Nutella is a wildly popular dessert spread.
In fact, it’s so popular that the Nutella website claims you could circle the earth 1.8 times with the jars of Nutella that are produced in just one year.
From Nutella-inspired cocktails to Nutella-flavored ice cream, this chocolatey confection has popped up on restaurant menus around the world and is a kitchen staple for many.
While Nutella is undoubtedly delicious, many people think it’s healthy because it contains hazelnuts, and some even use it as a substitute for nut butters.
This article takes a look at the nutritional value and ingredients of Nutella to discover if it can be part of a healthy diet.
What Is Nutella?
Nutella is a sweetened hazelnut cocoa spread made by Ferrero, an Italian company that's the third-largest chocolate producer in the world.
It was originally created in Italy during World War II when baker Pietro Ferrero added ground hazelnuts to a chocolate spread to make up for a shortage of cocoa in the country.
Today, people around the world consume Nutella, and it continues to grow in popularity.
This chocolate and hazelnut spread is consumed in many ways and commonly used as a topping for breakfast toast, pancakes and waffles.
Although Nutella is currently classified as a dessert topping, Ferrero has been pushing to have the spread reclassified as a breakfast topping, similar to jam.
This change may not seem important, but it could have a major impact on how consumers perceive its nutritional value.
This change in classification would cut the serving size required on Nutella’s nutrition label from 2 tablespoons (37 grams) to 1 tablespoon (18.5 grams).
If this happens, customers who don’t read the nutrition information carefully may perceive that Nutella is relatively low in calories, sugar and fat, when these numbers would be low due to the small serving size.
Nutella commercials focus on advertising the spread as a quick and healthy option for breakfast, especially for children. However, due to its high amount of sugar, it may not be the best way to start your day.
Summary Nutella is a sweetened hazelnut cocoa spread that is popularly consumed in breakfasts and desserts around the world.
Ingredients and Nutrition
Ferrero takes pride in the simple components that make up Nutella.
For example, the company has made an effort to use more sustainable ingredients, including certified sustainable palm oil and cocoa.
Nutella contains the following ingredients:
- Sugar: Either beet or refined cane sugar, depending upon where it’s produced. Sugar is its largest component.
- Palm oil: A type of vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree. Palm oil gives the product its trademark creamy texture and spreadability.
- Hazelnuts: 100% pure hazelnut paste. Each jar contains the equivalent of around 50 of these sweet nuts.
- Cocoa: The majority of the cocoa beans used in Nutella come from Western Africa. They are processed into a fine powder and mixed with the other ingredients to give a chocolatey taste.
- Skimmed milk powder: Made by removing water from pasteurized non-fat milk. Powdered milk has a much longer shelf life than regular milk and does not need to be refrigerated.
- Soy lecithin: Soy lecithin is an emulsifier, meaning it helps keep ingredients from separating, maintaining the spread's smooth and uniform texture. It’s a fatty substance derived from soybeans and a common food additive.
- Vanillin: A flavor component found naturally in vanilla bean extract. Nutella contains a synthetic form of vanillin.
While Nutella is advertised as a hazelnut spread, sugar is listed first on the ingredient label. This is because sugar is its primary ingredient, comprising 57% of its weight.
Two tablespoons (37 grams) of Nutella contain (1):
- Calories: 200
- Fat: 12 grams
- Sugar: 21 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Calcium: 4% of the RDI
- Iron: 4% the RDI
Although Nutella contains a small amount of calcium and iron, it’s not very nutritious and high in sugar, calories and fat.
Summary Nutella contains sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, milk powder, lecithin and synthetic vanillin. It is high in calories, sugar and fat.
Is Nutella Healthy?
Nutella is often advertised as a quick and simple way to make a tasty, kid-friendly breakfast.
Commercials highlight its “simple” and “quality” ingredients, such as hazelnuts and skim milk, but never mention the ingredients that make up the majority of the spread — sugar and fat.
While there is no question that Nutella tastes good, it should not be considered a healthy ingredient.
Loaded With Sugar
Sugar is the main component of Nutella, giving the spread its sweet taste.
A 2-tablespoon (37-gram) serving contains 21 grams of sugar, or about 5 teaspoons.
Shockingly, a serving of Nutella contains more sugar than the same serving size of Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate Rich & Creamy Frosting, which contains 17 grams of sugar (2).
Limiting foods high in added sugar is critical for your health.
