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By Lisa Browdy
I thought I was the only one who was aggravated by Nutella's advertising campaign featuring a mom talking about how she gets her kids to eat healthy breakfasts by putting the chocolate-hazlenut spread on whole-wheat toast. "What?" I hollered at the screen. "The first ingredient on the label is sugar!"
A mom from California was even more annoyed – in February she filed a false advertising suit against the manufacturer after a friend of hers pointed out that there as much sugar in Nutella (21 grams per 2 Tbs serving) as a candy bar.
As you may know, ingredients on the "Nutrition Facts" label on every product are listed in order of how much of it is contained in the package, from most to least. The Nutella ingredients list reads: sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals whey (milk), lecithin as emulsifier (soy), vanillin: an artificial flavor.
At least it doesn't have any high fructose corn syrup. Also, in the European spread's favor, Nutella has just as much sugar as the same serving of strawberry jam. "But strawberries are fruit, so that's better, right?" I hear you ask.
I thought the same thing until I read an illuminating article in Slate magazine that pointed out the little matter of the Glycemic Index (GI). This measure tells you how rapidly carbohydrates turn to glucose in your bloodstream. It's considered better to consume carbs with a low GI so your blood sugar doesn't spike and crash (stressing out your adrenal glands and leaving you drained of energy).
Because the hazelnuts in Nutella bring some fat and fiber to the mix, the GI of Nutella is 33, with slow-releasing energy. Strawberry jam has a GI in the 60s or 70s. So it looks like it's not such a bad thing to put some Nutella on your kid's toast after all.
But not to be defeated, I have unearthed an alternative to Nutella that is considerably healthier. Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter is absolutely yummy, and organic too. The first ingredient on the label is dry roasted hazelnuts, followed by organic evaporated cane sugar, organic cocoa, organic cocoa butter, organic palm fruit oil, natural vanilla, and sea salt.
Without the screaming sweetness, you can actually taste the hazelnuts in the Justin's spread, which is plenty chocolaty. It has 7 grams of sugar (1/3 of Nutella's 21) per 2 Tbs serving and the sea salt adds a lovely flavor note. It costs a buck or two more, but I think it's definitely worth it. I have found it at the River Forest Jewel and at Whole Foods.
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