The Nut Butter Dilemma


The kids are heading back to school, and it's time for packing up those lunchboxes. Of course, you want to pack something that's easy, portable, fresh, healthy and tasty... oh, and also something the kids will love. Is peanut butter springing to mind for you? I know it does for me. Of course, I grew up when peanut butter was the only nut butter option available. And that was before the explosion of peanut allergies in kids and the advent of schools creating "nut-free zones." Those changes, plus great flavor, make it all the more fun to try a variety of nut and seed butters for tasty lunches.

Nut butters can make a good choice for lunches because:

  • Nut butters deliver omega 6 essential fatty acids in an unprocessed form.

  • Most nut butters are packed with healthy monounsaturated fat - the same kind of fat you find in olive oil.

  • Some nuts contain excellent quantities of Vitamin E, including hazelnuts and almonds.

  • Nut butters contain natural fiber and they can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Even if you've got a peanut-butter-picky kid, you may find other nut and seed butters will fit the lunchtime bill just fine. Make sure to check your school's "nut regulations" to be sure if some of these options are allowed before trying them out.

  • Almond butter - very similar to peanut butter - comes in roasted, raw, smooth or chunky. This is a favorite for lunches, snacks and breakfasts.

  • Cashew butter - milder in flavor than peanut butter, this is cashew nuts all the way. Slightly sweeter and it comes in roasted or raw.

  • Macadamia nut butter - this rich delicious nut butter is a favorite in Hawaii. Often mixed with cashew butter, it is great on sandwiches with fresh fruit like sliced peaches, or with veggies like sliced cucumbers.

  • Sesame seed butter and tahini - this nut butter is made from sesame seeds, either toasted or raw. I suggest the toasted variety for lunch. Great with bananas and apples!

  • Sunflower seed butter - this is made from roasted sunflower seeds and is very similar to peanut butter, so kids who are allergic to peanut butter will often enjoy this.

  • Soy nut butter - made from roasted soybeans, soy nut butter is another peanut-butter-like treat.

  • Pistachio butter - if your child likes a tasty green sandwich, this is it! Sweet and roasted, just like pistachio nuts!

  • You may also find hazelnut, walnut and other nut butters as well as combinations of all and more!

Here are some fun ideas for using nut and seed butters. Remember to get creative and mix and match different varieties.

  • Spread nut and seed butters on whole grain bread with fruit such as sliced bananas, peaches, nectarines, apples, pears, and plums. Here's a good recipe for an Open-Faced Apple Tahini Sandwich opens in a new tab.

  • Mix nut and seed butters with cream cheese and use as a dip for just about any fruit or raw veggie dippers. Here's an idea for Cream Cheese and Cashew Dip opens in a new tab.

  • Mix nut and seed butters with honey and vanilla, then spread like frosting over whole grain muffins, English muffins, breads, bagels, or rolls.

  • Add nut and seed butters to salad dressing for great flavor and texture. Here's a Carrot Salad with Almond Butter Dressing opens in a new tab.

  • Bake cookies! Substitute equal amounts of any nut or seed butter in place of peanut butter in a peanut butter cookie recipe. Here's a good flourless and Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookie opens in a new tab. 4 Try it with almond butter, sunflower butter, or even a combination!

  • Try nut and seed butters in smoothies for a creamy delicious treat! Here's a cooling Strawberry Almond Butter Smoothie opens in a new tab.

  • What kid doesn't like a yummy crispy rice treat? Here's what I mean with this Crispy Cashew Rice Treats opens in a new tab recipe.

  • Make nut and seed butters into healthy "candy" - here's a favorite recipe for Chocolate Earth Balls opens in a new tab. - Remember to vary your butter choices!

  • Stir a spoonful into hot oatmeal or other hot cooked whole grain cereal for a hearty, healthy breakfast.

  • Pair nut and seed butters with chocolate for dessert: Take a square or two of dark chocolate and dip into or spread with any desired nut or seed butter. Or, soften dark chocolate chips on whole grain graham crackers. Spread the chocolate around and then top with a dollop of your favorite nut or seed butter.

And back to that lunchbox. Here are five lunch ideas - one for each day of the week!

  • Almond butter and sliced apple sandwich on whole wheat with celery sticks and vanilla yogurt

  • Cashew nut butter and cream cheese spread with whole grain crackers, baby carrots, cut up cucumbers and ranch dip, and a handful of grapes

  • Leftover noodles tossed with roasted sesame tahini dressing, sliced cold chicken, cut up veggies and fresh fruit of choice. For a quick delicious tahini dressing, whisk together 2 tbsp white miso, 3 tablespoons tahini, ½ cup water, and 3 Tbsp lemon juice. Add a tsp of honey, if desired.

  • Bean dip, natural corn chips, sliced veggies with favorite dressing, fruit yogurt and a Crispy Rice Treat opens in a new tab.

  • Get some green for lunch: Stuff celery with pistachio nut butter. Top with golden raisins and pack in a lunch box with crunchy steamed cold green beans, green goddess dressing, and a thermos of a favorite hot soup.

What kind of nut and seed butters are you serving for lunch? Had any nut-free challenges that you've overcome? Let us know how you did it!

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