Before we knew to sprinkle chia seeds over oatmeal or toss kale into smoothies, peanut butter held the top seat for superfoods for fitness lovers. Just two tablespoons of the delicious spread packs 7 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber, plus heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, antioxidant vitamin E, potassium (good for muscle function), and magnesium (key for strong bones). Studies even suggest that eating peanut butter can lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
But along with that stellar list of nutritional accolades comes a heavy calorie count — about 190 calories per serving. You'd be wise to eat peanut butter in moderation if you're watching your calories, but that can be tough. Use these nutritionist-recommended strategies to tap peanut butter's potential as an all-star ingredient that's perfect for savory meals, sweet snacks, and on-the-go nutrition.
What to Eat With Peanut Butter: The Athlete's Go-To Guide
1. Mix It With Greek Yogurt
The creamy dairy product might be peanut butter's best match after jelly, and mixing it in will cut calories and add extra muscle-building potential: A spoonful of peanut butter will bring a single-serve container of Greek yogurt to around 22 grams of protein. Plus, there’s lots of calcium and gut-friendly probiotics in yogurt.
For a pre- or post-workout snack, mix ¾ cup of plain Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of peanut butter and teaspoon of honey, and use the blend as a dip for pear or apple slices. Or, you can even get creative and make a peanut butter-based dessert.
“My favorite move is to make a protein-packed 'peanut butter cup’ by heating organic peanut butter to liquefy it, then mixing in plain Greek yogurt with cacao powder, honey, and cinnamon,” dietitian Monica Auslander, founder of Essence Nutrition, says.
Drizzle the sweet, chocolatey mix over berries while it's still warm, or let it cool and use it as a spread or dip.
2. Blend It Into Hummus
Swap peanut butter in place of tahini to make hummus that’s nuttier and creamier that what you’re used to. Just pulse it in food processor alongside your usual ratios of chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Extra points if you use fiber-rich carrots sticks as dippers.
3. Use It as the Base for an Asian Sauce
Discover peanut butter's savory side in the kitchen by blending a peanut dressing or marinade to use on salad, pork, chicken, vegetables, or noodles at dinner.
“You can mix peanut butter with soy sauce and sriracha for a deliciously nutty sauce to use with Asian noodles, spring rolls, or collard green wraps,” dietitian Kara Lydon, author of The Foodie Dietician Blog, says.
And once you’ve landed on a basic recipe you like, start working in garlic cloves, ginger, and chili powder to take the flavor up a notch.
4. Try the Powdered Variety
“Powder” might sound sketchy to a peanut butter purist, but it’s really just peanuts that have been pressed to remove the oil, then ground up into dust. The downside is that you lose 85% of the heart-healthy fats, but in exchange, you take in fewer calories. A serving of two tablespoons of powder comes in at just 45 calories (rather than 190 in normal peanut butter).
"Powdered peanut butter is a solid way to get that awesome flavor (and protein) without blowing your discipline," Auslander says.
You can mix the powder with water and smear it onto apples, stir it into smoothies, or even swap it in for a third of the flour you usually use when making waffles or pancakes.
5. Roll It Into No-Bake Power Balls
Store-bought energy bars tend to be loaded with sugar and unpronounceable ingredients. Skip them and opt for your own portable peanut butter snacks.
“I mix peanut butter, oats, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, and dark chocolate chips for the foundation, then add some variety with dried cranberries, apricot, cherries, coconut, or goji berries,” dietitian Ginny Erwin, health and wellness coach at the Center for Integrative Health and Wellness at Marin General Hospital, says.
Play with the ratios until you have a consistency like thick cookie dough. Then, roll it into large bite-size balls and let them harden in the fridge before popping them into a to-go bag.
6. Drizzle It on Popcorn
There’s no getting around it — plain popcorn can be super lame. But instead of salting the stuff to death or caving to a butter drizzle, try livening up a bowl up with peanut butter — either the creamy or powder variety, which you can just shake on top.
“I take plain organic popcorn, roll it in microwaved peanut butter, and put it in the fridge to eat later for extra fiber," Auslander says.