When our six-year-old daughter, Bisi, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes this summer, we entered a world where nut butter suddenly became our ideal snack. (Of course, there were a lot of other new features of this world, but they’re beyond the scope of this review.) Nut butter is low-carb, relatively high in protein, and filling. It also taste good without added sugar, which is important for everyone, but especially someone with diabetes. Peanut butter sandwiches on low-carb, gluten free bread, with no-sugar-added apple butter, have become a staple for Bisi since her diagnosis. She also invented a snack that all of us like: peanut butter sandwiched between cucumber slices.
But when the two of us set out to review a bunch of nut butter samples from the companies Artisana and Justin’s, I realized that my love for nut butter—and for the idea of it as the perfect snack for Bisi—exceeds her willingness to eat it. In general, Artisana butters are pure and unadulterated: raw, organic, with no salt or sugar added. Justin’s are a little more corrupt—though much healthier than some of their competition. Their delicious chocolate hazelnut butter has a third the sugar of Nutella, and to me tastes better—like a real food rather than just a vehicle for sugar and chocolate. Most of Justin’s products have roasted nuts, with a little bit of salt and sugar added for flavoring. In other words, Justin’s products tend to feel a bit less healthy–and a bit more desserty–than Artisana’s. All of our testing was done with the small packets–each a little more than thirty grams, or two tablespoons—which are great for snacks when you’re out skiing, biking, or doing something else active where your child (diabetic or not) may urgently need a snack.
Here are our results:
Bisi: Bleh—I don’t like it.
Katie: I think this may be an acquired taste—it’s not a usual taste for a child. I liked it better each bite I took. It tastes quite strongly of coconut, which may be what Bisi is reacting to.
Artisana Raw Almond Butter. 6 carbs. Ingredients: just almonds.
Bisi: I like it: it tastes just like almonds and I like almonds. (Note that she asked for a bit of honey to sweeten it. -KB)
Katie: It really does taste like straight almonds—tastes completely unadulterated.
Artisana Raw Pecan Butter. 5 carbs. Ingredients: raw pecans and cashews.
Bisi: I think it’s pretty good, but I still think it could use a bit of honey.
Katie: I think this one is delicious—it has a softer, less harsh taste than the almond butter.
Bisi: It’s in the middle. It has a weird taste.
Katie: It tastes a bit like sweetened sawdust
Artisana Walnut Butter: 4 carbs. Ingredients: walnuts and cashews.
Bisi: it’s in the middle. I don’t think it’s that good. When it gets in your mouth it kind of burns the back of your throat.
Katie: It has a very bitter aftertaste, like the most bitter part of walnuts.
Bisi: Best butter ever! I like how it tastes like Nutella.
Katie: I love it too. It’s less sweet and sinful than Nutella, which in my book makes it taste even better.
Justins Maple Nut Butter: 8 carbs. Ingredients: dry roasted almonds, maple sugar, palm fruit oil, sea salt.
Bisi: I think it’s really good. It feels good, and I like that it has a little sweetening in it.
Katie: This is practically my favorite food right now—just the right balance of sweet, nutty, and salty.
I ordered a whole box of Justin’s Maple Nut Butter for Bisi to snack on, but the truth is, I have eaten most of them. She very happily will eat Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter as a treat (or as a filling, more sustaining way to give her blood sugar a little boost than skittles or juice). As mentioned, she’s happy to have peanut butter sandwiches, and I’m sure I could substitute any of these nut butters, except perhaps the cashew and walnut butters. But we are not yet at the point—in terms of Bisi’s liking for sugar or her tolerance for unadulterated nuts–where I can mix a little unsweetened almond or pecan butter into some unsweetened yogurt and call it a day. I hope some day we’ll get there.