What to look for—and what to avoid. 

By Arielle Tschinkel
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When it comes to getting nutritional bang for your buck, there’s no denying the appeal of good old peanut butter. Sure, you likely loved it as a kid at snack time (or smeared onto a sandwich with jelly for lunch) but the quintessential nut butter is actually a great choice as an adult, too, providing a major punch of protein, healthy fats, and fiber.

But not all peanut butter is created equal—in fact, plenty of the jars you’ll find on grocery store shelves are loaded with unnecessary oils and sugars, driving up the calorie count and making them more of a dessert than a healthy snack option. So how do you distinguish one from the other? 

The best method is to look at the ingredient list. If you see hydrogenated oils or palm oils, it means your peanut butter also contains unhealthy trans fats and saturated fats. In fact, the jar should only have one ingredient: roasted peanuts. (The only exception to this is a small amount of salt). You can opt for powdered options, such as PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter, though plenty of die-hard fans prefer the creaminess of standard nut butters. Be wary of terms like “natural,” which tends to be a marketing gimmick. Our all-time favorite is Santa Cruz Organic Dark Roasted Creamy Peanut Butter, which gets its flavor from roasted peanuts, a touch of salt, and nothing else. 

Plenty of low-fat peanut butters are filled with added sugars, so be mindful of this when choosing “reduced-fat” or “fat-free” nut butters. The bottom line: check the label, look for "roasted peanuts" as the first and only ingredient, and you’re bound to find an option that meets your dietary needs and satisfy your taste buds. Of course, you can always make it yourself, which guarantees you know exactly what's inside.