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Nut butter has come a long way since the lunchbox PB&J. Now, almond, cashew, sunflower, and even souped-up nut and seed butters are competing for your attention—and that’s good news. Whatever variety you choose, nut butter is a healthy (and vegan-friendly if that’s your thing) addition to your diet. Need some convincing?
- A 2-tablespoon serving of nut butter provides about 7 grams of protein.
- Nut butters are portable, nonperishable, and great for on-the-go snacking.
- They’re inexpensive and shelf stable—unopened nut butters will last for months so you can stock up on several jars at once.
- While it’s a bit calorie-dense at approximately 190 calories per 2-tablespoon serving, nut butter is full of heart-healthy, monounsaturated fat.
When buying nut butter at the store, check out the ingredient list and skip any processed varieties, many of which have added oils, preservatives, and even trans fat, says Molly Morgan, RD. Opt for brands where the only ingredients are ground nuts and, if you prefer the taste, added salt. Because all-natural nut butters can settle once opened, store jars upside down so the spread’s easier to scoop. You can also microwave a jar of nut butter for about 10 seconds to make it easier to work with.
Okay, now that your schooled in the subject of nut butter try these five easy ways to enjoy the spread without breaking out a loaf of bread.
1. Blend a Smoothie
Nut butter is the perfect ingredient for making smoothies thicker and creamier, whether you’re blending one for breakfast or a post-workout snack. Morgan recommends mixing low-fat almond milk with one tablespoon of nut butter and one banana for a drink that’s full of filling protein and healthy fat.
2. Use It As a Creamy Dip
Pick a snack with extra protein to power through an afternoon slump—and the sugar and caffeine cravings that come with it. Pair a side of nut butter with fresh fruit or vegetables. While apple slices and celery are probably the most predictable choices, don’t be afraid to dip something new, like strawberries, carrots or pears.
3. Make Protein Pancakes
Give your breakfast a boost when you add some nut butter into the mix. Here’s how:
1) Heat a pan over medium heat and add a small amount of butter so pancake batter doesn’t stick.
2) Add 1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup of nut butter, 3 eggs, 1 tablespoon of honey, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in a bowl and stir until combined.
3) Pour batter into pan and cook until the bottom starts to brown, about 3 minutes.
4) Flip and cook on the other side until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
5) Top with fresh fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup.
5. Try a Thai-Style Dinner
You love the nutty flavors in the dishes at your favorite Thai restaurant, but you tend to play it safe when preparing a stir-fry at home (we’re talking a bare-bones mix of vegetables, brown rice, and soy sauce). If this sounds about right, use this simple, sweet and savory recipe to break out of a wok rut.
1) In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of water, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, and 1 teaspoon of chili paste until smooth and set aside.
2) Heat a wok over medium-high heat and add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic and 1 teaspoon of minced ginger, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3) Add 4 cups of chopped vegetables (try broccoli, carrots, onions, and snap peas) and 8 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast, and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through and browned, about 2 minutes.
4) Add 2 cups of cooked soba noodles and toss to coat.
5) Add peanut/chili paste mix, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, and toss.
6) Cook until heated, about 2 minutes, and serve.
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