kids.
3. Smucker’s Natural Creamy
Smucker’s Natural Creamy peanut butter is my go-to peanut butter. We spread it on toast, pair it with sliced apples, and incorporate it into homemade cookies and bars. Made with peanuts and 1% or less salt, it’s a great option for your family.
4. MaraNatha Organic Peanut Butter
With an ultra-smooth texture, MaraNatha Organic Peanut Butter in creamy and crunchy varieties are healthy peanut butters for babies and kids. The company has other varieties but they contain palm oil or added sugars so it’s best to avoid those.
5. Teddie Organic All Natural and All Natural
6. Crazy Richard’s 100% Peanuts All Natural
Crazy Richard’s is my other go-to peanut butter because it’s made with only peanuts and nothing else. Available in both creamy and crunchy varieties, they also have almond butter, cashew butter, and peanut powder.
7. Trader Joe’s Creamy No Salt Organic Peanut Butter
If you’re a Trader Joe’s shopper, pick up their Creamy No Salt Organic Peanut Butter which is made with one ingredient: Valencia peanuts.
8. Once Again Peanut Butter
Once Again is another great option peanut butter for babies and kids. Stick with their organic or natural varieties (in creamy or crunchy) which are unsweetened, have no salt, and are made only with peanuts.
9. 365 Everyday Value Organic Peanut Butter (unsweetened and no salt)
Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value Organic Creamy Peanut Butter (unsweetened and no salt) has no oils, sweeteners, or additives and is surprisingly more affordable than other organic brands.
10. Adams Peanut Butter
Adams brand has several varieties of peanut butter but stick with their organic or naturally unsalted in either creamy or crunchy varieties which are made with only peanuts.