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A Label Shocker! The Truth About Hazelnut Spread

A few years ago, hazelnut spread was something very few people ever heard of or tried before. Nutella® used to be the sole brand found on the market shelves. Suddenly, this creamy spread is being made by multiple big brand names, including Jif® and Hershey's™, as well as store-bought or off-brands.

So what exactly is it? The spread is made of hazelnuts, milk, sugar, cocoa, palm oil and other ingredients. It's generally regarded as an alternative to peanut butter. However, the nutrition facts are far from being the same. While natural peanut butter is simply peanuts and salt with only 1 gram of sugar, hazelnut spread lists sugar as the first ingredient, followed by oil. In fact, just 2 tablespoons of this sweet stuff has roughly 21 grams of sugar, which is over 5 teaspoons of sugar. That's almost all of the recommended amount of added sugars we're supposed to have in an entire day!

To my disappointment, these products have been advertised to make you think they are healthy. Television commercials showed mothers choosing hazelnut spread as an easy breakfast option for children. But would you allow your child to eat icing for breakfast? It has roughly the same amount of sugar! Hazelnut spread has been advertised as having "no artificial flavors or preservatives" and mentioned hazelnuts, cocoa and skim milk as ingredients but failed to mention sugar and oil.

Just like ice cream and cookies, hazelnut spread can still be a part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation. Choose a small portion size, and serve it with something healthy. For instance, drizzle a teaspoon or two over plain air popped popcorn. Also, try mixing it with non-fat plain yogurt, which will help "tone down" the sweetness, decrease the amount of sugar per serving, and serve as the perfect dip for your favorite fruit.

Chocolate Hazelnut Yogurt Dip

1 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt

⅓ cup hazelnut spread

In a small bowl, whisk Greek yogurt and hazelnut spread together. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate. Use to dip fruit or spread on whole grain toast or waffles.

Yield: 8 servings, 2 Tablespoons each

Nutrition analysis per 2 Tablespoon serving: 80 Calories, 4 grams fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 15 milligrams sodium, 9 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram dietary fiber, 4 grams protein

This post comes from Jenna Smith, the Nutrition and Wellness Educator serving the counties of McLean, Livingston and Woodford. Smith's expertise is in food Safety, Food Preservation, Diabetes, Worksite Wellness, Cottage Foods and Community Gardens.