By Caroline Young Bearden, MS, RDN, LD, RYT
Dietitians sometimes get a bad rap as the food police. You might think that this crowd only eats peanuts as dry roasted, unsalted nuts. Well, prepare to be amazed! Most RDNs believe healthy eating doesn’t require eliminating fat and salt or denying yourself dessert, and should be about satisfying all of your needs – mental, physical and emotional.
And oil-roasted, salted peanuts can fit into a healthy diet. Also, peanuts have a heart health claim from the FDA that says scientific suggests but doesn’t prove eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, including peanuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Peanuts also have more protein than any other nut and are packed with 30 essential vitamins and minerals.
Furthermore, March is National Nutrition Month® with the theme, “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” a campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The idea is that everyone holds the tool (your fork!) to make healthy food choices, and small shifts in food choices can add up over time. For example, replacing one meat-based meal with a plant-based meal (using peanuts, peanut butter, seeds, beans, tofu, etc.) each week can help increase good, or unsaturated fats.
Plus, March 8 happens to be RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) Day! To celebrate both occasions, we asked some peanut-loving RDNs to share how they love to eat peanuts and peanut butter. There’s a healthy mix of nutritious and indulgent in this list, and as a RDN and yoga instructor myself, I can tell you it’s all about balance.
Sharon Palmer, RDN
In a vegan recipe, Sharon, AKA the Plant-Powered Dietitian, uses both peanut butter and peanut oil, combined with the ancient grain sorghum and Eastern flavors in her Stir-Fried Thai Sorghum Tofu Bowl.
Kaleigh McCordie, MCN, RD, LD
Kaleigh also loves to use peanut butter in Thai-inspired dishes, and as a sauce for other savory foods like spring rolls or lettuce wraps. But she also likes to use it in sweet treats.
“I love the versatility of peanut butter. It's a great way to naturally flavor sweeter dishes like oatmeal, muffins, or cookies,” she said.
Meme Inge, MS, RDN
Meme, who owns a private practice and blogs at Living Well Kitchen, has peanut recipes for all occasions, including snack time with Slow-Cooker Boiled Peanuts, weeknight dinners with Easy Peanutty Pasta, dessert time with Peanut Butter Banana Cookies, and party time with Peanut Butter Caramel Chocolate Dip.
Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
Kathleen, director of nutrition at WebMD, has a love for peanuts that goes far beyond the PB&J: “I use them in salads, trail mixes, Thai food and simply eating out of hand,” she said. “Peanut butter and banana is a go-to favorite for breakfast, as is oatmeal with a scoop of peanut butter for extra flavor, protein and satiety.”
Plus, Zelman said she enjoys adding peanut butter and peanut powder to her smoothies.
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD
“Straight up” is how Liz likes her peanut butter, simply because it is so tasty.
“I also pair it with an apple for an afternoon snack,” said Liz, who is also an author and nutrition consultant. “And I love, love, love, homemade peanut butter cups!”
Liz pairs her love of chocolate and PB on her blog Better is the New Perfect, with her Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream. She also offers a grab-n-go breakfast option with her No-Bake Peanut Butter Cereal Bars that she suggests pairing with a glass of milk and fruit for a balanced meal.
Garrett Berdan, RDN, LD
Garrett, who is also a chef and culinary nutrition consultant, said he loves peanuts with his bacon at breakfast, for a sweet and savory combo.
“This morning, I put some of my favorite breakfast flavors atop a bowl of steel cut oats - sliced bananas, crushed roasted and lightly salted peanuts, a half slice of bacon diced into bits, and a drizzle of real maple syrup,” he said. “It's a bowl full of hearty oats with the sweet and savory flavors that make my morning, along with a cup of coffee."
Deanna Segrave-Daly, RD
Deanna, of Teaspoon Communications, says she eats peanut butter every day, and has up to three “backup jars” in her pantry.
“My go-to breakfast is spreading PB over a pancake, toast, pita bread or waffle, topped with bananas and honey,” she said. “And the most interesting way I recently enjoyed it was in a Peanut Butter & Jelly Latte I order for brunch at the Blue Dog Cafe in NYC - really delicious!”