This post on Nutella has garnered a remakable amount of attention, mostly negative and mostly of the hate-mail-troll variety – so to all of you, welcome! And those of you who are actually looking for a reason to break this habit, I hope to be able to help.
I have never been one to say to you ‘eat this, don’t eat that’. Well, actually, I’m sure I have now and again. My goal, however, is not to dictate what you should or shouldn’t be doing in any aspect of your life, but to offer you some guidance to help you make the best possible decisions to help you live an optimally healthy life.
And so with that in mind, I will offer you this: Nutella is nutritionally void and shouldn’t be at the breakfast table. Actually, it shouldn’t be at snack time, lunchtime, after school or melted over your ice cream.
It’s a shame because Nutella does such great work helping fund school lunch programs and bringing awareness to the number of kids going to school without breakfast, it’s just a shame that these breakfasts include Nutella.
When a child’s breakfast is made up of Nutella spread over white bread, or thrown into a tortilla with a banana, he or she is priming the brain and body for a crash. Breakfasts such as these will in no way support the learning or optimal behaviour.
This “hazelnut spread” that looks suspiciously like thick chocolate sauce (or a spreadable candy bar) is healthwashed to pieces as a healthy breakfast option for kids. It’s not breakfast, it’s a dessert and a questionable one at that. Call a dessert a dessert and move on, or be sued!
In the United States, Ferrero, maker of Nutella, was sued in a class action lawsuit for false advertising that led some to believe that Nutella carries nutritional and health benefits, being touted as ‘part of a nutritious breakfast’. They were sued for healthwashing! In April 2012, they paid $3 million to customers who were part of the claim. The settlement also required Ferrero to make changes to Nutella’s labelling and marketing.
What exactly these changes were are unclear.
sugar, modified palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skimmed milk powder, whey powder, lecithin, and vanillin
At the time of this writing, Nutella contains 70% saturated fat and processed sugar by weight. A two-tablespoon (37 gram) serving of Nutella contains 200 calories including:
- 99 calories from 11 grams of fat (3.5g of which are saturated)
- 80 calories from 21 grams of sugar
In addition, the spread contains 15mg of sodium and just two sad little grams of protein per serving. Now given that I am a huge advocate of fat fuelling your morning, the fat content in here wouldn’t be a problem if it were from a quality source. Modified palm oil, however, is far from quality. It is one of the more damaging types of fats we can consume. And don’t even get me started on that amount of sugar.
Two tablespoons of Nutella contain 21 grams of sugar, the equivalent of 5 teaspoons of sugar.
There’s no reason breakfast can’t be both healthy and delicious, but serving up sugar, modified vegetable oils and processed chocolate in the morning just isn’t the way to go.
Five reasons Nutella should be banned from your breakfast table:
1. The First Ingredient is Sugar
Despite the lovely visual of hazelnuts tumbling across the screen in the television commercial, the first ingredient in Nutella is plain old white, refined, most likely GMO sugar. Hazelnuts make their appearance after sugar and palm oil. If we were to name this spread appropriately, we might call it ‘sugar palm oil spread’, but that doesn’t have the right ring to it. Unless you’re choosing to hop off your health train while on holidays in Paris, there’s no reason to choose Nutella for breakfast.
More on sugar here:
- Are You Addicted to Sugar?
- Being Sugar-Free: Two Years and Counting
- Listen: How Quitting Sugar Can Transform Your Health (And Maybe Your Life)
2. More Sugar with Your Sugar?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you’re probably not spreading Nutella on celery sticks. It’s going on toast (probably the gluten-packed white kind) or crepes/pancakes (ditto). When the sugar from the refined carbohydrates meets the sugar from the chocolate spread, boom – there goes your energy and blood sugar balance for the day. Breakfasts such as these will in no way support the learning of children.
Nutella is a spreadable candy bar.
High sugar intake first thing in the morning will spike blood sugar levels, resulting in a plummet mid morning and may contribute to poor concentration, hyper activity and aggression.
3. The Second Ingredient is Modified Vegetable Oils
You know how we feel about those, right? Vegetables don’t make oil, which means these so-called “vegetable oils” need to go through a heck of a lot of processing in order to become Nutella. We love fat, but it needs to come from natural, unprocessed sources, otherwise we are eating refined oils that only serve to promote inflammation in the body and challenge our heart, liver, brain, endocrine and nervous systems to function efficiently.
