My 3 month quest for a peanut butter substitute

a quick reminder that tomorrow is Group Therapy Day for the Hate-Loss Challenge.  If possible, please post your weekly update and leave the link to your post in my comments section so that others can find you.  Thanks.

Next to chocolate, the third love of my life is peanut butter (my husband is grateful that he’s still first in that lineup); actually, nut butters in general bring me to my knees.  I love them all and could easily wreck a jar in short order.  It is for this reason alone that I began a quest a few months back to search for an alternative to peanut butter.   In my perfect utopia, I hoped to come across something that had three qualities:

  1. it had to taste similar to peanut butter
  2. it had to have the same texture as peanut butter
  3. it had to have a calorie count significantly lower than peanut butter. 

Believe it or not, I found three different products that attempted to fit those requirements.  The first was called Better N’ Peanut Butter.  I was so excited when I found this at my local Super Target. One hundred calories for 2 tablespoons.  As soon as I got home, I tossed my groceries onto the counter and fished out the jar.  It sure looked like peanut butter, and it had the consistency of it, too.  But the taste?  Blech!

Now, there are die hard Better N’ Peanut Butter lovers out there who will tell you this stuff is fantastic; I believe it is an acquired taste. It does have the texture of peanut butter and therefore gives the illusion that you’re eating peanut butter, but I don’t think it tastes anything remotely similar to peanut butter. I tried to like it. I wanted to like it. I choked down about 1/2 a jar over a 30 day period using breads, crackers and jam to help mask the taste and I just couldn’t get over that uniquely overly sweet ‘nothing-like-peanut-butter’ flavor. This product got a big fat thumbs down from me.

Not too long after that fiasco I found – now, get this: powdered peanut butter. It’s called PB2 and comes from Bell Plantation.  I could not locate this in any of my local stores but was able to purchase it online. The nutritional stats couldn’t be beat: 45 calories for 2 tablespoons?  With stats like that, how could I not try it?  What you do is measure out two level tablespoons and then mix it with water. You are in charge of  the consistency, depending on how much you add.  I had my husband sit down with me to try it.  He is an avid peanut butter lover and was pretty hesitant but he was a trooper.  However, after one small bite he looked like a 4 year old eating his first bite of brussel sprout.  I on the other hand actually found it a lot more pleasing than Better N’ Peanut Butter so that was a good sign.  I spread it onto a cracker and it tasted…OK.  Not great.  Just OK.

Fast forward another few weeks when I heard about FitNutz.  This is also in powdered form. I was hesitant about trying another powdered peanut butter because I assumed the taste would be too similar. Powdered is powdered, right? I mean, what more can be done? Still, I forged ahead and bought some online. The nutritional stats on this brand is also impressive: 50 calories for 2 tablespoons. The ingredients are: peanut powder, sugar, salt.  The directions are pretty much the same: measure, mix with water to your desired consistency, taste, make a yucky face, be disappointed.  Right?

Not so on this one.  It tasted the most similar to peanut butter of the three and  didn’t have a weird aftertaste; it tasted even better when I added just a bit of honey to the mixture. 

For those of you who gladly and luckily eat the real deal with no guilt, this post probably just wasted your time, but thanks for sticking it out this far.  However, for those of you who are on Weight Watchers or who just want more control over your calorie intake, this might be an alternative to consider. 

FitNutz in my opinion tasted the best out of the three that I tried. I personally found that by mixing it with other things the more it tasted like real peanut butter. For example, adding honey to it, mixing it into protein shakes, using it in recipes, Greek yogurt, oatmeal or whatever else you can think of. 

While I would still prefer nut butters over these any day of the week, I can’t help but admire the versatility of powdered peanut butter and I’m glad that there are options out there for those of us who have trouble with certain trigger foods. 

Has anyone has ever tried any of the above products? I’d love to hear your opinion.   For the rest of you, what do you do if you tend to love a food ‘too much?’  Do you search for a substitute or do you refrain from eating it all together?  

54 thoughts on “My 3 month quest for a peanut butter substitute

  1. Sharon

    Fortunately, peanut or any other kind of nut butter is NOT one of my trigger foods, so I am able to have it in the house and enjoy in proper portions.

