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I probably tell people a dozen times a week -- both patients and in lectures - to eat peanut butter. It's great for you and one of the easiest ways to get a serving of legumes, improve your Mediterranean Diet score, be healthier, and save money.
We reviewed peanut butters almost ten years ago and it is past time for some updates. This week we are going to start with the small packets of peanut butter that are available in grocery stores now. I have been using these for some time when I travel and my choice has been somewhat random so we decided to put them to the taste test.
As a side note, I have a lot of folks who complain about not being able to eat healthy when they travel, but this gets to one of the basic precepts to being healthy: planning. There are so many great ways to travel with convenient foods like peanut butter packets that there is simply no reason not to pack some of your food (Bonne Maman even makes cute little packets of preserves). It just takes thinking ahead a bit and realizing that I will be stuck in regional airport with only hot dogs on offer for me to plan ahead by packing a bagel with the packets to make my own PB&J.
We decided that the control peanut butter should be the fresh ground and I stopped by the market and picked up some. In most cases the peanut butter grinders in stores use roasted but unsalted peanuts but you might want to check. In this case the fresh ground had a great peanut flavor with a bit of a grainy texture. It was thicker and, consequently, didn't spread all that easily.
First up was the packet from ProBar brand. This was labeled Organic Peanut Butter Blend and the key word here is "blend." On first bite this tasted very weird. My first thought was that the product is a lot like the energy gels that runners and bicyclists use, and perusing the ingredient list reveals why. It seems strange that the second ingredient in a peanut butter is date paste (in addition to the peanuts they also throw in some coconut oil and sea salt). The result is either gross or it is an acquired taste (one that I won't be acquiring in my peanut butter).
Wow! This stuff is also sweet, cloying and syrupy (and lots of other words from the thesaurus apply here: sickly, saccharine, oversweet, over the top, twee, sappy). It contains only 40 milligrams of sodium in the package. Not outrageous, but it needs some salt to balance the oversweet (did I mention that it was cloying?) flavor of the date paste. Avoid this unless you are starving or running a marathon.
Wait a minute. I just figured it out. It's peanut butter and jelly in a packet except that it tastes nothing like a PB&J. Oh well, time to move on…
Earth Balance offers a product in packets labeled "creamy" and subtitled "natural peanut butter and flaxseed." The good news is they don't use date paste in their product and it is good. It is a super creamy peanut butter with the smoothest texture of any peanut butter I may have ever had. This is likely because it also contains flaxseed, agave syrup, peanut oil, and palm fruit oil. It is super sweet (likely from the high fructose content of the agave syrup) but is not very salty in spite of having the most sodium of any we tested, at 110 milligrams in the packet.
All in all, a good peanut butter but with a manufactured flavor like a major brand such as Jif or Skippy. And it's just too sweet. OK - but not great.
Last was Justin's brand. These folks pioneered the individual peanut butter packet and we tested their "Classic" product. The 1.15 ounce squeeze pack contains only dry roasted peanuts and palm oil and comes in at 190 calories, 25 milligrams of sodium and 2 grams of fiber for the packet. Much like the fresh ground peanut butter, this has a drier, grainier texture, but was full of a great roasted peanut flavor and easier to spread.
A great peanut flavor. In spite of having the least amount of sodium, this actually tasted more salty than the others and the dry roasted peanuts offer a terrific balanced flavor. This should be your go-to carry around peanut butter - it will be mine from this point onward.
Note that all of these are expensive. One packet is in the range of 80 cents to a dollar - you can buy a lot of freshly ground peanut butter for that price.
As I mentioned, we used the fresh ground peanut butter as the control to compare the others with, and the Justin's came the closest in flavor and texture. It was not, however, as good as the fresh ground which was, in a word, terrific, but it's not always practical to carry a tub of fresh ground peanut butter on the road in your purse, briefcase or luggage, so toss in a couple of packets of Justin's before your next trip.
Reviewed: December 16, 2016