Are chocolate spreads bad for you?

Nutella has been a favourite pantry item ever since it hit the market in 1946, thanks to pastry chef Pietro Ferrero who came up with the idea of combining hazelnuts, sugar and a little cocoa. Fast-forward decades later and supermarket shelves are stocked with this popular breakfast (or anytime) spread and spin-off products are being introduced all the time. According to the UK & Ireland Nutella website “the amount of Nutella produced in one year weighs the same as the Empire State Building”.

That’s a lot of Nutella! But, for a spread that’s loved so much, is it really something we should be consuming on a regular basis? Read on to discover if Nutella really is as sweet as it tastes, writes Ellie McInerney.

What’s in a hazelnut spread?

Due to Nutella’s popularity, there are literally dozens of hazelnut spreads on the market. Some of these include Kraft’s Hazelnut spread, PureHarvest’s CoCo2 spread and Nutino Hazelnut spread, plus other healthier versions like Loving Earth’s Raw Organic Hazelnut Butter. These products are marketed in a way that makes them seem healthier than they look, as we all know nuts are good for us and the superstar ingredient in these spreads in hazelnuts. However, if you check out the ingredients list on these chocolaty spreads you might be surprised to discover the first, second or third ingredient is sugar. For example, the ingredients list on a jar of Nutella from highest to lowest quantity are:

  1. Sugar
  2. Vegetable oil
  3. Hazelnuts
  4. Cocoa
  5. Skim milk
  6. Whey
  7. Emulsifier
  8. Artificial flavour (Vanillin)

Looking at these ingredients, it seems that Nutella contains more sugar and fat than it does actual hazelnuts. According to award-winning nutritionist and author Catherine Saxelby, we should really be thinking of Nutella as “chocolate in spreadable form“. Saxelby writes on her blog: With 30 per cent fat and almost 55 per cent sugar, Nutella almost mirrors chocolate in its composition.” Yikes. Perhaps there is a healthier option to spread our toast with…

Which chocolate spread brand is ‘healthiest’?

So we know Nutella is high in sugar, but are all hazelnut spreads like this? From the table below you can see that in terms of sugar content per serve, Kraft’s Hazelnut spread actually fairs a little worse than Nutella coming out at 11.4grams of sugar per serve compared to Nutella at 8.5grams. However, Nutino takes out first place with 12g of sugar per serve! The two healthier brands, PureHarvest and Melrose, have much better sugar levels, with PureHarvest at 3.9grams per serve and Melrose at just 0.4grams. Both PureHarvest and Melrose use organic ingredients where possible and are available from supermarkets and health food stores.









Nutella 8.5g 4.7g 0.9g 8.6g 0.02mg 81cal 15g
PureHarvest Coco2 Hazelnut 3.9g 1.6g 0.6g 5.1g 3mg 38cal 10g
Nutino 12g 5.6g 0.8g 13g 9mg 106cal 20g
Kraft Hazelnut Spread 11.4g 8.6g >0.1g 11.4g 22mg 126cal 22g
Melrose Hazelnut Spread 0.4g 0.5g 1.2g 0.5g 1mg 61.9cal 10g

Healthy hazelnut spread alternatives

There are plenty of healthier alternatives to the chocolate spreads we love so much. In fact, it is possible to make your own Nutella spread using just three simple ingredients. I love to make my own ‘healthy Nutella’ on the weekends and store it in a jar in the fridge for up to a week. Spread on some toast with sliced banana or simply eat on its own for a delicious, sugar-free snack.

Home-made healthy “Nutella”

  • ½ cup hazelnuts (you can roast these first in the oven to really bring out the nutty flavour)
  • 1tbs Raw cocoa powder
  • 1tsp stevia (you could also use 1TBS maple syrup, honey or finely diced dates)

Combine all ingredients into a food processor, grab a spoon and enjoy! Easy peasy.

Check out the following brands below that also offer some healthy, spreadable, chocolaty alternatives:

If you’d like to ditch the sweet spreads altogether, check out the below ideas for some healthy, hazelnutty breakfasts:

  • Gluten-free oats, sliced banana, chopped hazelnuts and cinnamon
  • Almond milk, banana, cocoa smoothie topped with cocoa nibs and chopped hazelnuts
  • Yogurt, mixed berries, LSA sprinkle (linseeds, sunflower and almond) and whole hazelnuts
  • Chopped almonds, cashews, hazelnuts and dates sprinkled over warm porridge with a drizzle of honey

At the end of the day, pretty much any food in moderation is OK, even chocolate spread. The message here is that you should be checking the ingredients lists of the food you buy and educating yourself about what’s really in the food you’re eating. That way you can make the healthy decisions for yourself.

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