    However, I do have a few trigger foods which I have identified, tried over time to re-introduce in appropriate portions and have finally determined that these are things I am (and forever will be) addicted to and they just can’t be around (EVER!!) They are 1)Triscuits, 2)Chips of any kind and 3)microwave kettle popcorn. I’m about to be forced to add almonds to that list because they are giving me a hard time right now!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Thank you for sharing, Sharon~I don’t know many people IRL who is willing to share these kinds of behaviors, so it’s nice to get a different perspective. I’ve heard people say that ‘eventually’ when in recovery for a food addiction that one should be able to eat ideal portions without overindulging, but I for one don’t think I’ll ever get there. It’s been 5 years for me and I still have a really hard time with some foods. Good luck with the almonds…..that could be me, too! (more nuts!!)

      Reply
  2. vickie

    I avoid peanut butter in general. just not whole foods enough for me. I eat portions of raw nuts instead (walnuts mostly).

    we did try pb2 for the girls as a means of getting more protein in them.

    middle who is very picky DID LIKE the chocolate pb2 on bananas.
    youngest who is not picky, could not stand it.
    I could not stand it.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      so there IS someone out there who has tried it! It is definitely an acquired taste, that’s for sure. I have heard that cyclists love it for the protein factor and it’s easy to carry along with them. I still have a whole jar in my cupboard. Eventually I’ll finish it; thank goodness for the shelf life.

      Reply
  3. Karen

    I love, love, love PB. You probably have not been reading my blog long enough to know that my love turned into something rather like obsession. Several months ago I threw out my last jar thanks to a blog comment that came at the right moment and I have gone without ever since. The craving is long gone. I don’t know if I can try again and eat it in moderation or not.

    That said, I did hear great things about that PB2 but when I researched it online found they added sugar. I prefer mine without. I’ll have to check out that one you liked, just in case I try again.

    LOVE it!!!!! Thanks for this post.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I must not have been introduced to your blog at that time, Karen. I certainly would have remembered it because I would have been like, ‘That’s ME!’
      FitNutz actually has a sugar free version of their powdered peanut butter. I do not know how that one tastes however, but it is out there if you decide to try it.

      Reply
    2. vickie

      I don’t think anyone, anywhere could eat pb2 without the added sugar. most of us can’t eat it even with the added sugar. but I totally agree – I avoid anything with added sugar.

      Reply
  4. Michele @ Healthy Cultivations

    Any kind of nut butter is a serious thing for me. I keep buying it, telling myself it’s healthy fats — true. But I eat more than I’d like, though it’s fine so long as the rest of my daily calories are reasonable. Anyway, I’ve not heard of FitNutz and look forward to giving it a try.

    One of the things I’ve been reading lately is people using TJ’s peanut flour to create a peanut paste… high in protein, no fat, and about 60 calories for two tablespoons. They say it’s decent… I’ll try it at some point and let you know.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Ooh…..that peaked my interest. Please do let me know, Michele. I should have stayed longer at TJ’s and talked with all of the hippy workers there more than I did…..they probably could have steered me to a lot of unknown goodies like that!

      Reply
  5. Kristen

    OMG did you hit home! I have not internet at home, something to do with the snow I am sure, but last night i wrote a yet to be publish blog entry about my additction to PB. Its is my weakness the only thing different from me to you is that I think Chocalote and peanut butter are tied for 2nd place!! I will have to try these ideas because peanut butter is killing my efforts.

    I hope to back online soon! glad to know i am not alone.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I know exactly what you mean, Kristen. That’s why Reese’s PB Cups are forever my enemy! The substitutes are not as good as the real thing, but they will do if you have to cut out peanut butter for reasons like mine…..you’re definitely not alone on this one!

      Reply
  6. Amanda

    I tried the PB2 stuff and I thought it was just okay as well. I could eat it. I thought the chocolate was definitely better. I dipped apples in it and it was actually pretty yummy. Definitely an acquired taste though. I still have some in my pantry that has been there for months!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I’m with you, Amanda. The chocolate was better (I got a sample of that flavor). I have a full jar in my cupboard, too! The FitNutz is better but nothing comes close to the real thing. Thank you for your comment and for reading today :)

      Reply
  7. Susan@Home Workouts

    Fat you consume is only stored as fat if there is an abundance of insulin present in your bloodstream. Bottom line: cut out the crappy, refined and processed carbs and you can eat all the peanut butter you want (that’s an exaggeration, but you can still enjoy it). That’s the thing about WW I loathe, is it teaches you to find horrible substitutes with low fat and high crap content for decent food you love (as long as it’s natural) instead of teaching you what NOT to eat.

