Peanut butter is set to overtake jam as the nation’s favourite spread in a backlash against sugary foods — and you may have noticed a lot more options on supermarket shelves, other than the old favourites jam and Nutella.
Manufacturers have been tweaking recipes to make them more virtuous, but do they live up to their promise? Here, we assessed a selection of spreads.
Strong almond flavour, but claggy texture
Pleasantly sweet, strong blackcurrant flavour
Pip & Nut honey almond butter
(225g, £3.99, ocado.com)
Per (15g) tbsp: Calories, 93; saturated fat, 1.4g; sugar, 1.5g; salt, 0.1g
The sugar and salt in this spread is modest. It is high in calories, but these are from healthier unsaturated fats in almonds. Almonds have more calcium than milk, similar anaemia-protective iron to beef, and are a source of magnesium for energy.
TASTE: Strong almond flavour, but claggy texture. 8/10
Stute no sugar added blackcurrant jam
(430g, £1.69, most supermarkets)
Per tbsp: Calories, 23; saturated fat, trace; sugar, 0.3g; salt, trace
Instead of sugar this is made with the sweetener sorbitol, making it 15 calories lower per tablespoon than regular jam. Sorbitol doesn’t damage teeth nor raise blood sugar — making this suitable for diabetics. Too much sorbitol can have a laxative effect, so stick to just a tablespoon or two on toast.
TASTE: Pleasantly sweet, strong blackcurrant flavour. 9/10
Grenade Carb Killa white chocolate cookie spread
3/10: Very sweet and slightly synthetic
(360g, £6.99, holland andbarrett.com)
Per tbsp: Calories, 77; saturated fat, 1.4g; sugar, 0.9g; salt, 0.05g
This contains the sweetener maltitol, which is tooth-friendly and why it’s so low in sugar. A poached egg has similar protein and calorie content to the maker’s suggested serving size (35g, more than two tablespoons).
Eggs would be a healthier topping for toast as they’re lower in saturated fat and provide bone-friendly vitamin D and iron.
TASTE: Very sweet and slightly synthetic. 3/10
Thin flavour though not too sweet. Very sticky
Wyldsson Hazelnut & Cocoa Nut Butter
(500g, £7.99, wyldsson.com)
Per tbsp: Calories, 84; saturated fat, 0.7g; sugar, 3.1g; salt, 0.01g
This is marketed as a healthier alternative to Nutella, which has around the same calories per tablespoon. It’s 34 per cent hazelnuts (compared with 13 per cent in Nutella) which supply vitamin E, which helps protect cells. It has half the sugar of Nutella (8.4g per tbsp) which is largely from dates. These add fibre that slows the speed at which sugar is absorbed. It’s 42 per cent fat (fortunately mostly healthier unsaturated fat) and high in calories — eat in moderation.
TASTE: Thin flavour though not too sweet. Very sticky. 6/10
Strong chocolate flavour with nutty aftertaste
Mr Organic dark chocolate and hazelnut spread
(200g, £3.99, ocado.com)
Per tbsp: Calories, 81; saturated fat, 1.2g; sugar, 5.9g; salt, 0g
This contains 25 per cent cocoa and 11 per cent hazelnut paste, so has an intense chocolate kick which means you’ll eat less of it.
The sugar content is quite high, though not as high as Nutella (8.4g per tablespoon), and it is low in saturated fat.
A serving provides 1.23g of fibre (the same as a small apple) and around a twentieth of your daily magnesium; a nutrient important for maintaining energy levels.
TASTE: Intense, bitty chocolate flavour with nutty aftertaste. Rather runny. 6/10
Naturya goji strawberry super conserve
Smoky like quince with a chutney-like texture
(285g, £5.99, holland andbarrett.com)
Per tbsp: Calories, 28; saturated fat, 0.1g; sugar, 6.2g; salt, 0.03g
This is lower in calories than jam, but sweetened with agave syrup which counts as added ‘free’ sugar. Goji berries don’t offer additional benefits — but do provide vitamin A and iron. As with any jam, the vitamin C is reduced by the boiling process used to make the conserve.
TASTE: Smoky like quince with a chutney-like texture. 4/10
Sweet Freedom choc pot
6/10: Very rich — more like a dessert sauce
(250g, £3, most supermarkets)
Per tbsp: Calories, 41; saturated fat, 0.3g; sugar, 5.7g; salt, 0g
This apparently healthy spread, made from cocoa with apple, grape and carob extracts, has half the calories of Nutella and over two-thirds less saturated fat. But a tablespoon contains nearly a teaspoon-and-a-half of added sugar.
The manufacturer suggests a teaspoon serving, but you’d easily use a tablespoon on a slice of bread, which would supply more than a sixth of your daily limit of free sugar.
It’s healthier than most chocolate spreads, but hardly virtuous.