In my book UnDiet I wrote the following:
These oils are highly processed and most commonly genetically modified, unless specifically labeled organic. Many of them, such as cottonseed and soy, carry loads of chemicals. The high heat processing destroys any nutrients that may naturally occur like vitamin E and omega-3 essential fatty acids. To make margarine the spreadable consistency people seem to dig, the oil must be hardened.
This is done by hydrogenation or bubbling hydrogen through the vegetable oil at high temperature, a process that enables it to be solid at room temperature. This is the same property that makes it perfect as frosting on cakes. When the carbon bonds are saturated with hydrogen, the product is called a saturated fat or a hydrogenated oil.
4. The Whole Package Is Not in the Jar
Treats are awesome. There’s nothing wrong with making something delicious and amazing and sharing it with your loved ones, especially when you’re celebrating a special occasion. If you are actually looking for a healthy spread, Nutella is not it. You are better off running some hazelnut through your food processor and adding a little honey and pinch of salt. Toss in some cacao if you want the chocolate vibe. But check this comparison.
Nutella vs. Hazelnuts
Per 1 Tbsp (19 grams)/ Approx 14 hazelnuts
Nutella: 100 / Hazelnuts: 94
Nutella: 1 gram / Hazelnuts: 3 grams
Nutella: 6 grams / Hazelnuts: 11.5 grams
Nutella: 11 grams
1 gram from Fibre
11 grams from Sugar
Hazelnuts: 3 grams
2 grams from Fibre
0.85 grams from Sugar
Nutella: 10 % (RDI)
Hazelnuts: 42% (RDI)
Remember, the fat in hazelnuts is the really awesomely delicious brain-building and nervous system supportive variety.
5. There Are Better Options Out There
Why start your day with processed chocolate spread when you can start it with amazing oatmeal or a smoothie or even pastured eggs? If your answer is “because it’s delicious,” that choice is yours, but your answer shouldn’t be “because it’s the healthiest option.” Yes, it’s important for us to eat things that we enjoy. But enjoyable food can still be health-promoting.
Here are just a few awesome special occasion breakfast recipes:
- Baked Apple Gingerbread Cake
- The Best Banana Pancakes
- Chocolate, Chocolate Say It Twice Pancakes
- Tie Dye Breakfast Parfaits
- Banana Hemp Faux-Gurt
- Egg-Free French Toast
- Cherry Banana Bonanza
If what you are seeking is the quick and easy, I have loads more ideas here.
Better Than Nutella Chocolate Spread
If you’ve read until here, hopefully you are feeling inspired to ditch the Nutella once and for all and give some alternatives a try. This is my favourite chocolate spread, which also works great as an icing on cake, muffins – anywhere you’d use Nutella.Print
- Hemp Seeds: Hemp seeds are mostly fat and protein. The ratio of omega 3 to 6 is ideal as an anti-inflammatory agent and the easily digestible plant proteins make hemp seeds a superfood for brain health and nervous system nourishment.
- Raw Cacao: Having less caffeine than its roasted counterpart, raw cacao lets us take advantage of the powerful anandamide, a plant chemical that translates as bliss in the brain. Combine that with the high antioxidant concentration and magnesium to help relax the smooth muscles of the body, and you’ll be laughing at this goodness – literally!
- Ghee or Coconut Oil: The medium chain saturated fats found in both ghee (clarified butter) and coconut oil are super brain fuel. These fats provide a steady flow of energy to the body and the brain that help us to feel energized in a calming way – without the spikes and crashes. As far as a spread goes, I also love that both ghee and coconut oil are relatively solid at room temperature, but sweetly melt when spread on warm bread or a muffin.
- Raw Honey: Raw honey is my go-to sweetener of choice as it’s available locally in Toronto, and is jam packed with anti-microbial phytonutrients, enzymes and B-Vitamins (or should I say bee vitamins?).
Note: Feature photo at the top of the post comes from this Mashable article. Possible the best thing on the internet. Original photo credit is Nutella. We’re all confused about that.