    WW falls very short on proper nutrition education. It’s not always about calories.

    Reply
    1. Amalfi Girl (EatRunHaveFun!)

      Actually, you should probably check out PointsPlus, the new WW system where they actually heard all of those complaints and completely re-wrote the points system to make healthy foods lower points and crappy processed foods (like 100 calorie packs) more points. Just FYI–your comment was accurate for pre-PointsPlus weight watchers, but isn’t really accurate now.

      Reply
    2. Ellen Post author

      Hi, Susan~
      My issue, being a food addict is that I still find myself struggling with having to cut out all of the foods that caused me to gain weight in the first place. Even though I’ve been able to maintain for years, every day is a struggle. Granted I have some days that are worse than others. My body tends to go into hyper-mode when I eat one of my trigger foods. I’m truly still working on balance and I think that’s key. Thanks for reading today.

      Reply
  8. Joy

    Not a huge fan of PB, like it some times with apples. My problem is sweets! Any kind…It’s funny I can stay away from chocolate and candies with substance, but give me a gummy candy or a clear hard candy and for some reason I think these are OK. Oh my wonderful mind… (You know I just realized this crazy way of thinking….I did not know until this minute how I really thought about this….I may have a break through coming on sweets…for a 221 pound women…they are not OK…any of them….) Woo hoo for me!!!

    Keep focused!!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I hear you, Joy. I remember as a kid passing a penny candy store on my way home from school and I stopped by there every day. I thought about it while in school every day, too (actually it was the best part about my day!)
      Thanks for reading today, and as always, for your comment…hope you’re feeling better these days :)

      Reply
  9. Amalfi Girl (EatRunHaveFun!)

    I am so happy you did this post! I used to be one of those who ate PB with abandon, but now on WW I limit myself to 1 T at a time. Boo! I have tried Better ‘n Butter and while I love it mixed into sauces (like my cold sesame noodle recipe) and shakes (since I typically add splenda to shakes anyway, the super-sugary factor doesn’t mess with it too much), by itself I think you have it nailed. I am so excited to try the powdered stuff in my oatmeal! I NEVER would have tried it without the recommendation, so thanks!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Ugh! One tablespoon alone is like eating one noodle from a bowl full of pasta :( You know, I never considered using Better N’ Peanut Butter in asian sauce – I bet that actually would have been good instead of me using it plain all of the time (shudder to even think about that now)….yet another reason why you are my official go-to gal…our culinary tastes are so incredibly similar. There’s nothing you don’t present that I don’t want to try.
      btw, I think FitNutz has samples that you can buy so you don’t have to put in a lot of money…..sadly they don’t offer it on Amazon, though.

      Reply
  10. vickie

    I do love your automatic email alert when you respond to our comments on your blog. I think it is lovely. I do not tend to read comments nor come back to check, so your feed means I do see when you are responded to me. And I think it is great you have it set up automatically so it is an efficient use of your time.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I’m so glad, Vickie. I wish all blog platforms carried this as an automatic plugin. I have a hard time remembering where it was that I asked X question at which blog and then I either have to remember or I never get back and the blogger has asked me a question that I never saw……well, you get the point.

      Reply
  11. Karen Ogle

    I have been hearing about PB2 for a long time now but have never gotten around to ordering any. I think it has to be ordered directly from Bell Plantation. Only recently hear about the Fitnutz. It sounds more readily available. I love peanut butter but just wrote it off because of the fat content. However, it would be good to have the option of adding it to recipes etc. Thanks for sharing your reviews with us. I will be checking out the Fitnutz soon.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Hi, Karen~
      PB2 can be ordered on Amazon, but FitNutz has to be ordered directly from the company. I think it is a good alternative if you use it in recipes. I’d like to try it for peanut butter cookies….I wonder how that would taste.

      Reply
  12. NewMe

    I adore peanut butter. Fortunately, the last time I went overboard with it was…probably over 30 years ago. I did cut it out of my life totally for a little while but now it’s back and not giving me any trouble.

    I’m a really big believer in learning to eat “the real thing” in reasonable portions, no matter what the food, so when it comes to peanut butter, the first thing to do is get rid of the stuff that has added sugar and salt–which is most of the PB found in stores today. Kraft makes a pretty decent no sugar/no salt PB and of course, health food stores have all kinds of “natural” brands. It takes a little while to get used to actual PB (without the added sodium and calories from sugar), but it’s well worth it.