In fact, the American Heart Association recommends that women and children consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day, while men should limit their intake to 9 teaspoons (38 grams) (3).
Using this rule, a woman or child would be close to their added sugar limit for the entire day after consuming just 2 tablespoons (37 grams) of Nutella.
Consuming too much added sugar has been linked to a variety of chronic diseases and conditions, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, cognitive decline and even some types of cancers, including esophageal cancer (4, 5).
Plus, added sugar may be one of the driving factors behind the surge in childhood obesity (6).
For these reasons, foods with high amounts of added sugar, such as Nutella, should be kept to a minimum.
High in Fat and Calories
Though the recommended serving size is small, 2 tablespoons (37 grams) of Nutella still pack in 200 calories.
Since Nutella is sweet and creamy, it may be hard for some people to stick to the serving size, making it easy to consume an excessive number of calories from Nutella.
Eating one or two servings of it every day could lead to weight gain over time, especially for a child.
What makes Nutella so calorie-dense is the high amount of fat it contains. After sugar, palm oil is the second most abundant ingredient in Nutella.
While fats are beneficial to health in many ways, consuming too much fat can lead to weight gain.
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers (7).
It Is More “Natural” Than Some Similar Products
Ferrero advertises Nutella as a product containing simple, quality ingredients.
While it does contain vanillin, a synthetic form of vanilla flavoring, the rest of its ingredients are natural.
One could argue that the limited ingredients found in Nutella make it a better option than other more processed dessert spreads.
For example, Nutella contains far fewer ingredients than most icings and frostings.
This may make Nutella more attractive to shoppers who are trying to avoid products made with lots of artificial or highly processed ingredients.
Summary Nutella is high in calories, sugar and fat, all of which could cause health problems over time if consumed in high amounts. It does contain more natural ingredients than some similar products, which may be attractive to consumers.
Don’t Use It as a Substitute for Nut Butter
Nutella is associated with nut butters because it is often referred to as a hazelnut spread.
Although Nutella does contain a small amount of hazelnut paste, it should not be used as a nut butter substitute.
Nut butters, including peanut butter, almond butter and cashew butter, are also high in calories and fat. However, natural nut butters offer far more nutritional benefits than Nutella.
While some nut butters do contain oils and added sugars, natural nut butters only contain nuts and sometimes salt.
For example, a 2-tablespoon (32-gram) serving of natural almond butter contains (8):
- Calories: 200
- Fat: 19 grams
- Protein: 5 grams
- Sugars: Less than 1 gram
- Manganese: 38% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 24% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 16% of the RDI
- Copper: 14% of the RDI
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): 12% of the RDI
- Calcium: 8% of the RDI
- Folate: 6% of the RDI
- Iron: 6% of the RDI
- Potassium: 6% of the RDI
- Zinc: 6% of the RDI
As you can see, natural almond butter provides many important nutrients that the body needs to function and thrive.
What’s more, most natural nut butters contain less than 1 gram of sugar per serving, which is a major difference from the 5 teaspoons (21 grams) of sugar found in one serving of Nutella.
Compared to Nutella, natural nut butters are a much healthier choice.
Summary Natural nut butters are much more nutritious than Nutella, providing more protein, less sugar and lots of important nutrients.
Should You Eat Nutella?
Like any high-sugar food, Nutella should be viewed as a treat. The problem is that people often use it more as a breakfast spread than as a dessert.
Consuming Nutella every day will increase the amount of added sugar in your diet, and most people already consume much more added sugar than is recommended.
You should limit the amount of sugar in your diet whenever possible by eating less sugary foods and reducing the amount of sweetened drinks in your diet.
Although Nutella is marketed as a breakfast food, the smartest way to use it is in moderation as a dessert spread.
If you are a fan of Nutella, it’s okay to enjoy a small amount of it from time to time.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that it makes a healthy addition to your diet or your child’s toast or sandwich, no matter what advertisements may suggest.
Summary Because Nutella is high in sugar and calories, it should be used more as a dessert than as a breakfast spread. If you eat it, eat it in moderation.
The Bottom Line
Nutella’s delicious combination of chocolate and hazelnut can be too good to resist.
However, it’s important to know that Nutella contains high amounts of added sugar, fat and calories.
While it may be tempting to add Nutella to your daily breakfast, it’s best to consider this chocolatey spread a dessert. As with other high-sugar products, make sure to moderate your intake.