We all know Nutella as the heavenly chocolate hazelnut spread that has long been the kryptonite of even the most resolute dieter. There are few among us who have not succumbed to the cravings for this chocolate hazelnut delight, whether on toast, in a pie, or even straight out of the jar with a spoon. The siren’s song of the creamy chocolate and hazelnuts is enhanced by the fact that Nutella is frequently marketed as an important breakfast companion with plenty of health benefits of its own. After all, the Nutella website opens up with a picture of a happy family with the mother serving Nutella on toast to all of her children. This all begs the question, “Is Nutella Healthy?” Our goal here today is to determine whether or not this is the case.
What Does The Manufacturer Say?
The first place we generally get information about the health qualities of any product is also, unfortunately, the one that we should trust the least: the manufacturer. In the case of Nutella, it is manufactured by the European company Ferrero, most famous in the United States for the chocolate hazelnut Rocher candy. Hmmm, I think I see a pattern forming. According to the Nutella website, it is, “a tasty unique spread made from the combination of roasted hazelnuts, skim milk and a hint of cocoa,” that contains no preservatives, colors, gluten, caffeine, or trans fats. That sounds pretty good so far. It also talks about how Nutella is useful for moms who can’t get their kids to eat whole grains. This is true, as most of us discovered that Nutella is at its peak when it is simply spread across a slice of toast.
The problem is that manufacturers have a tendency to
lie misrepresent their products in order to make sales. Put on your detective hats, kids; it’s time to do some good old-fashioned investigating.
What’s In The Jar? A Look At The Nutella Nutrition Label
The first thing that we need to do in order to determine whether Nutella is bad for you or not is to look at the ingredient list and check for the usual suspects: high fructose corn syrup, lots of sugar, hydrogenated oils, and the like. No matter what health benefits are advertised on the front of the package, it’s the back that is always most important. To that end, here is the list of Nutella ingredients for your consideration.
Ingredients: sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals whey (milk), lecithin as emulsifier (soy), vanillin: an artificial flavor.
As we already know, when the first ingredient in a product is sugar in one of its various forms, the product in the package is not going to be good for you. This means that we can already answer, “Is Nutella good for you?” with a solid, “No,” but lets keep going anyway and see where the Nutella trail leads us. The second ingredient in the list is palm oil, a saturated fat popular with process food manufacturers because it extends the shelf life of the product and helps keep it moist. Unfortunately, consumption of palm oil has been linked to increases in LDL cholesterol levels, which is the bad form of cholesterol. Many forms of palm oil are also partially hydrogenated, a process which produces trans fats, though Ferrero insists that there are no trans fats in Nutella.
How Healthy Is Nutella Compared to Chocolate Frosting and Peanut Butter?
Since the most common “healthy” Nutella application is to simply spread it over whole grain toast, let’s take a look at how Nutella stacks up against another popular toast spread: peanut butter. And just for fun, let’s throw in some chocolate frosting just to see what happens. What kid hasn’t wanted to spread chocolate frosting over his morning toast?
The Nutella nutritional information, as well as the information for the other products, comes from the manufacturers’ respective websites.
|Nutella||Duncan Hines Milk Chocolate Frosting||Skippy Natural Peanut Butter|
|Serving Size||2 Tbsp||2 Tbsp||2 Tbsp|
Each product has downsides that need to be taken into account. The Nutella has plenty of fat and sugar, but not much else. Given the fact that palm oil is the number two ingredient, we know that most of that fat is the unhealthy sort from the palm oil rather than the healthier hazelnut fats. The chocolate frosting contains trans fats, which means that it is automatically disqualified because of how horrible trans fats are for our health. Finally, the peanut butter contains a good bit of fat, albeit natural fat, and sodium, but it also has more fiber than the other products and little in the way of sugar. All things considered, the nutritional information points toward peanut butter as being the healthiest option out of the three.
Is Nutella Healthy For You? A Summation
Despite how the marketing attempts to show Nutella as a healthy breakfast companion that moms can feel confident serving to their kids, or how many hazelnuts supposedly come in eat jar, there are some glaring faults with Nutella that we simply can’t overlook. Nutella contains more sugar and palm oil than it does hazelnuts, making it more akin to a jar or frosting or a candy bar than the healthier alternatives out there such as peanut or almond butter, which contain healthy fats and little to no added sugar.
In fact, one California mother sued Ferrero in 2011 for false advertising because she believed that Nutella was, in fact, a health food, until her friends pointed out the nutrition label and explained to her just how unhealthy it was. This just emphasizes the need for us all to read nutrition labels and determine for ourselves how healthy a product is before we buy it instead of blindly following manufacturers’ health claims.
Just like the Cookie Monster and his beloved cookies, we need to look at Nutella as being a “sometimes food” and accept that while it is very tasty, it is not good for us and should be eaten sparingly if our goal is good nutrition. Just don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because the commercials say that it is, “part of a balanced breakfast,” that makes it good for you. If you are feeling industrious, however, you could make your own homemade Nutella alternative and ensure that it is as healthy as possible. To sum up: is Nutella tasty? Yes. Is Nutella good for you? No.
Question of the day: is knowing that Nutella is unhealthy going to stop you from eating it, have you made your own, or are you going to continue eating it and just exercise to make up the difference? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.