TASTE: Very rich — more like a dessert sauce. 6/10
Very similar to Nutella, but much less sugar
Jim Jams 83% less sugar hazelnut chocolate spread
(350g, £2, morrisons.com)
Per tbsp: Calories, 74; saturated fat, 1.14g; sugar, 1.3g; salt, 0.03g
This has almost the same ingredients as Nutella, but sugar is replaced with the sweetener maltitol. A serving has two teaspoons of sugar, but this doesn’t count as ‘free’ sugar and is not as bad. It’s 74 calories per tablespoon, with a twentieth of our saturated fat limit.
TASTE: Very similar to Nutella. 8/10
Suma pear & apple spread
Dark and fruity, with a thick consistency
(300g, £2.19, goodness direct.co.uk)
Per tbsp: Calories, 40; saturated fat, 0g; sugar, 8.1g; salt, trace
This spread, made by boiling pear and apple juices, is low in calories and fat-free. But the juices contain sugar which, because it is isolated from the fruit, counts as the harmful ‘free’ type. A tablespoon provides over a quarter of your daily limit. It has a trace of vitamin C as heating reduces the amount in the juice.
TASTE: Dark and fruity, with a thick consistency.2/10
Coconut Merchant organic coconut & cacao spread
Very sweet, overpowering coconut flavour
(330g, £6.99, ocado.com)
Per tbsp: Calories, 80; saturated fat, 2.1g; sugar, 5.6g; salt, 0g
Made from organic coconut milk and coconut syrup, this is high in saturated fat and added sugar.
A tablespoon provides 10 per cent of your daily saturated fat limit and nearly a fifth of your sugar limit, similar to one chocolate digestive biscuit.
The health benefits of the cacao (such as the purported heart health and cognitive benefits) are questionable here, given the tiny amount in a tablespoon serving.
TASTE: Very sweet, overpowering coconut flavour. 1/10
Meridian barley malt extract
Similar to treacle, but still plenty of sugar
(370g, £1.99, holland andbarrett.com)
Per tbsp: Calories, 47; saturated fat, 0g; sugar, 10.9g; salt, 0g
Malt is a by-product of the brewing industry and was popular as a cheap dietary supplement for a generation of post-war children, who needed extra calories and nutrients.
A tablespoon of this will provide 5 to 10 per cent of your daily dose of vitamins B1 and B6 as well as iron, which are all important for maintaining energy levels.
However, there are two-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar from the malted grain — one-third of your daily limit.
TASTE: Similar to treacle. 6/10
Fresh peanut flavour with a hint of sweetness
PB Fit chocolate peanut butter powder
(225g, £4.51, most supermarkets)
Per tbsp: Calories, 66; saturated fat, 0g; sugar, 2.1g; salt, 0.4g
You add water to this powder to create a spread. It’s made by extracting oil from peanuts, leaving the protein and fibre, then mixing in cocoa and sugar. It has less than a teaspoon of sugar per serving and provides a twentieth of your daily fibre and 2g protein (a quarter of a large boiled egg). But the peanut oil that’s removed contains good fats and vitamin E.
TASTE: Fresh peanut flavour with a hint of sweetness. 8/10
So Free alternative to milk chocolate spread
(275g, £3.29, holland andbarrett.com)
Disappointingly thin, but a pleasant texture
Per tbsp: Calories, 86; saturated fat, 0.9g; sugar, 6.9g; salt, trace
For vegans and those with milk intolerances, this alternative to chocolate spread is 50 per cent lower in saturated fat than Nutella, as it’s made with sunflower oil rather than palm oil. But it’s not much lower in sugar, with nearly two teaspoons per serving.
It’s low in cocoa too (just 4 per cent, compared with 7.4 per cent in Nutella). This would have provided antioxidants which have been linked with improved brain function.
TASTE: Disappointingly thin, but a pleasant texture. 4/10
Clearspring organic fruit spread apricot
(290g, £2.99, clearspring.co.uk and amazon.co.uk)
Mushy with bits of apricot. Not sweet at all.
Per tbsp: Calories, 24; saturated fat, trace; sugar, 5.5g; salt, trace
This has around a third less sugar than a jar of good-quality jam, so it is also lower in calories. The sugar comes from fruit syrup, but counts as the unhealthy ‘free’ type that raises blood sugar and contributes to weight gain. Apricots will supply some vitamin A which is useful for the immune system.
TASTE: Mushy with bits of apricot. Not sweet at all. 5/10
St Dalfour gourmet chestnut spread
Very sweet with a thick, jelly-like texture
(284g, £1.99, ocado.com)
Per tbsp: Calories, 40; saturated fat, 0.02g; sugar, 9.5g; salt, trace
The sugar in this comes from grape and date juices, so counts as added or ‘free’ sugar that we should limit to 30g a day (a tablespoon of this has nearly one-third of that).
Chestnuts are the only low-fat nut, so this is lower in calories than peanut or almond butter. But it’s not as nutritious as chestnuts don’t have the iron, magnesium and B vitamins (important for energy levels) of higher-fat nuts.
TASTE: Very sweet with a thick, jelly-like texture. 5/10