Chocolate Hazelnut Spread: Is it Healthy?

Clever marketing has attempted to convince consumers that chocolate-hazelnut spreads, like Nutella, are healthy. But this chocolaty treat really good for you?

Clever marketing has attempted to convince consumers that chocolate-hazelnut spreads make a nutritious breakfast. Can this chocolaty delight be a healthy part of any meal?

Yes?

Manufacturers tout that this creamy spread contains wholesome ingredients like hazelnuts and skim milk -- and it does. There’s actually not much else to it, only a couple of other ingredients make up the recipe -- but that’s where things start to get messy.

No?

The first 2 ingredients listed on the label of chocolate-hazelnut spreads are sugar, followed by palm oil, which means these ingredients out-weigh all others. When you break down the numbers you’ll find it contains 100 calories per tablespoon and more than 50-percent of that comes from fat. While there are some heart-healthy fats from nuts, one-third is the artery-clogging saturated kind. As for the sugar, it’s not looking much better – nearly 5 teaspoons per serving!

Most brands also include thickeners such as soy lecithin. While this food additive is considered safe, folks with soy allergies should be aware.

The Verdict

Just a smidge is all you need! While magically delicious, this choco-nutty spread isn’t to be confused with straight up health food (like natural peanut butter for instance). Use this product sparingly and preferably along with nutrient-dense foods like fresh fruit and whole grains. Always read ingredient labels carefully to get the real facts.

Tell Us: What’s your take on chocolate hazelnut spreads?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »

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