    If I may be so bold as to hypothesize: perhaps the added sugar and sodium are the real culprits when it comes to triggers and it might be easier not to pig out on real, untainted PB. Just a thought.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Oh, I wish that were my problem. I actually prefer the natural peanut butter – especially the kind that you have to stir and is super thick. Still no luck. But I appreciate the thought :)

      Reply
  13. roxie

    Along with Beatles or Stones and Cake or Pie, Abstainer versus Moderator ranks right up there as one of life’s big questions. I do much better as an abstainer than a moderator, so I just leave the peanut butter and all it’s substitutes sitting on the store shelves. The only exception is for Justin’s Nut Butters that I can by in single servings and take with me on longish bike rides.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I have never tried Justin’s but have heard rave reviews on it. Maybe that’s what I should do: get it in single serving sizes and then hike to a remote location. That isn’t a half bad thought, actually……

      Reply
  14. Julie Lost and Found

    Wow..I’ve never heard of any of these! Peanut butter is not a trigger food for me either, but I AM finding that the Justin’s Maple Almond butter I’ve recently tried *could* become one. I have purchased some in individual packs but that gets pricey. I am careful to measure it.

    I might just have to try one of the above! Thanks for the reviews. I wish I had another suggestion for you. Unfortunately, I don’t. I just am trying to stick with the all natural nut butters.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      The all natural nut butters are by far the best. I don’t like the ones that we used to eat as kids. The thing is, I know they are good for me but I just can’t seem to incorporate the ‘eating in moderation’ part. I think that part of my brain is broken.

      Reply
  15. Jenn @ Cooking Aweigh the Pounds

    I used to have a huge problem with peanut butter. My son was a pb&j kinda kid so we’d have those giant tubs of Jiff in the pantry at all times. It was too easy for me to take a serving spoon to it whenever I wanted. So we switched to the crunchy version and now we’re all happy. The crunchy stuff is not a temptation at all! I have my small jars of cashew and almond butter, but they are not sweet enough for me to go at with a spoon so now my nut butter additions are under control. I tend to agree with NewMe. I do believe that all the sugars was what I was craving and not the actual nut butter.

    I have tried the Better Than Peanut Butter and PB2 and was not impressed either. I had to throw the Better Than Peanut Butter away and the PB2 still sits in the pantry with only 1 scoop taken out. I figure that now I can have nut butters in “normal” quantities, why not have the real thing?

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Jenn, you have it figured out and I’m so jealous. I wish I could eat certain things in moderation. I probably could with excruciating effort.
      So many people who have commented or emailed have said that they have PB2 sitting in their cupboards uneaten…..I wish there was something good that could be done with them. I still think recipes are probably the only option, though. It just doesn’t taste anything like the real thing and that’s what people like me crave.
      Thanks for reading today and for the comment.

      Reply
  16. Sasha

    I very much enjoy Trader Joe’s nut butters, specifically their almond butter with flaxseed. I haven’t bought it in awhile but that’s only because I keep forgetting to buy it when I go there. I usually like it on a banana or a piece of apple. I don’t care as much about the calories as I do about what’s in it and TJs nut butters tend to be very straight forward. I don’t think there’s any food I can love too much. I adore food, all kinds of food! My last vestige of junky food love is pizza so after I turned into Miss Whole Foods, I just made a vow to myself to not eat it as often and if I do, I will eat it at mom and pop type places or make it myself at home. I eat pizza about once every two or three months so I don’t think I’m committing any major crime against my way of eating.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I think pizza at home is the only way to go. It tastes so much better and I know exactly what is in it instead of guessing. Plus, I actually enjoy putting Morningstar Farms crumbles on mine and there isn’t a place on earth that would list that as an optional ingredient. I’m still looking for a good, healthy crust recipe, though. I’ve found a couple that I use but their just so-so.

      Reply
  17. Cammy@TippyToeDiet

    I’ve tried the PB2 and the chocolate PB2. In fact, I still have a few jars on the shelves. About the only way I like it is stirred into oatmeal or a smoothie, but I usually use the real stuff when I’m working out regularly.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      The real stuff is definitely the way to go, I agree. And now that there are about a bazillion different nut butters out there (no more choosing between Jif and Peter Pan like when we were kids)….which is a GOOD thing, but man – too good!!

