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MF Super Foods: Peanut Butter

These low-cal ideas will help you enjoy the ultimate guy food any time of day

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You know there's a jar of it in your kitchen, but when is the last time you ate some? Peanut butter isn't always easy to work into a healthy diet, even though it's filled with protein, vitamins, and healthy fats. Besides spreading it on sandwiches, you may have tried stirring it into hot oatmeal, blending some into smoothies, or putting it on celery for a snack. But there are plenty of other delicious ways to get the stuff on your plate.

Before working out . . .
Mix together a cup each of peanut butter, honey, and vanilla or chocolate protein powder. Then stir in up to 4 cups of dried fruit, dark chocolate chips, grains, or nuts—sunflower seeds, chopped peanuts, dry oats, raisins, dried cranberries, oat bran, wheat germ, and flaxseed are all great options. (If the mixture is too dry, add more honey; too moist, dump in more dry ingredients.) Roll the dough mixture, break into ping-pong size bites, and let chill in the fridge, or freeze until ready to eat. Pop a couple in your mouth and you're good to go.

At mealtime . . .
Throw together a rich and flavorful sauce for meats and vegetables. Nuke half a cup of peanut butter in a small bowl for about 25 seconds or until easy to stir. Add 4 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp vinegar, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper, then mix it all together. Pour it over cooked meat, add it to a stir-fry, spread it in sandwiches or wraps, or use it as a dipping sauce. Swap in a curry powder, ginger, or other spices to change up the taste.

While watching TV . . .
Instead of processed junk, try this nutritious alternative. Defrost a cup of frozen berries in the microwave for 25 to 30 seconds or until soft. Add a tablespoon of peanut butter (either mixed in or on the side) and chow down. Or replace the fruit with a bit of melted dark chocolate, a dab of honey, or a low-cal, high-fiber cereal you can then smash into the peanut butter.

For a quick afternoon snack . . .
Whip up a quick healthy dip for apples, carrots, or other fresh fruits and vegetables. Just stir together a cup of plain Greek yogurt, 2 tbsp of peanut butter, 1 packet of artificial sweetener (or honey to taste), and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. Let the mixture set in the fridge until it begins to thicken.

Quick tip for cutting the calories
One tablespoon of PB packs about 100 calories. To reduce that number significantly while bumping up levels of nutrients like beta carotene, try dumping equal amounts of peanut butter and cooked carrots or sweet potatoes into a food processor. (The veggies should be peeled, steamed or boiled until super soft, and cooled.) Blend the mixture until smooth, then refrigerate until needed.

Four Worthy PB Alternatives

  • Naturally More: This unique PB combines peanuts with wheat germ, flaxseed, flax oil, and egg whites for a rich, nutty spread that's loaded with protein plus the healthy omega fats that fight off disease. naturallymore.com
  • Barney Butter Almond Butter: Good if you're allergic to peanuts or just want to try something different. Barney Butter has all the nutrients of almonds minus the chunky texture and bitter bite that have kept other almond butter brands from becoming more popular. barneybutter.com
  • Nuttzo: Packed with organic hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts, pumpkin, and flax. Nuttzo is a true nut butter. It also has chia seeds, which absorb water and can help keep you hydrated while working out. gonuttzo.com
  • FitNutz: This powder is created when the peanut oil is pressed out of PB, leaving just the pulp. Mix it with water and you get a low-cal PB spread. Stir it into cereal or blend it into shakes and smoothies for real peanut flavor with 74% fewer calories per serving. fitnutzbutter.com

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