Alternatives to PB&J

Of all the nut butters, you’re probably most familiar with peanut butter. It won you over when it first showed up in your lunch box in all its gooey glory. From school cafeteria to corner office, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a lunchtime staple that never loses its appeal.

However, there are a plethora of nut butters to choose from. Nut butters made from cashews, almonds, macadamia nuts, and more are available in your local grocery store and farmer’s market.

Read on to learn about other nut butters to try if you have peanut allergies, or just want some lunchtime variety.

Nut allergies — especially to peanuts — are increasingly common. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), the reported number of peanut allergy cases increased more than three-fold between 1997 and 2008.

Peanut allergies can be dangerous. The ACAAI reports that this is one of the food allergens most commonly associated with sudden and severe reactions, such as life-threatening anaphylaxis.

Fortunately, there are many nut and seed butter alternatives that will keep your sandwich tasty and your allergies at bay.

If peanuts are the only nuts that trigger an allergic reaction for you, you can try alternate nut butters — but talk to your doctor first. If you have a peanut allergy, you may also have allergies to tree nuts like almonds, cashews, or hazelnuts.

If you’re not allergic to tree nuts, you can choose from a variety of heart-healthy nut butters. A wide range of nut butters provide numerous health benefits. Check your local grocery or health food store for nut butters made from:

  • almonds
  • cashews
  • macadamias
  • walnuts
  • hazelnuts

Nut butters contain a number of important nutrients, including:

  • protein
  • healthy fats
  • fiber
  • vitamins and minerals
  • phytochemicals

The specific nutrients in nut butter vary depending on the type of nut, but all nuts are good sources of healthy fats. The Mayo Clinic reports that nuts help improve cholesterol levels. A serving of nut butter is a great source of valuable nutrients.

Not all nut butters have healthful ingredients. Many brands contain only ground-up nuts, but some include added salt and sugar. Some use partially hydrogenated oil — a source of unhealthy trans fats, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Be sure to check the label before selecting a nut butter.

While nuts are fantastic sources of nutritious vitamins and minerals, they’re also high in calories. If you eat a lot of nuts or nut butters, cut back on calories in other areas. The American Heart Association notes that a healthy daily serving is just a handful of nuts.

Don’t let fear of fat keep you away from trying nut butters, however.

If your allergies force you to keep your distance from all nuts, seed and soy nut butters are excellent alternatives. Sunflower seed butter is high in heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats. Soy nut butter (which tastes similar to peanut butter) is higher in protein and lower in fat than the average nut butter. You may also try tahini, sesame seed paste, which has the consistency of nut butter and is also very nutritious while being nut-free.

If you have severe nut allergies, ask your doctor to test for potential soy or seed intolerances before trying these options.

If you have a family history of nut allergies, play it safe. It’s important to check with your doctor if you or your child has even a minor allergic reaction to nuts. A mild past reaction indicates the possibility of a severe future reaction.

If you have a specific nut allergy, talk to your doctor about eating an alternative nut butter. It’s possible that you can use an alternative nut butter in your favorite recipes. So fix yourself a nut butter and jelly sandwich, pour a tall glass of milk, and enjoy this favorite childhood snack!