We already know all about the beautiful duo that is chocolate and peanut butter.
But peanut butter pairs well as a base with quite a few other pairs too. Perhaps you’ve heard of the healthy and flavorful combination that is peanut butter and chia seeds. Toss it over oatmeal or in a smoothie, and you’ll have a hearty superfood packed full of protein. In fact, just two tablespoons of the sticky goodness holds 7 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, plus heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, antioxidant vitamin E, potassium (good for muscle function), and magnesium (key for strong bones). Studies even suggest that peanut butter can lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease.
But along with that stellar list of nutritional accolades comes a heavy calorie penalty—about 190 calories per serving. So you’d be wise to eat peanut butter in moderation. One way to do that? Tap its potential as an all-star ingredient, perfect for savory meals, sweet snacks, and on-the-go nutrition. Here are some of the top nutritionist-approved strategies for eating more of the food you love.
Mix It with Greek Yogurt
The creamy dairy product might be PB’s best match after jelly, and mixing it in will cut calories and add extra muscle-building potential: A spoonful of PB will bring a single-serve container of Greek yogurt to around 22 grams of protein, plus there’s lots of calcium and gut-friendly probiotics.
For a pre- or post-workout snack, mix ¾ cup of plain Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of peanut butter and teaspoon of honey, and use the blend as a dip for pear or apple slices. Or get creative and make a PB dessert.
“My favorite move is to make a protein-packed ‘peanut butter cup’ by heating organic peanut butter to liquefy it, then mixing in plain Greek yogurt with cacao powder, honey, and cinnamon,” says dietician Monica Auslander, founder of Essence Nutrition. Drizzle the sweet, chocolatey mix over berries while it’s still warm, or let it cool and use it as a spread or dip.
Blend It into Hummus
Swap peanut butter in place of tahini to make hummus that’s nuttier and creamier that what you’re used to. Just pulse it in food processor alongside your usual ratios of chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Extra points if you use fiber-rich carrots sticks as dippers.
Use It as the Base for an Asian Sauce
Discover PB’s savory side in the kitchen by blending a peanut dressing or marinade to use on salad, pork or chicken, vegetables, or noodles at dinner. “You can mix peanut butter with soy sauce and Sriracha for a deliciously nutty sauce to use with Asian noodles, spring rolls, or collard green wraps,” says dietician Kara Lydon, author of The Foodie Dietician Blog. And once you’ve landed on a basic recipe you like, start working in garlic cloves, ginger, and chili powder to take the flavor up a notch.
Try the Powdered Variety
“Powder” might sound sketchy to a PB purist, but it’s really just peanuts that have been pressed to remove the oil, then ground up into dust. The downside is that you lose 85 percent of the heart-healthy fats, but in exchange, you take in fewer calories: Two tablespoons of powder have just 45 calories (rather than 190 in normal peanut butter). So it’s a solid way to get that PB flavor (and protein) without blowing your diet, says Auslander. You can mix the powder with water and smear it onto apples, stir it into smoothies, or even swap it in for a third of the flour you usually use when making waffles or pancakes.
Roll It into No-Bake Power Balls
Store-bought energy bars tend to be loaded with sugar and unpronounceable ingredients. So skip them and opt for your own portable PB snacks. “I mix peanut butter, oats, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, and dark chocolate chips for the foundation, then add some variety with dried cranberries, apricot, cherries, coconut, or goji berries,” says dietician Ginny Erwin, health and wellness coach at the Center for Integrative Health & Wellness at Marin General Hospital. Play with the ratios until you have a consistency like thick cookie dough. Then roll it into large bite-size balls and let them harden in the fridge before popping them into a to-go bag.
Drizzle It on Popcorn
There’s no getting around it—plain popcorn is lame. But instead of salting the stuff to death or caving to a butter drizzle, try livening up a bowl up with peanut butter—either the creamy or powder variety, which you can just shake on top. “I take plain organic popcorn, roll it in microwaved peanut butter, and put it in the fridge to eat later,” says Auslander. “Hello, fiber!”
[Featured Image: Pixabay]