      Reply
  18. Grace

    I’ve tried “Better n Peanut Butter” and it was just okay. I think I went through 2 jars (of normal portions, not all at once…lol) before I got tired of it. And I really like crunchy PB, so none of the ones you’ve mentioned work for me. I’ve ended up just using regular (non-hydrogenated) PB, like Adams. And I actually use a measuring spoon to make sure I only eat 1 or 2 tablespoons. It’s amazing how a tablespoon can be so many different amounts if you don’t measure it out. Truth be told, if I leave it to my own twisted sense of quantity, a tablespoon is more like an 1/8 of a cup. lol

    Glad you’ve found something that satisfies that PB urge!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Oh, I’m with you on that one. I can easily convince myself that I’ve had ‘just a smidge’ of something when in actuality I’ve eaten 2 or 3 servings. I need to get better with mindful eating. I’m like this with cereal, too. I eat out of the box and think that just because I’m eating one piece at a time, it doesn’t add up to anything. Wrong!

      Reply
      1. NewMe

        Ellen,

        It would be so awesome to have lots and lots of women getting together and re-learning to eat. I know it’s a crazy image, but imagine, if you will, hundreds of women sitting together and eating a regular meal that includes all the foods they fear: cheese, bread, butter, red meat, wine, chocolate plus lovely salads, steamed veggies and fresh fruit.

        Just sitting and eating, without fear, without gorging, just til they were full, no more, no less. Talking, enjoying themselves, laughing, crying…

        It would be so beautiful.

        Reply
        1. Ellen Post author

          I couldn’t agree with you more, and I think that it can be achieved with hard work and a lot of introspection. Mainly, figuring out the whys of how people like me became heavy in the first place and then working on healing from the inside out. I am working on this right now and although it isn’t easy, it’s definitely worth it.

          Reply
  19. Leslie

    I have seen LOTS of food bloggers who swear by PB2 in their morning oatmeal (if that’s something you eat) usually some variant of Kath’s overnight oats with PB2 and bananas or PB2 and a few dark chocolate chips.

    Reese’s cups = the Devil

    Reply
  20. Tim

    When I went to America to stay with friends in Boston, they offered me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I just couldn’t understand a) why jelly was put in a sandwich and b) why peanut butter and jelly were combined. They then told me that jelly in the US is jam and jelly in the UK is Jello in the US. I gotta be honest, it still sounds wrong! LOL

    Another thing I noticed in America was the amount of peanut butter chocolate bars there are out there. I’ve never seen anything like it in England before. I think one of them, which has now appeared over here, is called Reeces (i think).

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Tim, I have to make sure that I understand what you are saying: NO chocolate covered peanut butter bars in England? Seriously? Reese’s has been around here since I was a kid (back when I had a pet dinosaur) and is very, very addictive. Do yourself a favor and STAY AWAY! Everyone here will tell you that Reese’s is evil, evil stuff.
      As far as the peanut butter and jam…I never understood that; can’t stand the two mixed together – yuk!

      Reply
  21. Will

    Hey Ellen! I, like you, have a peanut butter addiction. Luckily, I have not gained weight from it, seeing as I run half marathons often, but I have been known to eat a whole jar in one sitting (with just a spoon)! I have tried all the above mentioned products you tested and I have found that If I mix some of the peanut butter powder with the Better than Peanut butter jar (just enough to taste) it decreases the sweetness and increase the peanut butter flavor. It also makes it a bit thicker, therefore it takes longer to eat. I hope this helps and love the post!

    ~Will

    Reply
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  23. suzanne

    I really like pb2 lately i’ve mixed it with cocoa a little hot water (had just made tea) and a bit of sweetener. On a bagel with sliced banana on top is yummo :) And yes I still like real peanut butter as well.

    Reply
  24. Ellen Post author

    So funny that you commented about this post today of all days, because just this afternoon I found the BEST peanut butter substitute recipe ever! My search is over, Suzanne! Believe it or not, chickpeas! I’m posting about it later this week. Thank you for your comment :)

    Reply
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  27. L Anders

    Hi – also an addict. I found that my best option for me was to simply take the Better N Peanut Butter and mix it with my favorite brand of the fully leaded PB. Then I can cut my calories and fat and make a nice compromise and still get a favorite (my ratio depends on my mood). Stay healthy!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Thanks for the tip on this! That’s a great idea, actually – one I hadn’t thought of. I’ve been so used to eating powdered peanut butter for so long now, but it lacks that ‘creaminess’ that only peanut butter can give. Thanks for contributing to this conversation. Take care!

      Reply

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