Chocolate hazelnut spreads

A Nutrition Review of Nutella and Other Chocolate-Hazelnut Spreads

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Hey, you got your chocolate in my hazelnut butter!  Nutella is no doubt the world’s most popular chocolate hazelnut spread, and in Europe word has it that it’s used as often as peanut butter is here in the US.  Now Costco’s got it in giant jars (in a two-pack, no less).  Passion for this product runs deep.  But is it a healthy food choice?  As is often the case with nutrition, there’s a short answer and there’s a long one.

Bottom line:

  • Nutella is OK in moderation, like once a week or less.  So, go ahead and spread, but try to keep your portion at 2 tablespoons or less.
  • Best brand that’s doing it better than the rest is Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Blend.

But chocolate hazelnut spread is most definitely not a food that I would recommend trying to get more of in your diet (like blueberries or black beans).  There’s room for improvement in the ingredients and there are healthier options available.    Want to know more?  For the long answer, keep reading.  And, if you make it all the way through you must be as much of nutrition nerd as I am!

Chocolate hazelnut spreads

The contenders

 

Ingredients

The most famous brand is definitely Ferrero’s Nutella, but I’ve also found Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Blend, Belgium’s Cocoa Haze!, and Italy’s Rigoni di Asiago Nocciolata.

My pick is definitely Justin’s, mostly because the first ingredient is dry roasted hazelnuts.  Cocoa Haze! and Nutella both list sugar first, then palm oil, which means they’re more of a sugar and fat spread than a hazelnut spread.  (Plus, these days, palm oil is still considered a saturated fat, albeit one of the few from a plant source.  Watch or future blog posts related to healthy oils for your diet and tips on what to look for when navigating the grocery aisles.)

Justin’s is a mix of hazelnuts and almonds and as of 2014 lists these ingredients:

Dry roasted hazelnuts, dry roasted almonds, organic evaporated cane sugar, organic cocoa, organic cocoa butter, organic sustainably sourced palm fruit oil, natural vanilla, sea salt.

 

Nutrients

The serving size for all four brands is 2 tablespoons, which makes comparison easy.

Ferrero’s  Nutella

Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Blend

Cocoa Haze!  Nut and Cocoa Spread

Rigoni di Asiago Nocciolata

Calories

200

180

210

190

Total Fat

11 g

15 g

13 g

11 g

Saturated Fat

3.5 g

3 g

2 g

2 g

Sodium

15 mg

65 mg

0 mg

20 mg

Total Carbohydrate

22 g

12 g

20 g

20 g

Dietary Fiber

1 g

3 g

0 g

<1 g

Sugars

21 g

7 g

19 g

18 g

Protein

3 g

4 g

2 g

3 g

*Update 2014 — The saturated fat values for Nocciolata changed at some point since I originally wrote this post, so I’ve entered the new value from their Nutrition Facts in the table. And, since Justin’s has revised their recipe I’ve updated the table with their new numbers as well.

Justin’s fares better for fiber and protein (more) and sugar and calories (less).   All four are cholesterol-free and trans fat free.  But this is a high calorie food, so use judiciously.  Here’s what 2 tablespoons actually looks like:

Justin's hazelnut butter

This is what 2 tablespoons actually looks like.

 

Cost and Availability

I bought Justin’s at my local Co-op.  The 16 oz. jar is normally $9.69, but was on sale for $7.89.  They also carried the 9.52 oz. Nocciolata for $4.99, and the standard 13 oz. Nutella for $5.39.  This is one case where the healthier version will cost you a bit more.  If you have a hard time with portion control, or just want to taste Justin’s without committing financially, it comes in handy, portable 2 tablespoon packs for $0.99 each (pictured above).

Check Justin’s website to find out if it’s available in your area.

 

Uses

Justin’s definitely has a different consistency – it’s more thick and fudgy than creamy, so it won’t spread the way you’re used to. I like to put a blob on my warm toast and let it sit for a few seconds to soften.

Chocolate hazelnut spread is a tasty alternative to peanut butter as a dip for apple slices, and a friend told me that her sister used it to sweeten and flavor her coffee on a recent trip to France.

 

Please share your thoughts.  Have you tried any of these alternatives?  What are your creative ways to use chocolate hazelnut spread?

 

Update: This original chocolatey post spawned two more posts. It’s kind of like a Nutella trilogy! Check ’em out:

A Nutrition Review of Nutella and Other Chocolate-Hazelnut Spreads, Again

A Nutrition Review of Nutella and Other Chocolate-Hazelnut Spreads: part 3